Wednesday, 13 August 2014


This isn't about the financial legacies that have been crucial in providing NFPB with additional financial support over the years. My focus here is the legacy of violent conflict. Throughout the military action on and from Gaza many of us will have been particularly conscious of the seeds of hurt, fear and repression that have fed into the conflict.  Decisions and actions taken by political and military figures over many decades have all contributed in different ways.  And now the cycle of war, trauma and further violence seems so difficult to stop in situations like this. We think of the experiences of the children who are currently on the receiving end of the terror of military bombardment - can't those who are using these tactics see that they are going to be creating more children who grow up seeing the other community as the enemy to be feared and fought against? 

This last point was brought into chilling light by the recent BBC documentary in which Lyse Doucet met and interviewed children who had witnessed and experienced some of the horror of the civil war in Syria. The emotional scars revealed in this one hour were very telling, with young boys on both sides of the conflict each talking about their desire to get involved and to become martyrs. Those ideas were undoubtedly fed by older people around them, but what a legacy! You can read a review of that programme here.

An early NFPB poster - legacy
from earlier Northern Friends
And what of those expected to deliver the violence?  Today we read on the BBC website  of the numbers of deaths by suicide of people who have served in the British armed services. There have also been studies that suggest significant levels of violent behaviour in former military personnel. One such researcher is quoted here as saying: "We found that nearly 13% of soldiers were violent in the weeks following their return home from deployment in Iraq. Violence was more common amongst those who showed aggressive tendencies before joining the Army, but even when we took that into account, there was still a strong link between exposure to combat and traumatic events during deployment and violence on return home."

Does it have to be like this? Also on the BBC news today is an interview with a British Kurd currently engaged with the aid efforts to the Yazidi victims of the IS in Iraq. She talked of how her own experiences as a child fleeing terror in Iraq have driven her to want to make a difference to people encountering similar things today. Fortunately there will always be people who do respond to trauma by committing their lives to making a positive difference, from supporting victims of domestic abuse to work at an international level. But this can't be taken for granted and the long and careful work of supporting trauma victims is such a crucial aspect of peace work, interrupting the cycle of violence, fear and mistrust and sowing some seeds of hope. This video from American Friends Service Committee shows such work in Burundi, whilst work with some of the youngest children in Gaza - supported by Norwegian Quakers - faces great challenges at the moment.

Crucially, in the knowledge that the long-term damage of violent conflict and oppression can be so costly, we need to commit ourselves to working to support peaceful, just and loving solutions whenever and wherever possible.  This isn't rocket-science. 'Children Learn What They Live' writes Dorothy Law Nolte.... 
[the full text is here ]

If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
he learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear,
he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with recognition,
he learns that it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with sharing,
he learns about generosity.
If a child lives with honesty and fairness,
he learns what truth and justice are.
If a child lives with security,
he learns to have faith in himself and in those about him.