Peace & Nonviolence
Peace and Nonviolence
The Peace Testimony has remained at the core of Quakers belief for over 350 years. Every Quaker translates this into action in his/her own life, and three responses are commonly found – a refusal to bear arms or to take part in military service, an obligation to help the victims of wars and conflicts, and a commitment to active peace making.
Alternatives to Violence (AVP)
Alternatives to Violence (AVP) was initiated by Quakers in the United States but is now an international movement independent from Quakers. AVP is based on the belief that everyone has within them the creative power to transform violent situations. Local AVP groups work mainly through workshops. Many groups are working in prisons, the context in which AVP originated, but AVP is now used in many other settings, such as schools.
Community Mediation and Conciliation
Quakers have often been caught up in communities involved in violent conflicts. In many cases they have been able to make a contribution to community reconciliation and to building peace for the future.
The Peace Testimony has led many (though not all) Quakers to refuse to bear arms or to play any part in military action. Many conscientious objectors have undertaken alternative forms of service during wartime, and others have been imprisoned.
Quakers address disarmament issues at two levels. Internationally they have helped weapons experts to meet across political divides. In their own countries, many Quakers are part of peace movement campaigns in favour of disarmament and non-military approaches to conflict resolution.
Education for Peace
Education for peace aims to empower individuals to handle violence in themselves and others, and to help them to build peace wherever they can.
Institutions of Relief and Service
Although Quakers were involved with relief work from their earliest days, it was not until the late nineteenth century that the first ‘official’ institution for relief was set up. Even then, such bodies tended to be disbanded when the immediate need was over. Only in the 20th century did Friends in several countries set up permanent Quaker service agencies, with relief as part of their work. Many Friends are also active in broader relief organisations such as Oxfam, which Quakers helped to establish.
International Mediation and Conciliation
Quakers have mediated, and worked for reconciliation, in several violent international conflicts. Their approach has been described as ‘balanced partiality’ – they do not take sides, but care about both parties.
Friends have tried to help to build a peaceful world through Quaker ‘good offices’ at international level. They have often done this by acting as trusted hosts for quiet off the record meetings between diplomats.
The repudiation of violence as a means to an end has led many Quakers to espouse various forms of nonviolent action.
Testimonies and Education
Quaker testimonies to equality, truth and integrity, community and peace have a profound influence on Quaker approaches to education. They affect what is taught and how it is taught, and they affect the ways in which all involved interact with each other.
31 Hours: the Grindstone Experiment
From 1963 to 1976, Canadian Friends Service Committee operated a Peace Education Centre on Grindstone Island. The most famous exercise they carried out was the ‘Grindstone Experiment,’ which took place over 31 hours in August 1965.
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.
Adam Curle (1916-2006) was a British academic and Quaker peace activist. Over a period of almost forty years, he undertook international mediation of conflicts in India/Pakistan, Nigeria/Biafra, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Bosnia and Croatia. In 2000, he was the recipient of the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award.
African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI)
AGLI is based in the Great Lakes region of Africa (Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda). It was established in 1999 as a partnership between African Quakers and the US-based Friends Peace Teams. AGLI works on peace-building activities in all five countries, with many different partners.
AFSC and Peace Building
Peace building is a key concern for the American Friends Service Committee. Starting from a conviction that peace and security can never be achieved through violence, AFSC advocates for economic and social systems grounded in nonviolence. Currently their main areas of work are in Peace Policy Advocacy, including campaigning for the abolition of nuclear weapons and against the use of drones, and community peace building, healing and reconciliation, both at home and abroad.
(1885 – 1954) Agatha Harrison was a British Quaker and a close friend of Gandhi. She contributed significantly to the peaceful transfer of power from the British to the independent governments of India and Pakistan.
Alternatives to Violence (AVP) in British Prisons
AVP ‘s work is focussed on running experiential workshops to help people manage their violent feelings. In 1990 AVP started working in the UK, with support from Friends House, in London. In 1997 it became an independent organisation, AVP Britain, but there is still much Quaker involvement.
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.
Art Workshops for Anger in Northern Uganda
In 2011-12 Grace Kiconco Sirrah and Marian Liebmann used art therapy in a series workshops with victims of the Lords Resistance Army in Northern Uganda. The focus was helping participants manage their anger, so that they didn’t make things worse for themselves by alienating those around them. Using art proved to be very helpful.
