Toward a Culture of Peace

A Statement from Canadian Yearly Meeting, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

19th August 2006, Winnipeg, Manitoba

For more than 350 years, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has affirmed the sanctity of human life. As a Society, we have refused to condone or participate in war.

As a result of our witness and that of other historic peace churches, the right of conscientious objection to war has become a right of all Canadian citizens.

Seventy-five years ago, the work of Friends on issues of peace, social justice and humanitarian relief led to the formation of Canadian Friends Service Committee.

Since its founding, this service arm of Friends in Canada has extended its concerns to include solidarity with aboriginal peoples, support for refugees, international concerns of development and peace, and abolition of the death penalty. Since the end of World War II, Canadians have made long lasting contributions towards building a global culture of peace. Canada helped to construct and put into place many agencies of the United Nations, including its major programs for disarmament, development and human rights.

Our country contributed to strengthening institutions of international law. And, until recently, Canadians led and participated in almost all of the United Nations peacekeeping missions. Canada has also been a haven for immigrants and refugees. To our dismay, we witness a change in our country’s moral compass, one that points away from a culture of peace, toward a culture of war. We are witnessing a multi-billion dollar increase in Canada’s military budget, despite daily reminders – from Israel-Palestine-Lebanon and Afghanistan – that military solutions simply do not work. Nor did they work in Vietnam, Yugoslavia or Iraq. The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) calls on our government and fellow citizens to turn away from a culture of war toward a culture of peace.

We call on our government to redirect vision and resources into an ecologically sustainable planet Earth.

Let us address the roots of injustice by helping to “make poverty history,” and to eliminate AIDS, malaria and the threats of new pandemics. Let us reverse the erosion of civil liberties and rebuild trust. Let us end financial support to industries that produce the instruments of war, and withdraw Canada’s support of NATO’s nuclear weapons policies.

We are part of a great chain of people who care about the Earth. Let us work to protect and restore it again to health.

In such ways we will honour and uphold the United Nations’ efforts toward the Millennium Development Goals, and its Decade of Nonviolence for the Sake of the Children of the World. And in such ways we Friends will be faithful to our 350 year tradition. In the words of William Penn, seventeenth century Quaker, “Let us then try what love will do.”

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