Members of Existing European Peace Committees Exchange Experiences with Those, Like France YM, Working towards Establishing One

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Each participant who is currently a member of a peace committee shared some of their experience 

  • Ireland YM: the peace committee is responsible to the YM.  They have to respond to the fact that their YM covers two countries and two different contexts.  They are keen to involve more younger Friends in the committee.  There is also an active Dublin Monthly Meeting Peace Committee, which holds one or two public events each year
  • Belgium & Luxembourg YM: can be hard to get peace on the minds of Friends, they have QCEA in the same building.  Support for Stop Fuelling War and also AVP.  They provide practical support to refugees living in a park.
  • Britain YM/NFPB: NFPB is a representative organisation covering northern Britain.  They hold workshops, meetings and help Friends to share experiences.  They have a focus on nuclear weapons and submarines which are stored and maintained in Scotland and northwest England.  Also ‘rethinking security’, Islamaphobia, the war on terror etc.
  • German YM: the peace committee was recently restarted, with the appointment of Gordon and one other Friend – they immediately co-opted two others (two women, as they were both men) to work with them.  In 2018 more than 30 Friends and Friends of Friends, including two members of the peace committee, took part in Quaker days of action at the Büchel military airbase in the Eifel district, where 20 nuclear bombs are kept in readiness and Tornado aircraft make regular practice flights.  Friends are keen to do peace work, but less keen to be on the committee.  They work on arms sales.  Also support Eurosatory.

The situation in France was then explained:

  • France YM used to have a peace committee but it was laid down over ten years ago. Friends have always been supportive of this work, but not willing to serve on a committee. Now France YM has decided it would like to restart this committee – a survey has been sent out to Friends in France.
  • From the 1920s through the 60s, there was a large Quaker centre in Paris, founded by AFSC and QPSW’s predecessor – these organisations withdrew, respectively, in 1962 and 1976.
  • As in other countries there is a sense in France that there is already a lot of Quaker work for peace going on.  The CQI (International Quaker Centre) has decided to make a modest contribution for three years to support  a joint venture with Friends in Norway, Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands to fund the AVP Growth Initiative .
  • Issues that have come up as important to French Friends are modern slavery, migration, asylum seekers.
  • Dale and Michael told us that they are keen to hear from others with suggestions of ways forward.  We were asked to focus our thoughts on three points:
  1. Suggestions of how to co-ordinate Friends in France
  2. Thoughts on whether they should focus on domestic issues or international ones
  3. And suggestions on how to co-ordinate work with peace committees in other YMs
  • We heard that Friends are also fewer and scattered in Scotland – there is a culture of mutual hospitality.
  • These days we all have access to a lot of information online, reports etc. which in the past wasn’t the case.  Perhaps this means peace committees need to work differently.
  • NFPB is independent and outside of YM structures.  This affects the way it works.
  • In the Republic of Ireland there is a particular focus on violence and drug dealers.  In Northern Ireland although the same problems exist they are given a politial slant. Important to remember the local context in this work.
  • Are younger Friends better at sharing information?  Through social media etc.  What can older Friends learn from them, and how can we get younger Friends to serve on our peace committees?
  • It’s better for a committee to focus on a couple of concerns rather than try and do everything!
  • It is really good to get lots of Friends involved in activities.  But how do we do this?
  • Good to work alongside Quaker service organisations where they exist.
  • It has been good to come together as a group of people like this.  It breaks down the sense of isolation that some Friends feel in this work.

Next steps:

  • Everyone to send Michael contact details, including website, facebook/twitter etc.
  • We agreed to try and hold regular skype/zoom meetings like this one – Michael will check on frequency.
  • We could perhaps have a theme or topic to share on each time we meet in this way?
  • It would be good to think about how wide an invitation we would like to give for these calls.  Are there others we want to invite?
  • Alongside this we agreed to try to make better use of the EMES forum, hoping that more regular face to face meetings would make this easier.  Michael will circulate details of the forum and will create a space for more informal sharing.
  • Present:

    Dale Andrew, France Yearly Meeting,

    Philip Austin, Northern Friends Peace Board

    Michael Eccles, EMES

    Sharon Gustafsson, Sweden Yearly meeting

    Karen King, Belgium & Luxembourg YM, peace & justice secretary, stop fuelling war

    Sean McCrum, Ireland YM, convenor Dublin & Ireland YM peace committees,

    Gordon Matthews, German yearly meeting

    Michael O’Connor, France Yearly meeting

  • More info: Website of FWCC-EMES