AVP in Kenya
AVP activity started in Kenya in 2003 and has been growing steadily. AVP teams have worked in slums, in prisons, in schools, with church communities and with refugees. Since the post-election violence in 2007, AVP approaches have been extensively used in rebuilding communities.
AVP in the Training of Gacaca Judges in Rwanda
Gacaca courts played a key part in Rwandans’ truth and reconciliation process. Friends Peace House ran many AVP workshops for gacaca judges, which made a major contribution to this work.
Barns Hostel School
The school was opened in 1940, near Peebles in Scotland. It was a residential school for boys who had been evacuated from large cities and sent to safer places. Most evacuees were billeted with families, but this was too difficult in some cases. Scottish Friends established Barns to cater for these children.
Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) was a black Civil Rights activist and a close associate of Martin Luther King. He advised King on nonviolent protest, and organised the historic 1963 march for Jobs and Freedom. He was also an advocate of gay and lesbian rights.
Casa de los Amigos, Mexico City
Casa de los Amigos is a Centre for Peace and International Understanding in Mexico City. Through its programs, community space, and social and cultural activities, the Casa promotes peace with justice, fosters understanding between groups and individuals, and supports the human dignity of every person.
Corder Catchpool (1883-1952) was a British Quaker and an absolutist conscientious objector who served time in prison during the First World War. He worked in Berlin between the wars, initially in relief and reparations, and later providing support for Jewish families persecuted by the Nazis.
Cyrus Pringle (1838 - 1911) was a Quaker botanist for most of his adult life. However as a young man he was caught up in the American Civil War, and refused to fight because of his Quaker principles. He suffered greatly for this.
Diana and John Lampen
Diana Lampen (1940 -) and John Lampen (1938 -) have worked in peace and reconciliation in spheres ranging from a therapeutic community for young boys, via Derry in Northern Ireland in the lead up to the Good Friday peace accord, to their present work as peace educators with the Hope Project, which they set up in 1994.
Floyd Schmoe (1895-2001) was born in Kansas but lived most of his life in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. He was both a forest ecologist and a marine biologist. In the course of relief work carried out in six separate wars, he was shot at, but never carried a gun.
Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) in WWI
Quakers started the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) in 1914, at the beginning of the First World War. It was a way of contributing without bearing arms. Many Quakers were involved in its work, along with many non-Quakers. It worked with civilian and military hospitals, in France and Britain.
Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) in WWII
When war began in September 1939, the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) was immediately re-formed, to provide opportunities for active service for conscientious objectors. They worked in Britain, mainland Europe and in Asia, providing relief and medical assistance of many kinds. FAU was wound up in 1946, after the war was over.
Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) in WWII: Britain – the Blitz and After
A key part of Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) training was time spent serving in British hospitals. But the FAU also provided air raid relief during the Blitz, in London and other bombed cities. They worked in rest centres and bomb shelters, set up Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and ran a summer camp for children. Some also volunteered as medical guinea pigs.
Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) in WWII: Civilian Relief Work in Mainland Europe
As the Allied advance began in 1943, the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) began to focus on civilian relief work in Europe. Starting in Italy and going on to Greece, Yugoslavia, France, the Netherlands and eventually Germany itself, they worked in refugee camps, provided medical relief, helped rebuild homes and dealt with malnutrition. They also took part in the relief of Sandbostel concentration camp.
Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) in WWII: Finland, Greece and a Prisoner of War (POW) Camp
The first section from the Friends Ambulance Unit to serve abroad during WWII went to Finland in January 1940, and then to Greece in March 1941, with the Red Cross. Sixteen were captured and several spent the remainder of the war in prisoner of war camps.
Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) in WWII: North Africa and the Middle East
A major part of the Friends Ambulance Unit’s (FAU) operations during the Second World War was undertaken in North Africa and the Middle East, working alongside the British and French armies.
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.
Friends Peace House, Kigali, Rwanda
Friends Peace House is in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. It was opened in 2000. Its fundamental purpose is to help rebuild Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. It aims to bring together all parts of Rwandan society in everything it does, so they can build peace together.
Friends Peace Teams
FPT focuses on long-term peace building in parts of Africa and Latin America, and in Indonesia. It is a network of partnerships between US Friends and communities in the countries concerned. Reconciliation of conflicting groups, and peace education are key activities.
George Fox (1624 - 91), began the Quaker movement soon after the turbulence of the English Civil War. He came to believe that everyone could encounter God directly, so priests were not needed. He spread these ideas with much success, at home and abroad, despite several imprisonments.
