Wednesday, 19 December 2007


I enjoyed reading Rebecca Solnit's book 'Hope in the Dark' a year or so ago, and so was interested recently to come across a more recent piece of writing..The Secret Library of Hope - 12 Books to Stiffen Your Resolve. In this she says:

'There are a handful of books that I think of as "the secret library of hope." None of them deny the awful things going on, but they approach them as if the future is still open to intervention rather than an inevitability. In describing how the world actually gets changed, they give us the tools to change it again.'

The list covers books from William Morris's 'News from Nowhere' to the more recent 'The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People;' by Jonathan Schell

Her article concludes that 'In ceasing the scramble for things, there would be real gains; we’d gain back time for sitting around talking at leisure about politics and the neighbors, for wandering around on foot — and for reading. But you don’t have to wait for everything to change: change it yourself by seizing these pleasures now.'

Resources ...

I've just been putting a new issue of our newsletter together - here are some bits from a resources section on the back page - a sort of festive lucky dip (and things I wanted to include on this blog anyway):

Study War No More
This is a report published jointly by Campaign Against Arms Trade and Fellowship of Reconciliation, providing information about the funding of UK universities by military organisations. It hopes to support students concerned about their own institutions and to encourage debate. The report can be downloaded, with more information and data and ideas for further research and campaigning, from 01865 748 796

Informed Choice
David Gee, with funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, has produced a report and web resources on the information provided to potential military recruits and whether it really enables them to make an informed choice about enlistment to the armed forces. The main web site -- -- also links to:, aiming to give independent information about the reality of a career in the armed forces. (the main material on these is due out in January)

Not In Our Name
We’ve not heard this CD yet, but are impressed by the line-up of folk artists on this compilation CD, with its focus on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The material has been donated, with proceeds going to Stop the War Coalition. Available for £10 +£1 p&p from Stop the War coalition at: Telephone 020 7278 6694
Post orders to 27 Britannia Street, London WC1X 9JP

Faslane 365 Poster
Celebrating the completion of the Faslane 365 blockades, a poster has been produced, being a collage of photos of some of the many banners, people etc. who appeared there during the year.You can see it at Posters can be ordered by calling 0845 4588365 or emailing info@ (£2 each plus postage and packing).

A Climate of Conflict
This important report, from International Alert, looks at the social and human consequences that are likely to ensue from climate change – particularly the risks of conflict and instability – and makes recommendations for how we should be preparing to respond. Available to download from: and for phone enquiries contact: 020 7627 6800

Friday, 23 November 2007

Buy nothing for peace

Tomorrow is Buy Nothing day, a global witness against consumerism. They say of themselves:

"As consumers we need to question the products we buy and challenge the companies who produce them. What are the true risks to the environment and developing countries? The argument is infinite - while it continues we should be looking for simple solutions - Buy Nothing Day is a good place to start. "

This in its turn echoes the words written in 1793 by John Woolman, the early Quaker activist, mystic and visionary. Here's a good chunk of what he wrote, making very clear the connection he felt between unnescessary posessions, right living and war. Challenging stuff:

From A Plea for the Poor

"Wealth is attended with power, by which bargains and proceedings, contrary to universal righteousness, are supported; and hence oppression, carried on with worldly policy and order, clothes itself with the name of justice and becomes like a seed of discord in the soul. And as this spirit which wanders from the pure habitation prevails, so the seeds of war swell and sprout, and grow, and become strong, until much fruit is ripened. Then cometh the harvest spoken of by the prophet, which "is a heap, in the day of grief and desperate sorrows."(2)"

"Oh! that we who declare against wars, and acknowledge our trust to be in God only, may walk in the light, and therein examine our foundation and motives in holding great estates! May we look upon our treasures, and the furniture of our houses, and the garments in which we array ourselves, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions, or not. Holding treasures in the self-pleasing spirit is a strong plant, the fruit whereof ripens fast."

Having said all that, we're a bit out of.... at home and tomorrow might be a good day to go shopping!!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Peace in a Pod(cast)

An interesting listen - Scilla Ellworthy interviewed for a British Council website. She founded the Oxford Research Group and more recently Peace Direct - the inspiration for her efforts being at least in part to get away from 'mushy peace'. I am not sure that I agree with her suggestion that pacifism equates with being passive - I certainly know of many dynamic people who call themselves pacifists ... but that's a minor niggle. Overall, a stimulating blend of vision, realism and experience-based wisdom.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Together for Peace

I've been impressed by the range and scale of events that Leeds Together for Peace have managed to put on over recent years, and this years looks just as good - though this year being more compact, between 15th-25th November rather than a whole month. They say about themselves:

"We can all make positive change in our city and world, especially if we work co-operatively. We just need to imagine that better future, then work hard to make it real.
Together for Peace's vision is to work with people throughout our city to inspire and help them to make these changes real. Please browse around to find out more, be inspired, get involved... and, in all this, 'be the change you hope to see in the world' (Gandhi)."

Lots happening over the next 10 days... so if you can get to Leeds, find out more at:
And have a look at their events diary.

If you can't get to Leeds, does this all inspire you to try to do something similar in your city, town, village or street?

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Courageous and persistent witness by faithful Friends

I've just spent a weekend with a group of Quakers from Europe and the Middle East, all involved in one area of peace service work or another. This is an annual event, and I was as impressed and inspired as always by the range and spirit of the activities that participants were involved with. In particular, this year we heard about the Friends International Centre in Ramallah, from Kathy Bergen, its Program Coordinator. We were also reminded of the value of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), the UK part of which is administered by British Quakers. Find out more about Quakers in Europe and the Middle East here and about the Quaker office in Brussels here.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007



Red, white, or none at all? The great poppy debate, article in the Independent, November 2006

Remembrance and Reconciliation: Reflection and Hope
Talk given by Janet Quilley at a NFPB 'Peace is Growing' day in Manchester on
11 November 2000

Friday, 12 October 2007


The armed forces memorial in Staffordshire being dedicated today is certainly an impressive structure. I was interested to hear the Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup on the BBC this morning, who said he hoped it would be "a chance for the British public to reconnect with the military". Well, possibly. I could be predictable, and say it simply underscores the futility of war. But it mostly helps me connect with a deep sense of sadness for the lost lives, each one an individual, family member, friend, lover etc. It does not help me connect with the military as an institution.


