Economic and Social Justice
Many early Quakers were engaged in local trade. They quickly became trusted. By C19 there were several large Quaker family enterprises, most of which later became public companies. Business ethics is an ongoing concern.
Missionaries and philanthropists over the centuries did much to develop the communities in which they lived. Much community development nowadays integrates peacebuilding with economic and other initiatives.
Relieving and Reducing Poverty
As well as responding to the acute needs of those suffering from the results of war or famine, Quakers have also taken a longer-term approach to reducing poverty.
Ada Salter (1866-1942) was a pacifist and a socialist. She was the first woman Labour mayor and spent her life working for the people of Bermondsey and London. Her husband Dr Alfred Salter worked tirelessly among the poor of Bermondsey.
AFSC and Just economies
Building just economies is a key concern for the American Friends Service Committee. They believe that, for lasting peace, everyone needs access to education, adequate food and shelter, and safe, sustainable livelihoods. They address this through campaigning to shift US federal budget priorities, challenging the role of large corporations in the democratic process, and supporting projects at home and abroad that reduce economic inequality
Alfred Salter (1873-1945) was a medical practitioner, pacifist, teetotaler and politician who worked tirelessly for poor and socially deprived people in Bermondsey, London. His wife Ada was an prominent Bermondsey politician and activist.
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
AFSC was founded in 1917. It works with many partners, in the US and around the world, on peace building and issues of economic, social and criminal justice. AFSC received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, jointly with its British counterpart.
Economic and Social Justice in Europe and the Middle East
The Quaker United Nations Office (Geneva) works on global issues of economic justice, and the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA), based in Brussels, works to influence the EU on aspects of this. In Britain there is a Quaker economics group. All these build on a history of concern with fair ways of doing business, good employment practices, and other issues.
The world is a very unequal place, in economic terms. Quakers have no easy answers to the challenges this poses. They contribute to thinking and action on aspects of economic justice such as equitable terms of trade, proper employment conditions, and fair recognition of intellectual property rights. Two Quaker agencies -QUNO at the UN and QCEA in the EU - do much work on economic justice issues.
Fair Trade Past and Present
Quakers have long had a reputation for fair and honest dealings in all economic (and other) transactions. As consumers, this led to boycotts of goods produced by slave labour in the past, and to a modern concern with fair trade. As suppliers, they soon became known for charging fair prices. They founded many early banks because people trusted them with their money. This article is intended to describe this. f you would like to help to write it, or contribute suggestions, please get in touch.
Friends House Moscow
Friends House Moscow (FHM) – known in Russian as Дом Друзей (Dom druzei) – supports Quakers and seekers locally, maintains a Russian-language website for outreach, and works with local partners on projects in line with Quaker testimonies.
HROC-Burundi Bio-Sand Water Filter Project
HROC –Burundi is helping to rebuild communities recovering after the Burundian civil war, by training groups of people in essential skills for their communities. They learn to construct, use and sell bio-sand water filters that produce a steady supply of clean water, using simple technologies and locally available materials.
John Bellers was an economist and social reformer. He was greatly concerned about the welfare of the poor. In 1695 he published proposals for a mixed agricultural and manufacturing settlement where about three hundred people could live and work. He was also the first person in Europe to advocate the abolition of capital punishment.
John Bright (1811 – 1889) was the second Quaker to enter the British Parliament where he served for forty years. He was a Liberal and a Radical. He was a brilliant orator and a radical agitator who opposed the Corn Laws, the Crimean War and supported the North against the South in the American Civil War. He was also opposed to Home Rule for Ireland.
(1793-1859) was a British activist and philanthropist in Birmingham. He worked for peace, abolition of slavery, education and temperance. He helped revive the Adult School Movement.
QSA - Supporting Indigenous Communities in Australia
Since its establishment, Quaker Service Australia has endeavoured to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia to implement projects that are endorsed by and will benefit their local community. As the relationship between Australian indigenous and settler communities has changes, so has the nature of the projects undertaken.
QSA - VACVINA in Vietnam
Australian Quaker interest in the concept of Permaculture (a design for producing sustainable life-supporting systems on the smallest possible land area) led them to establish a ten-year partnership with VACVINA – a movement in Vietnam to re-establish traditional methods of smallholding in order overcome endemic hunger in deprived rural districts following the Vietnam War.
QSA – English Language Training in Cambodia
QSA's biggest project to date has been the Cambodian English Language Training (CELT) Program. In 1985, they began working with the Ministry of Education in Phnom Pehn to provide English language training to government officials and to improve secondary school teachers' language abilities. The project was managed by QSA until 1993, during which class intakes grew from 15 to almost 150. The project was then handed over to Australia’s International Development programme, who continued to fund it until 1996.
Quaker Homeless Action
Quaker Homeless Action (QHA) is a UK charity which aims to support homeless, marginalised and excluded people and help them break the cycle of poverty and exclusion. It began in East London in the 1960s and now runs a Christmas Shelter, mobile libraries for the homeless and various befriending projects, among other work.
Quaker Social Action
Quaker Social Action, a UK charity, was originally established as the Bedford Institute Association n 1867, to combat poor quality and unaffordable housing, food poverty, poorly paid and intermittent work, and families struggling to pay for funerals. Many of these same issues are still being addressed today by QSA, along with feelings of social isolation and a lack of community.
Testimonies, Economic and Social Justice
The equality testimony speaks to the need for fairness in economic matters. The truth and integrity testimony is a reminder of the importance of honesty and fair dealing in all transactions, and of the responsibility to pay taxes and eschew corrupt practices. Simplicity and concern for the environment underline the importance of using the world's resources with care. Peace is fostered by reducing economic injustices in many contexts.