Young people make their remembrance about peace

By agency reporter
November 3, 2018

The centenary of the armistice that ended World War I is a poignant moment. As the world pauses, a national project, INSPIRE, will engage thousands of children in remembrance and in peacebuilding.

From Finsbury Park Mosque to Coventry Cathedral, from Belfast to Bradford, 'Remembrance for Peace' events will take place simultaneously across the UK on Friday 9 November. Hundreds of schools are holding Remembrance for Peace assemblies and exploring peace in the classroom.

Quakers in Britain are one of the INSPIRE organising partners and will host a flagship event at Friends House in London. One thousand primary school children will hear stories of peacemaking from around the world, share how they build peace in their playground and classrooms, and consider what it means to stand up for peace. What did it mean 100 years ago? What does it involve today?

Quakers are known for their rejection of violence. In WWI many Quakers were conscientious objectors. Some were thrown in prison, others took part in relief efforts, often on the frontline and unarmed. Today, led by faith, Quakers work to take away the root causes for all war. As the country remembers not just WWI, but the century of violence that followed, Quakers are providing space for children to explore how they can build a century of peace, not war.

“Remembrance can be mysterious for children," said Isabel Cartwright, Peace Education Programme Manager for Quakers in Britain. “Sometimes the message they hear seems to be nostalgia for war, rather than unpacking the consequences, or how violence starts. Talking about peace at remembrance needs to be more than a moment of melancholic reverie. It needs to be about what we do next.

“For Quakers, INSPIRE is not just about the day of remembrance – it is about a peaceful future. Although referred to as the War to End All Wars, WWI was anything but. Britain has been consistently involved in war and armed conflict since 1914. Today the British government is spending millions to promote a 'military ethos' in our schools. Quakers believe we need to teach peace.

“During INSPIRE events, children will be asking what it would take to truly be able say, 'Never Again'. We remember and grieve for the losses – soldier and civilian – from a century of war, but hope for peace inspired by a new generation of peacebuilders", said Isabel Cartwright.

Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis Charitable Trust, said, “We are always diminished by our exclusion of those who are different to us. We are never enriched by it. To work to build bridges is the only way to overcome our prejudices and hidden fears; exclusion and violence are impotent in this task. For many years, Quakers have been at the forefront of exploring positive nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution and peacemaking, whether at a personal, local, national or global level. Their insight and input has contributed so much to the development of INSPIRE."

Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain said, “One hundred years ago we said 'never again', but in the century since, war has never ended. We are called to love one another. This leads us to INSPIRE a new generation not just to reject war but to embrace peace."

As part of INSPIRE children have been engaging in a range of peacebuilding activities, reflecting on the impact of bombing from Hiroshima to Coventry; training in conflict resolution and exploring reconciliation.

* The INSPIRE project is a partnership between Quakers in Britain, Oasis Foundation, Wales for Peace, Coventry Cathedral and Corrymeela, aimed at building a movement for peace inspired by remembrance. https://www.oasisinspire.org/

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

*Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/

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