Monday, 8 October 2007

Iraq actions, speaking out and dilemmas of dialogue

Whilst the Stop the War Coalition and its supporters attempt to continue their demonstration in Trafalgar Square today, with a march towards the Houses of Parliament, on the other side of the Atlantic is a rather difference form of protest: an Interfaith Fast to End the War in Iraq, with the following appeal:
We call on all Americans to join in fasting from dawn to dusk on Monday, October 8, to call for an end to the Iraq War. On this day, people of faith in local communities across our nation will act as catalysts to transform the meaning of the day from one of conquest to community and from violence to reverence.

Anglican archbishop Rowan Williams, meanwhile, is quoted by Ekklesia (who in turn are reporting on his comments to the BBC) as saying:

"we do hear talk from some quarters of action against Syria and Iran" but that "I can't understand what planet such persons are living on, when you see the conditions that are already there."Dr Williams continued: "When people talk about further destabilization of the region and you read some American political advisers speaking of action against Syria and Iran, I can only say that I regard that as criminal, ignorant and potentially murderous folly."

His fellow Anglican, archbishop Desmond Tutu, has obviously also been more outspoken than some are comfortable with. Read the news piece here ("Minnesota College Bans Nobel Laureate Tutu From Talk On Peace and Justice") about the puzzling decision to prevent him speaking at an American college ...

And whilst Iran's president Ahmadinejad was allowed to talk but not exactly warmly welcomed at another US academic institution at the end of September, he did have a rather less-widely reported encounter with a sizeable group of church-related people ... "Religious Leaders Dialogue with Iranian President Provides Glimpses of the Road Ahead", reported on the FCNL website

They conclude:
"While much of the press coverage of the president’s visit to the United States has focused on the confrontation and exchanges of angry words in other venues, in our conversation this September at the Church Center at the United Nations we had some serious discussions, we disagreed on many points, but we had a respectful dialogue. "

Monday, 1 October 2007

There are other ways

It's very good to see that the Oxford Research Group's book "War Prevention Works: 50 Stories of People Resolving Conflict" is now available online as a PDF file, 6 years after it was first published. At 4MB it's not small, but well worth looking at if you've not come across it before. The blurb on the website says...
This book aims to raise awareness among government policy-makers, the media, potential funders and the general public of the extraordinary cost-effectiveness of those working non-violently at the front line of conflict. It is intended as an introduction to the field of conflict prevention and resolution, from the perspective of what has actually worked in the field, using concrete examples.

Faith in action and in words

A few interesting bits and bobs to do with Churches and other faith groups…

Firstly, on the Guardian’s Comment is Free pages, Pankaj Mishra writes under the heading …
The Burmese monks' spiritual strength proves religion has a role in politics,
arguing that Buddhism and its values have inspired a tradition of non-violent protest more powerful than secularists understand - and lots of passionately expressed comment in response

A new publicity effort apparently begins today, organised by, which "aims to address the negative perceptions and stereotypes of Islam and British Muslims. We intend to do this through media engagement to reach out to the wider community across the United Kingdom."

And on Ekklesia read that a church group has been blockading a Total petrol station in protest at that company’s involvement in Burma. The church in question is Just Church - an interesting radical faith-based initiative in this constantly innovative community.

Ekklesia also notes that Incitement to religious hatred will today become a criminal offence in England and Wales with the commencement of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act.

Meanwhile, the World Council of Churches has been meeting in Armenia and has written a minute about Iran and the Middle East, and a statement on the tragic situation facing Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people.

And finally on CommonDreams, Stephen Zunes, reflecting on a meeting with Iran’s President Ahmadinejad writes:
Both Ahmadinejad and George W. Bush have used their fundamentalist interpretations of their faith traditions to place the world in a Manichean perspective of good versus evil. The certitude of their positions regardless of evidence to the contrary, their sense that they are part of a divine mission, and their largely successful manipulation of their devoutly religious constituents have put these two nations on a dangerous confrontational course.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Pacifism discussion on Radio 4

It was good to hear Albert Beale, of Peace Pledge Union and Housmans on BBC Radio 4's "Saturday Live" this morning. A very interesting and intelligent discussion with Fi Glover and other guests. Listen to Albert again here.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Swords, ploughshares, R & D

Further to my earlier post, I notice that Scientists for Global Responsibility have plublished an update to their report "Soldiers in the Laboratory" [also known as SITL] ... Simply entitled "More Soldiers in the Laboratory" its author, Chris Langley, concludes:

"It is clear that since we published the SITL report, the military has put in place plans to expand and strengthen its involvement with and influence over the UK science and technology sector with significant emphasis on building and further consolidating links with universities.Yet it is also increasingly clear that the narrow, high-technology, weapons-based aproach to tackling international tensions and conflicts is failing in many situations."

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

So that's swords and ploughshares...?

Ten years ago, some of us were eagerly waiting to see what the new Labour government was going to do about its manifesto commitment to defence diversification. We found out later that the Defence Diversification Agency (DDA) was mostly about spin-ins and spin-offs - i.e. technology transfer between defence and civil sectors in order that both may thrive. The vision of arms conversion that some had in the 1980s - and then reawakened with the possibility of a peace dividend after the cold war - was quietly abandoned.

Now the DDA has been closed, though the government's objectives don't seem to have changed - spin-ins and spin-offs through other means. One of these other means goes by the extraordinary name of Ploughshare Innovations Ltd. This is a 'technology transfer company' set up by The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory "to actively pursue the commercial exploitation of publicly funded research for the benefit of all". Now, my understanding is that this 'all' means that the defence industry benefits still more, as it sells its technological expertise to a wider market. How about dispensing with the swords altogether and just focusing on the ploughshares?

