Radio Hereford & Worcester, ‘Quaker Thought for the Week’, 20 July 2014, given by Maggie Taylor-Sanders
Good morning. You might know that in the two World Wars many Quakers were conscientious objectors who either refused to take part in the fighting or who followed their consciences into the Friends Ambulance Unit. Quakers were not alone in this stance but they do have a specific Peace Testimony which is a commitment to non-violence that has been a central part of what it means to be a Quaker since the mid-1600s. But does that mean that all Quakers have been, or would be, conscientious objectors in the future? No it doesn’t, some Quakers fought in the World Wars and others would do so again should their consciences lead them in that direction. That’s the difficult thing about being a Quaker, we don’t have doctrines or creeds, or a specific set of beliefs that we are required to follow, instead we have the freedom, and the burden, of discerning the truth as we see it based on our deep experience of being in the world, and the human respect we have for that of God in everyone and everything.
It’s really not easy for anyone to know the right way to behave when faced with the injustices in the world, the violence in Syria and the Gaza strip, or closer to home when we see people adversely affected by government efforts to reduce social spending. Since human beings became social beings there have been those who are prepared to work hard for peace and social justice. But what informs and sustains their selfless efforts? At the heart of the way a peace-maker is in the world is what is IN the heart of that individual person, and that arises out of their still and quiet experience of what some call the Spirit, or God, or what anyone, whether they are religious or atheist, would call our deep inner wisdom. That is a way open to all of us, as part of our human inheritance.