Grindstone Island: Quaker Peace Education Centre
From 1963 to 1976, Canadian Friends Service Committee operated a Peace Education Centre on Grindstone Island, on Big Rideau Lake, south of Ottawa. The aim was to explore how nonviolence could be practised in hostile, threatening situations.
Ham Sok-Hon (1901-1989) was a Korean Quaker, twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by American Friends. His commitment to non-violence earned him the name, ‘the Gandhi of Korea.’
Hendrik van der Merwe
Hendrik van der Merwe was a South African Quaker academic and peacemaker. For 27 years, he was head of the Centre for Conflict Resolution at the University of Cape Town and was the founding president of the South African Association for Conflict Intervention.
Horace Alexander (1889-1989) was a Quaker who contributed significantly to the peaceful transfer of power from the British to the independent governments of India and Pakistan, and afterwards worked to limit the terrible communal violence that followed.
HROC (Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities)
HROC is a programme that aims to heal trauma in individuals and communities. Friends in Rwanda and Burundi developed it in 2003, in the context of Hutu/Tutsi civil conflicts in both countries. It has been adapted and used in many other contexts since.
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.
Indigenous Affairs Committee in Canada (QIAC)
The Canadian Friends Service Committee set this up in 1974, in response to an armed confrontation between the Ojibway people and the Canadian government. The initial aim was to enable concerns to be heard and resolved in a nonviolent way. Since then QIAC has worked on many other issues to do with the human rights of indigenous peoples in Canada.
Involvement in the Middle East
The Quaker presence in the Middle East goes back to the 1860s, when the first Quakers from Maine, USA arrived in Lebanon and Palestine. A community of Friends grew around the schools in Ramallah and Brummana. The community has lived through many changes of rulers in that time, but has always striven to be a beacon of hope for the future.
Isaac Penington was a Quaker writer and theologian. He was also interested in politics. He was imprisoned six times for his Quaker principles.
Jerusalem and Gaza 1947 – 1950
Following the UN vote for a Partition Plan in 1947 to create independent Arab and Jewish states within Palestine, open war broke out in 1948. The war created a refugee crisis, both within Jerusalem and in Gaza. Quakers were at the forefront of relief efforts, and were among the first NGOs to work on behalf of the UN.
Joseph Elder is an academic and lifelong Quaker peace activist with experience of mediating conflicts in Kashmir, Vietnam, Korea and Sri Lanka. He is currently professor of Sociology and Languages and Cultures of Asia at the University of Wisconsin, USA.
Joseph Sturge 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.
Kenya Friends Church Peace Teams: Resolving Conflict in Kenya After the 2007 Elections
After the violence surrounding the Kenyan elections of 2007, many Kenyans fled from their homes to refugee camps. Kenyan Quakers quickly set up a Friends Church Peace Team, led by Quaker Joseph Mamai. Early work concentrated on basic needs for food, water and shelter, but was soon followed by painstaking peace-building work: this eventually enabled many refugees to return to their homes in peace.
Lewis Fry Richardson
(1881-1953) Lewis Fry Richardson was a Quaker mathematician, physicist and pacifist who is regarded as the father of modern weather forecasting. His work – which spanned numerical methods for weather forecasting, the study of turbulence, methods for measuring the length of coastlines, and the statistical study of armed conflicts – was frequently well ahead of its time, only verified and made practicable decades after Richardson published it.
Margaret Fell or Margaret Fox (c. 1614 - 23 April 1702) a founder of the Religious Society of Friends, is often called the "mother of Quakerism". Her home at Swarthmoor Hall in the Lake District was a key hub for the first Quakers, and she was one of the 'Valiant Sixty' early Quaker preachers and missionaries.
Mediation During the Nigerian Civil War 1967-70
In 1967, following communal violence, an area of Eastern Nigeria calling itself Biafra, sought independence. In the civil war that followed (1967-1970), the area was cut off from the rest of the world and its population suffered starvation. Three Quakers took part in mediation with the leaders on both sides. The American Friends Service Committee ran relief programmes.
Mediation in Zimbabwe 1965-1980
Quakers were heavily involved in mediation and relief work in Zimbabwe (then called Rhodesia) during the war for independence and majority rule (1965-1979). They acted as election observers during the first free and fair election in 1980 and afterwards continued to work on race relations issues.