The vision of arms conversion, rather than diversification, still has an important place and is promoted again in a recent CND report, Trident and Employment, in which the writer Steven Schofield says:

"Rather than follow this course [of building a replacement to the Trident system at Barrow in Furness], the UK could adopt an arms conversion policy that sees the savings from the cancellation of FOS [Follow-on System to the current generation of Trident] used to support civil R&D and production. In this way the UK could satisfy 50% of its electricity generation needs from a multi-billion pound investment in offshore wind and wave power, providing 25,000 to 30,000 jobs, that would more than compensate for lost military employment, while significantly reducing carbon emissions and enhancing security of supply."

Swords... who needs 'em!?


As the world watches to see how the situation in Burma develops ("Burma monks maintain nonviolent resistance in the face of attacks") ...

Here's a useful analysis on Open Democracy.

The Burma Campaign UK has a number of action suggestions

and AVAAZ has organised an international petition, " Stand with the Burmese Protesters"

Finally, an inspiring poster apparently being carried by protesting monks

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Hopeful words?

I've just read the BBC news item about UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband's speech at the Labour party conference in which he said:
"... while we've won the wars it's been harder to win the peace.
"The lesson is that while there are military victories there never is a military 'solution'. [my emphasis added]
"There's only military action that creates the space for economic and political life."

I will be very interested to know what his colleagues in the Government have to say on this matter. And if they agree, whether this statement means anything in practice. I can't quite see the use of Trident nuclear weapons as a particularly useful tool for creating 'space for economic and political life' - any thoughts on how that might work?!
And if there is government unity behind these sentiments, what are the non-military solutions that the UK will now be investing in, given that it has realised the limits of militarism as a tool for building peace? Do you think we might be told?

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Warning about war and warming

Alan Greenspan's comments on the real reasons for the Iraq invasion (oil) and the build up to military action against Iran (oil again) could easily be seen as 'stating the blindingly obvious'. Andrew Murray, of Stop the War Coalition, trying to move beyond the 'we told you so' response that would be so easy to make, concludes in his Guardian comment piece
" .... Greenspan's uncharacteristic glasnost is helpful at a time when the campaign for a further war against Iran appears to be gathering significant momentum. ....... Every time a politician tries to convince you that the next war in the US campaign to run the Middle East is unavoidable for this reason or that, just remember Alan Greenspan. Let's not wait five years for some other ruling class Grand Vizier to reveal the blindingly obvious. It's about the oil, stupid, and it should be stopped before it starts."

Bringing the twin issues of war and oil dependency together is a US campaign, No War No Warming, which is planning a nonviolent demonstration in Washington DC on 22 October, stating on their website...

We need to take immediate action…
…To end the war in Iraq and all future oil wars
…To halt the impending climate crisis
…To end the US addiction to oil and other fossil fuels
…To rebuild New Orleans and all impacted communities
…To end racism and corporate greed
…To promote green jobs in a clean energy economy


Monday, 17 September 2007

Quakers? Peace?

If you're not a Quaker, are wanting to know a bit more (perhaps even meet some) and are in Britain during the last week of September, did you know that it's the first ever national Quaker week? There will be events around the country over the period (and for some weeks after, it would appear) to raise the profile and provide opportunities for finding out a bit more about Quakers. I've not yet spotted a website that lists all the events that are taking place around the country, but the main site for the Quaker Week is at, complete with video contributions from three different Quakers and an easy way to find your local Quaker Meeting. See also the NFPB introductory page, with a bias towards Quakers and peace.

And if you're not a Quaker or that interested, have you remembered Peace Day, this Friday, 21st September?

Watching, waiting and ...?

The International Atomic Energy Agency began its 51st general conference today, with Iran high on the agenda. The noises from the US and France (aren't they nuclear weapons' states?) are discouraging, and a news report recently from the BBC quoted the UK Foreign Secretary as warning Iran not to develop nuclear weapons, or to act in a way that destabilises the Middle East. And whilst we might scoff at the apparent hypocrisy of a nuclear weapons' power whose invasion of Iraq has been massively destabilising and destructive making such pronouncements, a small piece in the same report about the importance of diplomancy might offer a glimmer of hope. I believe (call me naive, if you like) that the UK really does want to resolve this by diplomatic means, as they say they do. They need every encouragement to resist pressure from the US to be involved in more disastrous military folly.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation has put together a useful briefing (updated just last week) on the issue ... "The Anatomy of the U.S.-Iran Dispute: Why War Is Not the Answer". This is written for a US audience, but is a handy and up-to-date paper for those of us in the UK and elsewhere. The regular updates from BASIC are also key resources for anyone wishing to keep abrest of these matters. It's also timely to post a reminder about the Crisis Iran report "Time to Talk"

There may not be 2 million of us demonstrating in London, but I can't believe many of in this country would support any UK involvement in military action against Iran. The ongoing shock and awe in Iraq is about as brutal a warning as we'll need, isn't it??

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Visions of Peace

We received today DVD conversions of the NFPB video - Visions of Peace - that we made more than 10 years ago. We were keen then to make a resource that wouldn't date too quickly, and since we were still able to make use of it a year ago, we seem to have managed that. We already have a good number of requests to use it during the first National Quaker week - starting on 22nd September and I shall be posting these out tomorrow. Let me know at the NFPB office on nfpb (at) if you'd like one.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

The meaning of peace?

'Peace Mission 2007' - sounds good eh? But this mission seems a very long way from the kind of peace-making that many of us recognise. Rather, it is the just-concluded joint military exercises of the SCO. The initials here stand not for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, but the Shanghai Cooperation Council, the security alliance forged in 2001 by Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Read here an interesting account both of the Mission and of SCO and its growing role in challenging the US spheres of influence around the globe. And a New Statesman piece focussing on the summit they are just beginning

Another bit of heavy-duty military-based "peace building". This time in the form of a massive commitment (30 billion US dollars) by the Univted States to continue providing military aid to Israel. According to a BBC report
[US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns] called the aid package an "investment in peace", saying "peace cannot be made without strength".
"Needless to say, given Israel's predicament, living in a region that is very violent and unstable, its military edge is of interest to our country, and we've committed to that," he said.
The money must be used to purchase military equipment from the US defence industry, although Israel will also be permitted to use 26.3% to buy equipment from local companies.

