Some years ago, when thinking about what building a culture of peace meant in practical terms, some of us concocted the word 'un-peace'. It was clear that, whilst there was not necessarily visible conflict in all of our communities, there were communities that were not entirely living in harmony, in a state of un-peace.
That was then, and these past three years have seen that disharmony in the public realm become ever more apparent. What many of us find particularly distressing is the fact that some of the more vocal people in relation to Brexit seem unwilling to be consider it remotely possible that they may be mistaken. The space for building better understanding can feel very constrained.
Quakers may have a particular role in seeking to open up such spaces, as suggested in our Advices and Queries: "Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?" The challenge from the first sentence in this passage recognises that there can injustices and other factors that contribute to people feel fearful. Or, at a time when several million EU citizens in the UK are having to consider applying for 'settled status', deeply unsettled.
So, understanding is one thing; coupled with that, we need to consider how and when can we speak out and take action to address these roots of insecurity. On either side of that text from Advices and Queries we read: "Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life. … Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national, and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand." From un-peace, through understanding to action.