Nancy Meek Pocock
Nancy Pocock was a Canadian Quaker and Peace Activist whose home in Toronto became a shelter for refugees for over three decades. In 1987, the United Nations Association in Canada awarded her the Pearson Medal of Peace for her work in disarmament, development and feminism.
Nitobe Inazo (1862 - 1933) , 'Bridge Across the Pacific', was a Japanese Quaker who became the first Under Secretary General for the League of Nations.
Northern Friends Peace Board (NFPB)
The Northern Friends Peace Board was founded in 1913 following a Quaker peace conference held in York. For the last hundred years, they have campaigned against militarism and the arms trade, advised conscientious objectors, and have worked actively as peace builders in the widest sense.
Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, (1952- ) is perhaps the only Quaker and pacifist to have found themselves second in command of their country’s defence forces. She is a longstanding member of the ANC, and served as an MP and later in the Ministries of Defence and Health. She currently campaigns against the sex-trafficking of women.
Peace Brigades International
Peace Brigades International is a non-governmental organisation operating in conflict zones around the world, promoting non-violence and protecting human rights. It is not a Quaker organisation, but its work is grounded in Quaker and Gandhian principles, Quakers were instrumental in its establishment, and many Quakers still work with the organisation today. In 2001, PBI was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee.
Peace Curricula in Kenya
Kenyan Friends’ first peace education manual, ‘Mulembe’, was produced in 2000. It was primarily intended for church leaders. In 2009, work began on a peace curriculum for secondary schools, with implementation in Friends schools beginning in 2011. A primary school peace curriculum is also under development.
Peace Witness and Relief Efforts during the Vietnam War
Quaker action during the 1954-75 Vietnam War focused on three different areas – peaceful protest against the conduct of the war itself, counselling for American conscientious objectors of all faiths, and humanitarian aid to both North and South Vietnam. AFSC was also involved in many diplomats' conferences aimed at ending the war.
Peacemaking between East and West Germany
In 1961, East and West Germany were cut off from each other, by the Berlin Wall. Quakers were respected and trusted by both sides, and were able to build a dialogue that eased some of the tensions.
Philip Noel-Baker was a British Quaker. An academic and politician, he was involved in the establishment of both the League of Nations and the United Nations. In 1959, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for his work on disarmament.
Project Muinda, in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a peace project founded in 1993 by Congolese Quakers, and supported by Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC) and by the Mennonites. ‘Muinda’ comes from the word for light in three of the four national languages of the DRC.
Quaker Election Observing in East and Central Africa
One of the major causes of violence in Africa has been elections themselves. In 2004 Quaker Peace Network-Africa began a programme of election observation in East and Central Africa, in collaboration with Mennonites. Citizen reporters play a key role.
Quaker House Belfast 1982-2010
Quaker House Belfast was set up in 1982 ‘to further the work of reconciliation and of befriending all parties in Northern Ireland’ at a time of great communal tension. It played a unique role in cross-community dialogue and peace-building for many years. By 2010, this work had been taken up by many others, and the centre was finally wound up.
Quaker International Centre, Dhaka (Dacca) 1950-1964
The Quaker International Centre in Dhaka, in what is now Bangladesh, was set up by the American Friends Service Committee in 1950, and was jointly funded by the Friends Service Council of Great Britain. It was a centre for reconciliation work between India and Pakistan, as well as providing poverty relief and urban development. The centre was handed over to trained local staff in 1964.
Quaker International Centres
The network of Quaker bases around the world that became the Quaker International Centres were originally intended to work to build peace after WW1. Initially they were organised from London and Philadelphia, but after WW2, when QUNO was set up to represent Quakers at the UN, the network gradually evolved into locally led centres/ Quaker Houses.
Quaker Peace Network - Sierra Leone, West Africa (QPN-WA)
QPN-WA was founded in 2009, in post-conflict Sierra Leone, to help ex-combatants reintegrate into their community. Employment opportunities were created and community facilities improved. In 2014 the Ebola epidemic struck, and the small Quaker community undertook health education and founded an orphanage for Ebola orphans.
Quaker Peace Network – Africa (QPN-Africa)
QPN-Africa brings together Quakers from many African countries, and other international participants, to learn from each other about their peace building experiences, to acquire new peace building skills, and to plan and evaluate joint initiatives such as election observing.
Quakers in colonial Pennsylvania
(1681 - 1783) William Penn established Pennsylvania as a Holy Experiment enshrining Quaker principles of religious and political liberty. Quakers and many others flocked to the colony, and it prospered. Quakers were soon in a minority, but they played a prominent part in colonial public life.