To be honest, this really sounds more like an investment in the US weapons industry than an investment in peace. Now what would $30 bn buy in non-military peacebuilding capacity? If only someone with access to that sort of money asked themselves the same question.

Friday, 10 August 2007

A loss for South Africa

I was sorry to read in the press today that Quaker politician Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge has been sacked from her post as deputy Health Minister for South Africa (see Independent article). Apparently there was some mix up about her attendance at a conference on Aids in Madrid. But many people are particularly distressed about her departure as she had been a well-placed critic of President Thabo Mbeki's ostrich-like approach to Aids, which is having such a devastating effect on southern Africa. I hope she will find some other outlet for her obvious political and moral contribution - read an interview with her here, for instance.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

DESO - reasons to be cheerful?

In an earlier entry, I expressed scepticism about the planned closure of the Defence Export Services Organisation, DESO. The fact that the arms industry is so upset about it (Fury as DESO is scrapped - Telegraph) is perhaps an encouraging indication that, although the government will continue to promote arms exports (along with other exports through its "UK Trade and Investment" agency), they won't be given the massive helping hand that has been so disproportionate over DESO's 40 years of operation. I note that CAAT will be having a celebratory party, and quite right too, but I hope they will also keep a close eye on what happens next.
Some useful links:
UK's DESO Done In
Faith and peace groups wecome DESO closure
Export department closure leaves defence firms out in the cold

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Of missiles and Menwith

The decision, noted in an earlier entry, of the UK government to give the go-ahead for the US to use Menwith Hill as a component in its missile defence system is generating a growing amount of disquiet and concern. The system as a whole is damaging international relations, is costly and doesn't seem to work very well. But more than that, in spite of the UK parliament's own defence committee criticising the government for the way in which it mishandled the earlier decision on Fylingdales, the current ministerial team seems to have learned from that only that it may be simpler (for them) to avoid consulting parliament at all. Now 20 or so MPs have signed a letter criticising this decision, and comment has come from CND (as well as a useful briefing from them) and BASIC , amongst others.

The latter commented:
'The decision in December 2002 to accede to a US upgrade at Fylingdales set a poor precedent in terms of process, transparency and accountability. The Defence Committee "strongly regretted the way in which the issue had been handled by the Government". This latest announcement is a further escalation in Britain's missile defence commitment without public debate or parliamentary scrutiny.'

MPs may be enjoying a recess from parliamentary duties, but perhaps this will give them more time to deal with correspondence from constituents on the matter. Can't find a pen and paper? Why not contact yours via

One small step...

As David comes to the end of his epic cycle ride, I received an email today reminding me of the extraordinary walk for peace being undertaken by Canadian Jean BĂ©liveau, who set of from his home in Canada on 18th August 2000. He passed through the UK not so long ago, and I was sorry not to have a chance to meet him. The latest news is that he is walking through Iran. His purpose? is to walk around the planet to promote "Peace and non-violence to the profit of the children of the world" and aims to complete the entire walk within 12 years.

Another venture just reaching its conclusion is the Footprints for Peace interfaith walk from Dublin to London, which has stopped at Faslane, Menwith Hill and Aldermaston - amongst many other places - along the way. A number of Friends have met with and joined the walkers for different stages of their journey. This group says that … "Through our actions we create the opportunity for multi cultural interfaith prayer and ceremony to deepen our spiritual, cultural and environmental awareness and understanding that All Life is Sacred. To empower, raise awareness and inspire individuals and community. Creating peaceful change through action."

Walking and making journeys in this way seems to be both an outward and an inward act – I recall many years ago hearing about Satish Kumar's long Ghandi-inspired peace walks in the early 1960s, and he is certainly one who sees such initiatives in this way. It seems to be about making oneself vulnerable and open to being in contact both with the earth but also a wide range of people in many different circumstances. An antidote to sitting on air-conditioned high-speed trains with head phones plugged in as I was just last week, and perhaps a simple reminder of our need for one another, our common humanity.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Give an inch or two

Interesting report in The Guardian today, on the expected cost of widening the M6 motorway - could be up to £1,000 per inch, with the total likely to be double the UK's annual aid budget to Africa. David's cycle ride from the toe to the tip of the UK meanwhile (and what a good read his blog is!!) was set to raise just over £2,000 by the time he started his trip, towards high efficiency heating for Friends House. Perhaps the M6 widening project could be shortened by two inches to help him double that? And couple of miles could fund a lot of peace education projects around the country. I'd be willing to sit in a traffic jam for that.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Summer Gathering thoughts…

Just back yesterday evening from a very interesting and varied week based at Stirling University for the Quaker summer gathering.

The theme, Faith into Action, was explored in a linear fashion as the week progressed, beginning with sessions on waiting and discernment, through preparation and planning to action and then nurturing and sustaining our witness. There were gems in many of the contributions from the platform, but also in the numerous conversations and encounters with people in the course of the week. Recordings and transcripts of the presentations are being made available on the gathering's website here.

In the middle of the week I joined two coach loads of Quakers to Faslane, where we had a Quaker Meeting for Worship, met with a group of visiting Japanese peace activists - some being survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs – and then witnessed a tremendously moving act of nonviolent action by some of them at the gates of the nuclear weapons base.

Origami paper cranes being tied to the fence at Faslane...

... and laid in the entrance to the accompaniment of Japanese singing

Meanwhile, back in the wider world, I’ve been deeply disappointed to learn of the decision by Defence Secretary Des Browne to allow the US to use Menwith Hill for its Missile Defence system. I had understood that the government was at least intending to consult Parliament about this. Can it be a coincidence that the announcement came just as parliament went into its long summer recess (back in early October)? The earlier decision about Fylingdales came just around a Christmas recess – there seems to be a pattern emerging. There has been some rejoicing about the planned closure of DESO, the Defence Export Services Agency, though the cynic in me is inclined to think that this may be more about public relations than a real change in policy and practice. I’ve not had a chance to read much about this yet, so perhaps I will have the pleasure of being proved wrong on this one.

