What is the Friends Peace Testimony?
"We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world." From "A Declaration to Charles II," 1661. Full text at: http://www.quaker.org/peaceweb/pdecla07.html
Because there is no single, world-wide authority that can speak for all Friends, there cannot be a single, absolute answer to any question that begins, "What is the Quaker position on . . . ?"
Nonetheless, there are certain principles that have emerged again and again in the lives of Friends in different times and situations, informing their efforts to lead lives that are faithfully guided by the Holy Spirit.
Friends call these principles "testimonies." There is no definitive list of the testimonies, but under different names they have continued to reappear with both consistency and fresh variation in the lives of the Friends who adhere to them. "They are not optional extras, but fruits that grow from the very tree of faith" (Harvey Gillman, 1988).
The best known of these testimonies is the Peace Testimony. Yet since there is no single authoritative expression of it, perhaps the best way to understand it is to look at some of the different ways it has been expressed by individual Friends and Friends communities.
Below are only a few of the many ways that Friends have spoken on the subject of peace:
The peace testimony in the words of some early Friends:
- Historic expressions of the peace testimony
- Virginia Memorial and Petition (an 1810 argument for fair treatment of conscientious objectors)
Some general expressions of the peace testimony in the words of some contemporary Friends:
- Advices on Conscription and War (1948 "Richmond Declaration")
- Quaker Peace Testimony by Mary Lou Leavitt
- 1987 Statement on Peace by the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa/New Zealand
- "What Can the Bible Teach Us About Peacemaking?" by Ron Mock
- "The Peace Testimony as Questing Beast" by Chel Avery
Some contemporary expressions of the peace testimony with reference to recent world events:
- "Can Love Really Overcome Violence and Hate?" by Mary Lord
- Joint Statement in Response to Military Attacks on Afghanistan
- A Statement from Leaders of Friends Organizations in the U.S. Regarding the War in Iraq
- Healing from Slavery, War, and Genocide: Lessons from John Woolman and Friends in Rwanda and Burundi by David Zarembka. (2006 John Woolman Memorial Lecture. Especially recommended is the 10-point summary on page 10.)
- Epistle from Philadephia Yearly Meeting's November 06 called session on peace.