Quakers in Costa Rica
The small Quaker community in Costa Rica was founded in 1951 by a group of eleven Quaker families from Alabama. Working with the local community, they set up Monteverde Friends School, a thriving dairy farm and other community farming projects, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and a Peace Centre.
Quakers in Germany since 1918
Many German Quakers protested openly against Nazi treatment of the Jews, and helped some of them leave the country. Quakers from elsewhere worked with German Quakers in the aftermath of World War 2. There are now about 400 active Quakers in Germany, and an important activity is their service agency, Quäker-Hilfe.
Quakers in Ireland
Quakers have had a long presence in Ireland, confronting issues of peace building and social justice. Particularly significant is their role in relief work during the Irish Famine (1846-50), and in mediation and community reconciliation during the worst period of sectarian violence (1969-1998).
Quakers in Korea
Quakers first came to Korea to provide humanitarian aid after the Korean War (1950-53). Several local Koreans became interested in Quakerism, including notably Ham Sok Hon, the ‘Gandhi of Korea’. Seoul Monthly Meeting remains a small but flourishing group.
Quakers in South Africa
Quakers in South Africa have always been a small group, but with an influence that far outstrips their size. Today they are still actively concerned with justice, peacemaking, development, education and political activism.
QUNO: Quaker United Nations Office
Quakers/Friends have been active behind the scenes at the United Nations from the beginning, and in the League of Nations before that. Each of the two main UN centres - New York and Geneva – has a Quaker House, staffed by a small team. They listen, they contribute, and they facilitate quiet dialogue and solution building, especially with regard to peace, justice and human rights.
Richard Gregg was a Quaker Lawyer, a leading American theorist on non-violence and one of the first people to introduce Gandhi’s teachings on non-violence to the Western world. He described the tactics of non-violence as “moral jiu-jitsu.”
Robert Charleton was a pin manufacturer and an exemplary employer. He was also a philanthropist and set up a school for the children of his employees as well as financially supporting other schools for the children of the working classes. As a Quaker minister he toured England and Ireland and lectured on Quakerism and temperance. He was part of the delegation sent to Tsar Nicholas in the hope of preventing the Crimean War.
Rufus Jones (1863-1948) was a highly influential American Quaker academic. For many years he was professor of psychology and philosophy at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. He was one of the founders of the American Friends Service Committee. His influence enabled the two divisions of American Quakerism, which split in the mid 19th Century, to reunite after his death.
Anna Ruth Fry (1878-1962) was secretary to the Friends War Victims Relief Committee from 1914 to 1923. During this time, she travelled to every country in which the FWVRC worked, including making three trips to Russia under very difficult conditions.
The FAU China Convoy (1941 – 46)
One of the best-known arms of the FAU during WWII was the China Convoy. From 1941 it helped to bring supplies to landlocked ‘Free China’ and undertook considerable medical and reconstruction work, in very challenging conditions.
The Holy Experiment, in Pennsylvania
The "Holy Experiment" is how William Penn described his plans for Pennsylvania, which he founded in 1682. Penn planned to put all his Quaker principles into practice here, something that it was impossible to achieve in England at the time. Everyone would be able to live as they wished within the law, and worship as they chose.
Therapeutic Communities in Britain
The central idea of therapeutic communities is that by living together in organised and caring environments, troubled individuals can find productive ways forward. Quakers have been instrumental in establishing and supporting several such communities.
Transformative Mediation in East and Central Africa
The interaction between the parties to a dispute is the central focus. The mediator draws out the many layers of conflict underlying the current issue, and then the disputants work out a solution, usually in the silent presence of witnesses from family and/or community.
Turning the Tide
Turning the Tide is a training programme run by Quaker Peace and Social Witness (British Friends). It aims to help people use the power of nonviolence to ‘turn the tide’ of injustice, oppression and disempowerment and to build an inclusive, sustainable and fair world. They offer workshops, speakers, advice and resources. They also publish a periodic journal, Making Waves.
Ursula Franklin was a Canadian physicist, pacifist, feminist and Quaker. Her particular concerns are women’s rights, economic justice and for the environment.
William Penn (1644 –1718) was born in London, and became a Quaker as a young man. He was imprisoned several times for his faith, but used that time to develop his Quaker thought and to write influential books. He spent most of his life in England and Ireland, but he also had a very significant four years in colonial North America, where he founded Pennsylvania, guaranteeing religious freedom for all.