The NFPB display during the 'fair' at the gathering

And what about the weather…!? In Stirling, the marquee we used for our sessions kept us protected from some very heavy showers and strong wind. News from elsewhere in England was worrying, with flooding widespread. Many assume that this is a clear evidence of climate change. Whether or not that’s right, the theme of treading lightly on the world (in terms of size of ecological footprints) was woven through the gathering, as was that of community. I am reminded of the wording on some of our NFPB resources “We must re-learn the ability to live together in harmony in this fragile and endangered world.”

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Faith into action

I'll be joining other Quakers from around the land next week for their Summer Gathering, this year at Stirling University. I've popped into a couple of the earlier SGs but never yet participated in a full event. I'll be facilitating a workshop on Speaking our Peace on Sunday, visiting Faslane and exhibiting our wares at a market-place type event on Wednesday maybe doing another mini-workshop on Thursday. And lots of meeting, talking and being with others throughout the week, all around the broad theme of "faith into action". And maybe I'll find a computer somewhere to share thoughts on this blog while I'm there.

Pedalling for the planet

David Gee, from Quaker Peace & Social Witness, is spending his summer do a Lands End to John o Groats cycle ride, all in aid of a CHP boiler at Friends House, which is apparently extremely energy efficient. He's been having a wet time of it so far, not yet a week into the trip, but is keeping a highly readable blog along the way and no doubt would still welcome sponsorship. Follow David's progress at:

Friday, 6 July 2007

Parliament and Trident

"On Thursday 14 June the Scottish Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to call on the UK Government not to go ahead with its plan to renew Trident.", reports Scottish CND. Further details of the debate are also available from the Acronym Institute as part of their interesting new coverage of parliamentary activities in relation to disarmament etc. If this vote was significant, you'd hardly know from the very meagre coverage in the mainstream press. With new deputy Labour Party leader, Harriet Harman, having suggested a review of the decision to replace Trident was in order, perhaps there may be some scope for change in the Westminster as well as the opposition from Hollyrood.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007



"prospects in the Middle East [are] much healthier than they were five years ago."

Who says so? Looking at news headlines over the past month, you'd be hard pushed to find many people who would agree. But, it all depends on your perspective. The sentence above is quoted from a news item about the booming UK arms export business.

And just in case you thought enough was enough, (best year in almost a decade apparently, at $10 billion in 2006 and second only the US) we read that ...

"Britain [is] looking to Asia to grow its export footprint".

Not the kind of impression that many of us would like to see our country making in the world, I feel.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Murder in the cathedral

An interesting piece on the Ekklesia website following up the problem of the computer game and Manchester Cathedral. Ekklesia's Simon Barrow urges a different approach to the legal one currently being pursued by the cathedral and also makes the observation that many Anglican churches already have plenty of military flags etc. ... "so they cannot claim that being associated with war and violence is entirely alien – though arguably it should be." I heard very similar sentiments from the mouth of a 16 year old boy last week and tended to share his sense of mild puzzlement at the mixed messages. No doubt Quakers are just as good at conveying confusion at times... But we should try to be consistent.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Mind boggling

With the publication yesterday of this year's SIPRI yearbook comes a press item reporting that global military expenditure has reached 1.2 trillion US dollars. Not sure what that looks like, but it's apparently 3.5% more than the previous year's. Two ironic responses to the press item ...
"If only we can get that number up to 1.5 trillion, the world might be safe again!", followed by "1.2 trillion could buy alotta solar panels.".
That last sentence summing up the futility of throwing resources and ingenuity at something so destructive when the could be used to such good effect elsewhere. The mind boggles!

David Gee at QPSW has done a helpful job at sifting through some of the facts and figures - read it here.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Whose ethics?

I was intrigued to hear mention on the news ofglobal arms-trader BAE systems wanting to set up an ethics committee. I could nominate a few people to serve on that, but the company might find that, actually, nearly all their activies are unethical. I suspect they are more interested in the rather more limited sphere of ethics, those that relate to business-transactions rather than the actual goods being traded - shame really! Campaign Against Arms Trade's briefing on them - BAE: a company out of control might be of interest here...

Also mildly encouraging is the Church of England's decision to raise its voice about the use of Manchester Cathedral as a back drop of a Sony computer game that depicts animated violence. But again, some might wish to take this a lot further. Isn't human life sacred wherever it is, and having its destruction as a form of entertainment sickening regardless of the visual context in which it is supposed to be happening?

The important thing in both these cases is to take encouragement that the kind of concerns we have are shared by many others. Raising them in public can often be dispiriting, but occasionally it just seems to catch the media's attention and some shift in what is and what isn't ethically acceptable (Or at least a discussion about it) can happen.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

The new 'the other'?

I can't be alone in my sense of alarm and dismay at the US / Russia big-power posturing that has suddenly come to the fore, after a very welcome long break. This was where I came into peace work, with growing East-West tensions in the early 1980s. But at the same time, those of us who have been trying to persuade the UK government that support for the US missile defence system was unhelpful have been saying for a long time that a shield is more often than not accompanied by a sword. This is obviously what some people in Russia feel, whether or not there is any foundation to their fears. What is clear is that Russia has been wounded over the last 15 or so years, and now wishes to assert itself again on the World stage. An ever expanding US sphere of influence pushes all the wrong buttons in that context. And UK adherence to the US policy agenda (including the request earlier this year to host some of their missile defence interceptors) does nothing to promote the possibility that the US is mistaken in its conviction that this military policy is dangerously provocative.

21 years ago, Mary Lou Leavitt gave a talk to Northern Friends Peace Board on the spiritual challenge of SDI/ 'Star Wars' , as the earlier envisaged missile defence programme was nicknamed. We published this as a booklet from which I quote...

