Quakers challenge PM over the cycle of violence in Libya

By staff writers
24 Mar 2011

Quakers in Britain have written an open letter to the Prime Minister raising serious concerns over the escalating cycle of violence in Libya.

The letter has been signed by Gwen Schaffer, clerk of Quaker Peace and Social Witness Central Committee, and asks David Cameron "to look critically at the role it plays in increasing instability in the world, particularly through the very substantial support it provides for the arms trade."

Six months ago, Britain supplied military equipment to the Gaddafi regime in Libya, which it is now bombing. Security equipment has also gone to Bahrain and arms to other oppressive regimes in the Middle East.

Regarding Libya, the Quakers say: "We have however seen, over and over again, the arguments used that 'we must do something' and that this time what is planned will be brief and clinical. But the truth is so often very different - violence tends to escalate, and it is much harder to end a war than to start it. The bitterness and hatred caused can last for generations. All this we ignore at our peril."

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Open letter to the Prime Minister from Quakers in Britain on Libya

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain is dismayed that Britain is again directly involved in military activity, this time in Libya, while it continues with military action in Afghanistan. We grieve at the loss of life and the misery inflicted on all those affected by war.

We see war as intrinsically wrong. It is wrong because it treats people as being expendable. We see each individual as being unique and precious and carrying within them something of God.

We recognise that others do not share this view and that many well-meaning people were willing to see this particular military action begin in the hope that it would save civilian lives. We respect their motives. We have however seen, over and over again, the arguments used that 'we must do something' and that this time what is planned will be brief and clinical. But the truth is so often very different - violence tends to escalate, and it is much harder to end a war than to start it. The bitterness and hatred caused can last for generations. All this we ignore at our peril.

Quakers applaud the efforts made by the United Nations to reach a solution to the satisfaction of all parties in the region of North Africa, and we are deeply disappointed that a nonviolent solution could not be reached in Libya.

This year, 2011, marks 350 years since Quakers first declared our conviction to Charles II that as a Religious Society “all bloody principles and practices we do utterly deny, with all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons for any end or under any pretence...”

Since that time Quakers in Britain and around the world have worked for peace and social justice, with the aim of making this world a better place for all. As Quakers in Britain we ask the Government to look critically at the role it plays in increasing instability in the world, particularly through the very substantial support it provides for the arms trade.

We uphold all those in positions of responsibility at this crucial time, praying that they will at least exercise all possible restraint.

[Ekk/3]

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License. Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.