Quakers in the World

Quakers in the World

Northern Friends Peace Board (NFPB)

In its 1958 Annual Report, the Northern Friends Peace Board stated its purpose thus:

Governments and peoples the world over ... must come into that new relationship which, because it is founded on reconciliation and harmonious co-operation, will bring peace in its train.

NFPB was founded in 1913 following a Quaker Peace conference held in York. Friends were responding to what they saw as the accelerating arms race, the deteriorating international situation and the increasing militarization of society.
The Board was established to

advise and encourage Friends in the North, and through them their fellow Christians and citizens generally in the active promotion of peace in all its height and breadth.

The Quarterly Meetings of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Durham, Cumberland and Westmorland undertook to fund one full-time permanent member – originally called the secretary and more recently known as the coordinator.  In the one hundred years of the Board’s existence, seven people have held this post.

Representatives were appointed to the Board from Quarterly Meetings, and then from the 1960s, from Monthly (now Area) Meetings. Membership quickly expanded to include Friends in Scotland, North Wales, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

Within months of the Board’s foundation, the First World War broke out.  During the war, the Board gave support both to conscientious objectors and ‘enemy aliens’ who were detained.  They continued to produce posters and leaflets in support of peace and refused to comply with regulations requiring them to submit published material to the censor.

Between the two World Wars, the Board campaigned actively against rearmament and in support of the League of Nations.  They also began to consider wider issues, such as racial tensions in the United States, and the question of ethical investment.

During the Second World War, and for as long as conscription continued after the war, they counselled conscientious objectors and provided advice about alternative service. 

They were deeply concerned, in the post-War period, about tensions between East and West. As well as campaigning against nuclear arms, they were active in maintaining contacts with peace groups in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.  New approaches to campaigning, such as silent vigils, were used for the first time.

Friends were also concerned about conflicts in post-Colonial Africa, Vietnam and Northern Ireland.  The Board’s secretary of this period, Arthur Booth, co-wrote the book, Orange and Green with Northern Irish Quaker, Denis Barrit.  This book became an important resource – even being issued to soldiers about to be deployed in Northern Ireland.

In the 1980s, the Board revisited its founding minute in order to consider what it could do to develop a distinctive Quaker role within the peace movement and committed themselves to be “both realistic and visionary”. They widened their remit to consider social and environmental issues, developed workshops on ‘Building a Culture of Peace’, and supported the growth of the Alternatives to Violence project.

In the build-up to the first Gulf War in 1991, they produced badges printed with Not In My Name. More recently, they have held Meetings for Worship outside military bases where nuclear weapons are stored and have take part in more direct action such as blockading the Faslane nuclear submarine base in Scotland.

Today, their three main areas of work are:

Challenging militarism – true to the founding principles, the NFPB continues to protests against nuclear weapons, the arms trade and the use of unmanned military drones.

Sustainable security – today the NFPB recognises that the world’s security is also threatened by economic inequality, the depletions of natural resources, climate change and lack of political accountability

Peace Building – the NFPB maintains working links with many other organisations working for peace, such as the International Peace Bureau and the Network of Christian Peace Organisations. They are represented on the Peace and Disarmament programme of QPSW and attend the annual Peace and Service Consultations of the Europe and Middle East Section of the Friends World Committee for Consultation.

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