Chapter 24 » 24.37

Practical expressions of our peace testimony

Reconciliation and mediation

Sue Williams and her husband, Steve, were Quaker Peace & Service Representatives in Belfast, where they worked for reconciliation in a divided community.

Establishing pacifist credentials has taken us collectively a long time, and entailed quite some suffering. How can a group without hierarchy or creed demonstrate that it will not participate in war and ‘fighting with outward weapons’? Only when individuals, one after another, across time and space, live out their convictions, so that choices made in different situations still seem to come together as a pattern. Amazingly, we are now widely known as people who will not fight in wars. Not only this, we are almost as widely known for having intervened in wars to try to alleviate suffering on all sides…

Beyond the general notion of pacifism, the situation here has lent a special urgency to our reputation for harmlessness. By this I mean that, as a Friend, I am not only unwilling to serve as a soldier, but unwilling to take up arms in my private capacity. This may not sound like much, but it puts me in a special relationship to political leaders here: they believe that I will not kill them. And they don’t believe that of everyone they meet. More to the point, they accept that I don’t want them dead, even when I disagree with them. And this too is something they cannot take for granted. It is surprisingly freeing for all of us. I’m sure they don’t want to kill me, either. So I feel free to agree with them sometimes, disagree sometimes, without worrying about who else I agree or disagree with in the process, and taking for granted that neither of us wishes to kill the other.


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