Calling all pacifists

Feb 4, 2024
Two love hearts on camouflage fabric indicating peace, harmony, pacificism

“We are called to live ‘in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars’. Do you faithfully maintain our testimony that war and the preparation for war are inconsistent with the spirit of Christ? Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war. Stand firm in our testimony, even when others commit or prepare to commit acts of violence, yet always remember that they too are children of God.” Advices and Queries

Each month at my local Quaker Meeting, we reflect on a single “Advice and Query”. In the Quaker tradition, “Advices and Queries” are essential tools for spiritual reflection and guidance. Rather than being strict rules, they offer thoughtful considerations and introspective questions that encourage individuals to examine their beliefs and actions. These reflections help guide personal conduct and community engagement, emphasising continual growth and alignment with one’s inner truth and light.

This month’s choice of advice, shown above, resonated deeply. It presents a challenging perspective, particularly relevant in a world that feels like it is going mad. This advice contains within it the much loved phrase “We are called to live ‘in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars’,” which originates from the original Quaker Peace Testimony– A Declaration from the harmless and innocent people of God, called Quakers, against all plotters and fighters in the world, crafted in the 1660s, a time of widespread violence and Millenarian expectations of the world’s end.

The advice calls for an active engagement with a divine power that opposes war, going beyond individual efforts to stop conflict and urging us to connect with a higher power already working towards peace. It guides us on a path of spiritual reflection, highlighting the need to acknowledge our shared human condition and the necessity of divine guidance to transcend our limited understanding.

The Gaza conflict, with its entrenched pain and complex history, highlights the limitations of human efforts in resolving deep conflicts. The advice thus prompts us to pursue a path of greater compassion. It points out that the seeds of war often reside within us – in our unchecked prejudices, hidden fears, and the failure to recognize the divine in others.

Adopting this spiritual path means acknowledging our own inadvertent contributions to conflict through our thoughts, words, and actions. It demands personal accountability and introspection for authentic peace.

Standing firm in this testimony, amidst prevalent violence and aggression, signifies an acceptance of our limitations and a faith in the divine ability to heal and transform challenging situations. It acknowledges the slow and arduous path to peace and the significance of our efforts as part of a greater, transcendent purpose. Acts of love and compassion, however small and even on the other side of the planet, are seeds with the potential for profound transformation.

This advice encourages us to remember that even those involved in violence are human beings with inherent worth. It doesn’t excuse their actions but invites us to consider their potential for redemption. In the Gaza situation, understanding everyone involved, rather than making quick judgments or taking sides, is key. Talking openly and honestly about difficult issues, in line with the Quaker tradition of plain speaking, can lead to real solutions and healing.

The recent ICJ ruling, calling for accountability and improved conditions in Gaza, mirrors this approach, highlighting the importance of clear and committed efforts in complex conflict resolution. Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong would do well to not reframe the findings of the Court. Their interpretation and response to the ruling should align with its unambiguous recommendations, reflecting a commitment to justice and peace.

The advice to live in the virtue that removes the occasion for all wars calls for a reflective and transformative stance. It urges us to examine our roles in conflicts and approach situations like the Gaza conflict with understanding and compassion. This commitment is exemplified by the Friends School in Ramallah and the Quaker United Nations Offices, which advocate for peace and human rights through quiet diplomacy.

Pacifism, as this advice suggests, is an active, forthright, and courageous stand for peace, not to be mistaken for passivity.

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