"In answer to the proud vision of SDI - that impermeable shield for the good guys at the expense of the bad guys (or the third world guys who don't count) - Friends have a vision of a world where all are equally valued: a world where I am as valuable as the most powerful, most wise, most expert person I can name; a world where all others - the least of these my brothers and sisters - are as valuable as I; a world where, together, we can learn to trust the Seed of the Spirit in one another. In place of a process which trusts technology and mistrusts humanity, we must learn and live out a process that builds trust between people and their institutions."

The splendid OpenDemocracy website has this week published a series of articles arising from the Nobel Women's Initiative, in the latest of which Ann Carr concludes:

"I believe that honest dialogue, no matter how difficult, is the cement that holds societies together. By hearing one another we create new possibilities. We share, we learn, we realise that the creation of a shared society, where we can all belong, is possible. ... There comes a time when people lose their fear and things are never the same again. That is the moment when the foundations of a brighter future have been secured - and the real work can begin."

I don't imagine the G8 summit will produce a lot of reasons for optimism, but there are enough people now who do know that another way is not only possible, but also necessary and effective in building lasting peace. It may not be present at big summits, but its implementation by small groups and individuals throughout the world can make a difference. Let us hope.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

The new 'we'

Just back from British Quakers annual conference / gathering and buzzing in my mind is a quote from Tariq Ramadam, who I had the pleasure of hearing speak earlier this year. He talks about a 'new "we"' ... thus: (From Manifesto for a new "WE")

Our societies are awaiting the emergence of a new “We”. A “We” that would bring together men and women, citizens of all religion-and those without religion-who would undertake together to resolve the contradictions of their society: the right to work, to housing, to respect, against racism and all forms of discrimination, all offenses against human dignity.

Lots more good stuff in his writings, and I think a fitting note on which to mark the 1st anniversary of this blog.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Glimmers of hope

A few things to be less pessimistic about... (perhaps)

- The latest IPCC report ... according to the BBC: (Climate change 'can be tackled') The growth in greenhouse gas emissions can be curbed at reasonable cost, experts at a major UN climate change conference in Bangkok have agreed. Boosting renewable energy, reducing deforestation and improving energy efficiency can all help, they said.

- The election results: The BNP have been a lot less successful in the local elections than they had hoped and many had feard (although they seem to have done worryingly well - percentage-wise) in North Wales (see Guardian report) , which states: "A coordinated effort by the main parties to minimise the electoral threat from the party seemed to have paid off after the BNP was forced to concede "a mixed result"."

- Change of mindset: Paul Rogers, on OpenDemocracy, speculates that the change of Prime Minister (presumably Gordon Brown) opens up the opportunity for a change of thinking at the heart of power on foreign and security policy - we shall see.

- Reith Lectures: Jeffrey Sachs, in the latest Reith Lecture, "Economic Solidarity for a Crowded Planet".... "Let us resolve to honor our commitments in the fight against poverty, hunger, and disease. Our commitments are small compared with our vast wealth, and the benefits will be vast. We have the power to save millions of lives each year, to help slow a burgeoning population growth in the poorest countries, and to reduce, if not end, the conflicts and wars caused by extreme poverty, which threaten peace everywhere. This, truly, is the work of our generation. "

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Mind shift?

One of the arguments used by anti-Trident replacement camaigners over the past several months has been that nuclear weapons are irrelevant in considering the real threats to security on this planet. I was interested today, therefore, to hear that none other than the UK goverment has initiated a debate at the UN on the security implications of climate change. Paul Rogers and others have been raising these concerns for many years, and todays debate coincides with the publication of a book (Beyond Terror: The Truth About the Real Threats to Our World- Oxford Research Group) written by him with Chris Abbott and John Sloboda - from their publicity material:
"This important book shows why this approach has been such a failure, and how it distracts us from other, much greater, threats:
* Climate change
* Competition over resources
* Marginalisation of the majority world
* Global militarisation"

And in The Guardian John Gittings helpfully (I think) makes the connection between these issues, the tensions with Iran and US plans to site Missile Defence infrastructure in Central Europe. And on the same day, AC Grayling reflects on Hilary Benn's appeal to desist from using the terms 'War on Terror' - again focussing on the deeper causes of resentment and insecurity; this seems to back up this thinking. The fact that these different issues are so interlinked could be seen as a problem - how do you tackle one without dealing with the other? Alternatively, it could be the best reason yet for the massive change of thinking that many are seeking. Janet Bloomfield will be remembered in future editions of the new book from ORG, I gather (as one closely linked with the publication project), and a fitting memorial to her would for strenuous energies to be expended to promote this agenda in whatever ways possible.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Tackling racism, building peace

I've today added to the NFPB website some resources arising from our conference in Bolton on 10th March...
Hoping these are useful.

More about Janet

Back from a week away, I was pleased to see a number of web-based tributes to Janet Bloomfield.
Continuing to hold her family and friends in the light, particularly in the lead up to her funeral on Thursday this week.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Janet Bloomfield

I have been deeply saddened to hear at the beginning of the week of the unexpected death of Janet Bloomfield at the age of 53. I got to know Janet through our joint work on the QPSW Peace Campaigning and Networking group and in the work she did with us in running workshops on Dialogue with Decision Makers. I also greatly valued her contributions to peace events as a speaker and to peace and disarmament work as a writer, networker, visionary and friend to many. Her immediate family must be devastated. Heartfelt thoughts and prayers to them. Janet will be missed by so many. On the website of Atomic Mirror, for whom she worked, is the phrase: "creativity is the antidote to destruction". Thank you, Janet, for all the creative energy, the humanity, the commitment and the friendship you gave to this world.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Surging for peace

Came across an interesting website recently on Spirituality and Practice, one item on which Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat call for a Peace Surge, writing:
"in our view, we are living in the scariest moment since the Cuban missile crisis when the world was carried to the brink of nuclear war in a confrontation between the United States and Russia. The difference is that there is still time for citizens and their representatives to stop this descent into violence and destructiveness. So this week we are asking you to read, practice, and act to create a peace surge. We'll explore the other part of this process, creating inner peace to enable you to keep up your activism, in the weeks ahead."

