British Quakers have formally given their backing to calls for an Unarmed Forces Day. Their comments follow warnings from other groups that Britain’s first Armed Forces Day, planned for Saturday 27 June 2009, is more about exonerating war than respecting soldiers.
Ekklesia recently launched a wide-ranging collection of online resources to help churches engage with the issues raised by the Day (see http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/resources/armed_forces_day). The Fellowship of Reconciliation has also spoken of the need to celebrate unarmed forces.
Now the Religious Society of Friends, as Quakers are formally known, has called for recognition of “the essential work carried out by peacebuilders around the world”.
Kat Barton of Quaker Peace and Social Witness said “Conflict prevention is more cost effective than sending in the armed forces.
“At a time when public finances are under enormous pressure, instead of celebrating ‘Armed Forces Day’ Gordon Brown should be investing in conflict prevention and championing the work of the ‘unarmed forces’ who work tirelessly to build the conditions for peace” she added.
The Quakers emphasised that far from avoiding the difficult issues raised by conflict, they instead advocated putting energies and resources into developing non-military ways of solving conflicts as well as addressing the root causes of violence and insecurity.
Quaker work in Britain includes providing school students with skills to deal with conflict, working with communities in the north of England to tackle racism and build peace and supporting the next generation of workers in peacebuilding organisations. British Quakers work overseas to accompany Palestinians and Israelis in their nonviolent actions, to support local peacebuilding organisations in Burundi and to create non-violent, peaceful solutions to what are often bitter and entrenched local conflicts in South Asia.