A Quaker “testimony” describes how someone’s public actions demonstrate their inner convictions. Quakers are particularly known for a testimony to peace, described by early Friends as a denial of “all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons.” But what does a peace testimony mean for individuals and Quaker communities and organizations like FCNL?
“Quakers are a people who follow after peace, love and unity. Our peace testimony is our witness to the Truth as we experience it. Our testimony manifests as a cumulative set of actions, continually tested and added to over centuries. These actions are diverse in form, but have been broadly united by:
• Refusal to kill,
• Relief of suffering,
• Building the institutions of peace, and
• Supporting peacebuilding and removing the causes of war.”
A commitment to peace doesn’t mean passivity. Friends often challenge authority, laws, and customs they disagreed with through non-violent tactics. Friends are also encouraged to examine how their actions entangle them in systems of violence. The 18th century Quaker John Woolman wrote, “May we look upon our treasures, and the furniture of our houses, and our garments…and try whether the seeds of war have any nourishment in these our possessions.”
A commitment to peace doesn’t mean passivity.
What constitutes peace is not always clear-cut, however. Keeping things calm and peaceful can justify inaction or upholding a harmful status quo. What seems to promote peace in the short term, or for some groups of people, might cause long-term harm. Ultimately, Friends are called to listen deeply to Spirit in discerning a path that promotes peace with justice for all.
Quakers know that non-violence is an active choice in this highly militarized world—a conscious decision to stand against violence in all its forms. At FCNL, a conviction for peace and nonviolence shows up in:
- Policy Positions: The first line of our vision statement, “We seek a world free of war and the threat of war” reflects the commitment of our advocacy work to building frameworks for dialogue and peaceful conflict resolution, reducing militarization and armaments, preventing, and resolving violent conflicts, and building mutual understanding and trust.
- Values: Recognizing that nonviolence is about much more than just working against military conflict and war, we are prioritizing internal and external work on Anti-racism, anti-bias, Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (AJEDI) principles, stemming from an understanding that not doing this work would be a form of violence.
- Language: When we “aim” to do things, “target” a member of Congress, or equate “security” only with support for the military and Pentagon spending, we are buying into a way of seeing the world that is violent and divisive. By considering the words we use, we can make a daily commitment to peace.
Quakers reflect on questions, or queries, to consider how they are living out the testimonies. These queries on the peace testimony from Baltimore Yearly Meeting can help you consider what a commitment to peace means in your own life and work.
• Do you endeavor to live “in virtue of that life and power which takes away the occasion of all wars”?
• Do you work to make your peace testimony a reality in your life and in your world?
• Do you weigh your day-to-day activities for their effect on peace-keeping, conflict resolution and the elimination of violence?