Another type approach to spirituality and peace comes from the World Council of Churches' 'Decade to Overcome Violence', which announced in the last week details of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, taking place in May 2011. Leading up to that they envisage "a major worldwide moblization of churches for peace". This will all be fed into a Declaration on Just Peace which will be "an act of public witness and an affirmation of enduring hope ina world torn apart by violence". The press release about this also mentions the need for the declaration to acknowledge the wrongs that Christian churches have committed over the centuries, and - encouragingly - will seek to learn from insights from other faiths.

After the Trident vote...

Now the UK parliament have voted on Trident, where next? Those who were particularly involved in effort to engage the public and politicians and genuine debate on the issue will meet soon and no doubt developing strategies for further opposition to the decision to renew. CND, for instance, are encouraging people to write to their MPs to continue the conversation about the importance of pursuing multilateral disarmamant, amongst other things. And more than that, they say 'we will be working tirelessly to ensure that this dangerous, immoral decision is reversed at the earliest date.' Watch that space.

QPSW, on the Peace Exchange website, meanwhile writes: "Despite the disappointing outcome of the vote, this is not the end of this story: it will take years to build the new submarines and the argument for doing so is rusting away as inexorably as the current fleet. We will keep you informed of future Trident-related events and actions as they come up. In the meantime, you can still make use of the QPSW "Don't Replace Trident!" resources, and take action at Faslane naval base and Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment."

Interesting issues arising with the ongoing Faslane 365 blockades. Local residents are objecting to the disruption to their lives by people blockading the main road outside the base, and have recently had their own protest event (see the article in The Scotsman). The Faslane 365 core team is encouraging blockaders to be aware of this and to bear it in mind when planning actions - for instance, taking into account school exams coming up etc. But the blockades continue, with both groups of people trying to do what they must do whilst not trampling on each others' toes unnecessarily.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Leeds Quakers say it with .... brollies

A few links showing Quakers from Leeds and beyond before and during their blockade at Faslane at the beginning of the month. It was a tough going weather-wise, I gather, with cold wet wind and rain. The umbrellas served at least two useful purposes, I imagine, and the various rainbow-coloured banners etc must have helped brighten dampened spirits. Pictures and reports ... at Indymedia, Hull Campaigns for Change and Leeds Coalition Against War

Trident vote next Wednesday

Most readers will probably know that the vote in the UK parliament on whether to replace the Trident Nuclear Weapons system with more of the nasty things is to take place next week. Much lobbying and demonstrating has been going on for the last few months and Wednesday will be no exception. So here's an un-ashamed plug for the event in London in which Quakers are going to be involved....

Inter-Faith Vigil
on Wednesday 14th March: Trident Vote Day 5 – 6 pm in Parliament Square Central London
Faith-based communities are invited to join together in silent witness on the day of the House of Commons vote on the future of Britain’s nuclear weapons.
There will also be other events and actions taking place on the day of the vote. For more information on these, please visit:

The vigil is supported by: Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, Christian CND, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi and Quaker Peace & Social Witness.

We are urged not to give up if the vote does go in favour of replacement, however. The tide of public opinion seems to be changing and the actual implementation of policy is a long-term issue that can be challenged every step of the way.

And don't forget to get your copy of the QPSW poster at the beginning of this blog, available to download from here and to get in hard copy from here.


I went to the radical bookshop in Liverpool ' News from Nowhere' yesterday, to collect a selection of books for a stall at the conference we're running this weekend. It was a delight to find the shop in such good health, apparently, when so many others of its type around the country have not survived. I can heartily recommend a visit in person, or to their website if you can't get there. Very nice atmosphere, good selection of materials and easily accessible in the city centre.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Growing challenges, many opportunities

This last week or so has seen a range of reports that envisage a different way forward, but these are all fairly grand sweep kind of visions, beyond the capacity of the 'ordinary person' to do much about. They are important, nonetheless, and we should continue to promote these alternatives.

In ' Britain’s 21st-century defence' Paul Rogers on the openDemocracy website focuses on two crucial bits of majory military hardware spending the UK government might be making a commitment to shortly - including of course, Trident.
He concludes: "Instead of a restricted outlook that sees matter purely in terms of defence of the realm, a review could embrace a much more global perspective, recognising that entirely new security thinking will be needed to face 21st-century challenges. With worldwide socio-economic marginalisation and environmental constraints such as climate change likely to be the real global-security issues over the next decades, this key decision might just open up space for some fresh approaches to sustainable security"

Similary, Steve Schofield in Oceans of Work: Arms Conversion Revisited, a BASIC report , he writes of the UK in general and Barrow in Furness in particular - also the place where Trident subs were built and apparently hoping for orders for their replacements... "The UK can make a difference through disarmament and through an arms conversion programme that addresses the a broader security framework on peacekeeping, climate change and sustainable development. Or it can continue on its present course as a major appendage to the US miilitary. A small town in Cumbria may well symbolise those future paths to peace or to war."

Tomorrow an interfaith group, including someone from American Friends Service Committee, will be on a delegation to talk to Iranian religious and political leaders to try to develop a more fruitful dialogue than the US government seems to want at the moment.

And in "Time to Talk", a report from 'Crisis Action', we read: "The UK has an important role to play in fostering a climate of pragmatism. It is recommended that the UK government continue to give full backing to the diplomatic process whilst directly addressing the need for full and direct negotiations between Iran and the US administration. The time available should be used to build confidence on both sides and the UK has a crucial role to play in supporting that process..."

Meanwhile, whilst we get to grips with the UNICEF report that's labelled the UK the worst for child-wellbeing, and struggle to understand the killing of teenagers in south London, we are reminded that paying attention to the detail of human relationships, valuing each human for the positive potential they have, is the basis of a peaceful society.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation in England has produced a poster with QPSW simply called 'Build Peace' with snapshots of - mostly - young people holding a white board on which they have written their own thoughts about building peace. FoR say "Far too often we feel helpless or even hopeless in the face of the amount of violence and injustice in the world. Yet there are millions of people all around the world who are working to build peace locally, nationally & internationally.
All of us need encouragement and ideas to help us build peace
How do you think we should build peace…?" and they invite contributions.
Photos from the poster and others can be viewed in a slide show on FoR's website at:
Here is just a tiny sample:

Build Peace - Share your toys
Build peace - forgiveness, not revenge
Build peace - Build community

Thursday, 1 February 2007

News from Birmingham

Whilst most of the nation's press is focussing on the arrest of 9 people in Birmingham in connection with some sort of terrorist plot, The Independent carries an interesting and hopeful piece about a school in the same city:
The Jewish school where half the pupils are Muslim

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Yours anxiously...

