This year’s Quaker Week began (suitably) with silence as hundreds of Quakers across England and Scotland held climate vigils.
From Bristol to Huddersfield to Okehampton, Quakers stood outside meeting houses, railway stations and playgrounds, to ask the prime minister not to invest in new fossil fuel projects.
The theme of this year’s Quaker week is ‘Simple. Radical. Spiritual’ and these vigils illustrate how Quakers’ simple spirituality helps them work for radical change.
Quaker Week in England and Scotland began on 23 September and ends on World Quaker Day, 1 October. On this year’s World Quaker Day, the 400,000-strong global Quaker community is being invited to look to Africa by engaging with the concept of ubuntu. Linked to Quakerism’s radical spirituality, Quakers around the world will reflect on: “Living the spirit of ubuntu: responding with hope to God’s call to cherish creation and one-another.”
Since 2014, the Religious Society of Friends has used World Quaker Day to celebrate the diversity of their faith. This year there is a focus on Southern Africa, where Quakers will gather next year for their World Plenary and where ubuntu is centrally important to how the community express their faith. Often translated as ‘I am because we are’, ubuntu emphasises the interdependence and interrelationships between all people and the wider environment.
The links between different Quaker communities help Quakers to recognise their interdependence and take action together, from peacebuilding in East Africa to work in the UK on climate justice.
In its Christian articulation, ubuntu is widely associated with anti-apartheid and social justice leader Desmond Tutu, a friend to Quakers, who nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In a reflection ahead of next year’s Quaker World Plenary Meeting, Kenyan Quaker Bainito Wamalwa said: “Quaker voices and actions can be loud enough to live the principles of ubuntu. If we all agree to this, we can adopt the word ubuntu to be within our core values while making it a summary of them all. This can go beyond the understanding of ubuntu as an African concept to it becoming a global concept that calls all of us to action.”
Friends World Committee General Secretary Tim Gee said: “Even among Quakers, who prize equality, it is the writings of British and Anglo-American Friends that are best known, referred to and lifted up. While honouring our shared heritage, the heartfelt invitation to engage with ubuntu feels like an opportunity to rebalance this and move towards a greater spiritual wholeness.”
World Quaker Day is organised by the Friends World Committee for Consultation, which connects Quakers in more than 100 different countries.
* Source: Quakers in Britain