Yearly Meeting Survey Of Attenders’ Actions To Take Away The Causes Of War And Their Efforts To Promote Peacemaking
At the 2009 Yearly Meeting gathering at Frostburg State College, Peace and Social Concerns Committee, as its contribution, asked for the views of the gathering as a whole about what they as individuals have done, or seen others do, to take away the occasion for war and what they are eager to do to promote peace and social justice.
A quick overview of the cards indicated that we are a group devoted to taking away the causes of war and to collaboration in promoting peacemaking and social justice. Many work with others and collaborate with other faiths to this end but fewer were prepared to describe ways in which they put their beliefs into action. More than half were concerned with both the Local and the International/Global framework of our current situation as citizens and seekers of truth. As a group, those attending Yearly Meeting think globally and act locally.
Almost three quarters of responses reflected a serious concern for resolution of conflicts and contributing to social justice through peaceful means. Three of the ways in which members seek peace is to value it, be activists in seeking peace, and educate for peace within the family, community, nation and world. Those attending Yearly Meeting struggle mightily for peace, since responses provided evidence they support all three.
“Actions for peace”, were reported through participation in activities to lessen local injustice, bring about change for human needs, work for peace in organized ways, and extend concern to Africa and Asia, beyond the community and nation. Education and support for conscientious objection and counterrecruitment was mentioned by activists. Most agreed that education in conflict resolution, building schools abroad, preventing the outbreak of violence and promoting reconciliation and healing contribute to take away the causes of war and require energy and dedicated teachers. Specific support for FCNL and dismay at cuts in AFSC’s scope were noted by many. Attendees emphasized the importance of sharing assets, both spiritual and material.
Concern for right relationships with others and with the community was emphasized. There is value in sharing assets, both spiritual and material. Many commit to simplicity in order to free up energy and resources and some would be willing to accept higher taxes for human needs. Many connect with those in economic distress and in need of food through local agencies. Others work on energy policy and the need for alternative sources was noted by many. Some change their own consumption habits as well as decrease use of fossil fuels for heating and transportation, shifting to public transportation. Many linked energy alternatives and environmental stewardship. Responses were very diverse but followed the theme of changing consumption and awareness of environmental protection as an essential element of stewardship for the earth.
A third of attendees expressed a need to change themselves to deal more effectively with the challenges and changes they confront in their social, economic and political life. Personal changes most frequently mentioned by respondents were: acquiring listening skills, developing sensitivity to the needs of others, and adopting simplicity as a way of living.
In summary, a wide range of perceptions indicated ways in which Yearly Meeting attenders would take away the causes of war and actively promote peace. Many dedicate their lives to build a more just society and their activism is fueled by their belief in the power of faith. Some suggestions emerge: meetings might provide opportunities to support Quaker initiatives for peace and social justice at home as well as overseas. This support could be increasing knowledge and opportunities to act, not limited to financial donations. Some may feel more empowered to collaborate in specific, local issues, whereas others will choose to devote energy to focused programs like those of AFSC and Quaker led overseas programs. Yearly Meeting itself appears to promote ties between those led in particular directions. The wide range of workshops and presentations offer opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills which enable us to participate in a rapidly changing world. For some, feelings of empowerment are enhanced with group action. Others seek to increase their effectiveness in countering the forces of violence. Ways for individuals and groups to decrease their carbon footprints, decrease energy consumption, and become stewards of the earth also seem important. The survey indicated Quakers at Yearly Meeting are considering ways to use our resources in effective ways. Sharing and networking at the Yearly Meeting level seem essential to these efforts to meet the challenges of today.