'Yours anxiously', one correspondent signed themselves in a letter expressing concerns about the apparent drift by the US towards military action against Iran. A number of journalist and commentators seem to share that anxiety...

In The Guardian today. Simon Tisdall writes:
"US officials in Baghdad and Washington are expected to unveil a secret intelligence "dossier" this week detailing evidence of Iran's alleged complicity in attacks on American troops in Iraq. The move, uncomfortably echoing Downing Street's dossier debacle in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, is one more sign that the Bush administration is building a case for war."

and on the same Guardian website, Ian Traynor and Jonathan Steele report a growing rift between Europe and the US on the issue:
"... diplomats in Brussels and those dealing with the dispute in Vienna say a fissure has opened up between the US and western Europe on three crucial aspects - the military option; how and how quickly to hit Iran with economic sanctions already decreed by the UN security council; and how to deal with Russian opposition to action against Iran through the security council.

"There's anxiety everywhere you turn," said a diplomat familiar with the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. "The Europeans are very concerned the shit could hit the fan."

What to do?

Kathy Kelly, writing on Common Dreams ...:
Now another engagement looms. The Bush administration may try to wed U.S. people to yet another war, this time against Iran. If so, that would be joyful news for the controlling interests of large corporations that benefit from U.S. warfare and U.S. dominance over oil resources in this part of the world. We who claim the right to free speech, far beyond the imprisoning borders of Iraq, should join our strengths and wills to visit every congressional and senate office over the coming weeks, exercising nonviolent civil disobedience to cut funding for the wasteful, cruel, illegal and immoral U.S. addiction to war. (See to learn more about joining such a campaign.)

and Joe Volk, writing for the US Friends Committee on National Legislation:
"Peace is possible, if we work for it. Fortunately, we may have help. Some Members of Congress from both major political parties have begun to speak out against the Bush administration´s new march to war. At last count, FCNL has located four pieces of legislation introduced in the last few weeks that would require the president to obtain congressional approval before using force against Iran. (We hope but cannot assume that Congress would not vote for the use of force against Iran.) Passage of such a measure would be an important step toward preventing an expansion of the war. A second important step would be for the president to authorize direct diplomatic contacts between the U.S. and Iran and name a special envoy capable of the task.
As the bipartisan Iraq Study Group report noted, Iran could play an important role in the stabilization and rebuilding of Iraq.
...Intensive diplomacy and smart politics, not threats of war and war, are the tools to repair the damaged relations between Iran and the U.S. Peaceful prevention of a war with Iran could advance U.S. national interests and global security."

From the UK perspective, a CND briefing [pdf file] includes the following:
"CND calls for all of the nuclear weapons states to immediately undertake tangible steps towards eliminating their nuclear arsenals, as agreed by the signatories of the NPT. Such a confidence-building measure would demonstrate to Iran that the demands of the international community are not one-sided and that all countries are dedicated to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
The international community and the IAEA must act even-handedly. It is not enough to sound the alarm on so-called rogue states while existing nuclear states defy NPT requirements and are not taken to task.
Attack or threat of attack can only increase the likelihood of nuclear proliferation, as states that feel under threat may come to the conclusion that they have a ‘deterrent’ need for nuclear weapons."


Let's hope another way can yet be found, otherwise we may be writing and watching anxiously for some time to come.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Sad loss

News from the Ekklesia website:
Noted Iraqi scholar and peacemaker assassinated

The Church World Service has expressed its sadness at the apparently targeted killing of noted Iraqi peace and reconciliation advocate and trauma-healing specialist Dr. Alharith Abdulhameed Hassan.
Colleagues at humanitarian agency Church World Service called his death a 'tragic loss'.
Dr. Alharith, a 56-year-old Iraqi Muslim and professor of psychiatry at the University of Baghdad, was shot while travelling to work.
..... Alharith's widow wrote: "Please, my friends remember Alharith in your prayers as a man of love, who continuously called for "love, peace, forgiveness and the power of knowledge."

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Global Peace march - coming soon and open to all

News from

... "Hundreds of thousands of Americans will march to their capital city Washington DC on Saturday 27 January. It could be the rebirth of the US peace movement. People round the world - let’s join the march with our own global internet protest! Last week, our ad told decision-makers in Congress how strong world opposition is to Bush’s escalation in Iraq."
This Saturday, Avaaz supporters at the US march will carry banners and country placards announcing how many of us from each nation are joining the marching. Every signature will be counted on the banners! Let’s raise a global voice for a real plan to end this war. Let’s make those numbers big. Time is short. Join the global peace march and tell your friends today!"

... consider yourselves told!

Web site updates and conference information

I've been spending a bit of time during the week trying to tidy up our main website, and in particular the calendar, news and action and links pages. Hope these are helpful - we seem to get plenty of visits still.

Also added a page advertising the conference we're putting on in March on Tackling Racism: Building Peace. This should be a very stimulating event - please register if you're planning to attend and pass the information onto others.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Matrix of peace building

Just come across information about a collaborative competition being co-ordinated by 'Changemakers', who say of themselves:

Changemakers is an initiative of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public that focuses on the rapidly growing world of social innovation. It provides solutions and resources needed to help everyone become a changemaker and presents compelling stories that explore the fundamental principles of successful social innovation around the world.

The competition is entitled : Entrepreneuring Peace On-the-ground innovations for managing conflict

A matrix of peace building has been set up as the entries (158 to date) have been coming in and voting for three prize winners will be possible online from 31 January to 14 February. The matrix itself makes interesting reading, with much food for thought about how peace can be built.