A Call to Peacebuilding

September 2014

Peace has been a central concept of the faith and practice of Friends from our earliest days.  Unfortunately our country’s recent history has been a widening and deepening practice of violence, to the extent that we grow weary of the constant erosion of peace, and too often, reluctantly, accept these conditions, both at home and abroad.

The following, from The Militarization of Indian Country by Winona LaDuke, reminds us that peace must be actively pursued:

Many of our Native communities have instructions on how to live a life of peace.  The Haudenosaune Great Law of Peace is one of the most notable examples of how our nations organized our societies to ensure peace was possible.  The Haudenosaune tell of The Peacemaker, a messenger who came to the people and delivered a set of principles, or laws, for them to follow:

The Peacemaker came to the people with a message that human beings should cease abusing one another.  He stated that humans are capable of reason, that through the power of reason all men desire peace, and that it is necessary that people organize to ensure that peace will be possible among the people who walk about on the Earth.  That was the original word about laws–laws were originally made to prevent the abuse of humans by other humans. 

Let us rededicate our Quaker communities as societies to ensure peace, and rededicate ourselves to teaching peace, and not learning war and violence anymore.  And let us work to adjust our laws to prevent the abuse of humans by humans.

Let us continue to examine our own lives for the causes of violence and war.  People continue to be abused on the basis of race, socioeconomic status and other factors.  Our own spiritual health requires us to carefully examine how our own race and socioeconomic status give us advantages, and to work toward true equality for everyone, instead.  We cannot understand some of these embedded injustices until we interact with those who are different from us.   Friends have always been involved in community building, and more is called for now.  That is how peace is built.  The past two years working with a community revitalization group in a black, impoverished neighborhood has been a tremendous peace education for me.

This is a crucial time to work for peace.  Changing the face of the enemy to “terrorists” has led to the expansion of our war efforts with little regard to national boundaries.  The use of drones has sanitized killing, terrorized populations, and led directly to the swelling of the ranks of terrorists.  Escalating violence by the United States will continue this cycle of increasing violence and insecurity.  War is truly not the answer, and we must emphatically proclaim that today.

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, revealed the extent to which police forces are being militarized, largely unnoticed by the public, without our consent.  The tragedy of this is the psychological shift it represents, with law enforcement changing from community based policing, to a militarized force of oppression, which sees the public as the enemy.  It is important that we work to re-establish community based policing, and both stop the flow of, and remove existing military equipment from our police departments.

Poverty is a form of violence and abuse.  The incredible maldistribution of wealth is an abuse.  The economic model that worked fairly well under conditions of nearly full employment no longer works in the face of industrial automation replacing huge numbers of workers.  More equitable tax laws will help, but we also need to revise the nature of employment and compensation in a service oriented age.  The establishment of a public works program, similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the post-depression era, would be very beneficial now.  Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure would provide many jobs.  As long as our national attention and resources are concentrated on wars, the problems humanity faces—climate change and the real needs of people everywhere—will remain unaddressed

Friends, let us rededicate ourselves to peace.  Don’t succumb to weariness, nor hide your light under a basket.  To teach peace requires waking people up.  We may need to teach others the use of nonviolent civil disobedience, and employ it when necessary to speak truth to power.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.   10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:9-10

Jeff Kisling and Sherry Hutchison, co-clerks, Peace and Social Concerns

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)

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