• Stewart Bailey posted an update 2 years, 10 months ago

    Area Meeting Peace Action Group Report

    After a workshop on ‘Militarism’, facilitated by Sam Walton, Peace & Disarmament Programme Manager, Quaker Peace & Social Witness, held at Mount Street in May 2016, a small group of us found that we shared the same concern – that there was no longer an Area Meeting Peace Group.
    We acknowledged that the Social Justice Group did take action on some peace issues. We also were aware that often there are lots of demands on Friend’s time and perhaps the model of a peace group, meeting monthly, was not appropriate at this time.
    Area Meeting was asked, in September 2016, to consider supporting a group of Area Meeting Friends that were looking at peace issues with the initial purpose of:
    Acting as a focus for the collection of information relating to peace issues and disseminating this to Local Meetings.
    Providing information about opportunities for action on peace issues.
    Supporting Friends already involved in peace activities.

    Area Meeting agreed to support the group. It has continued to have minuted meetings, approximately every two months.
    Since September 2016, we have:

    Made new links with:
    Veterans for Peace
    A new Veterans for Peace group has been started in Manchester. We hope to arrange a meeting with members of this group to look at ways we can support and work with each other.
    Oldham Peace Forum
    We have liaised with Richard Outram, who works for Oldham Council, promoting peace activities. Recently, he borrowed the Quaker Conscientious Objectors display to show around the town. Richard is anxious to find Quakers who could go into schools and talk about their peace testimony and is keen to link up with Veterans for Peace.
    Quaker Voluntary Action QVA
    One of our members visited peace projects in Israel and Palestine with QVA, in October 2017 and wrote a three page article in the Spring edition of the Manchester and Warrington Area Meeting Newsletter.

    Strengthened links with:
    Northern Friends Peace Board (NFPB)
    Ursula, who is Area Meeting representative, led a session on NFPB during AM on December 2016.She asked the following questions, which stimulated discussion around various aspects of our Peace Testimony.
    As an AM, how do we maintain, faithfully, our Peace Testimony today?
    Could we do more (as a collective) by way of witnessing for peace, than we are?
    How do you see the role of the Peace Action Group?
    How might we use the resources of the Northern Friends Peace Board and how would you like your representative to feedback/take issues forward?
    We, as a group, see NFPB as a resource for our work.
    At Britain Yearly Meeting Gathering 2017, we spoke to Philip Austin, NFPB co-ordinator and he is open to help organise a conference across Greater Manchester – West Yorkshire on militarism and/or peace education.
    East Cheshire Area Meeting
    At the Regional Gathering, organised by East Cheshire AM in November 2016, on ‘Quaker responses to violence and war: from protest to engagement’, we attended a session on a ‘Peaceful Schools’ project in North Wales which has involved a programme of 6 sessions helping children understand and develop the confidence and skills to deal with conflict in their own lives.
    We have made further links with East Cheshire Friends, who share our concern about militarisation and peace education and hope we can identify local Friends to attend the peace training arranged by them.
    QPSW Peace & Disarmament Programme
    We had further meetings, at BYM Gathering with Sam Walton, the manager and he is willing to be involved in local training around militarisation.
    We will have representatives at the ‘Taking Action on Militarism Gathering’ in October 2017. Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) and ForcesWatch have joined together to produce a pack on taking action on militarism in the UK. It includes tips and ideas for action, background information and case studies. It will be launched at this October national gathering.
    We have identified courses relating to Peace Education both for local Friends to attend, or to participate in e.g. the on-line course ‘Introduction to Peace Education’
    Friends of the Manchester Peace Garden
    We continue to receive information from this group and we collaborated with them in plans for Conscientious Objectors Day.

    Developing Links within Manchester and Warrington Area Meeting
    We have spent some time clarifying our role and we have chosen as one of our priorities to identify how Friends might work with children and young to help them consider the question of peace, both interpersonally and in the wider world e.g. war and armed violence.
    We have therefore circulated a questionnaire, to help us identify Friends and attenders who are interested in peace education in schools and are prepared to get involved in some way, however small.
    Specific Actions
    We organised a talk, at Mount Street, on the Quaker Peace Centre, Capetown, by Carol Bower, the chairperson in August 2017 and provided accommodation and hospitality for her overnight.
    In October, we publicised Ruth Cadbury’s ‘Peace Tax Bill’ and organised a vigil at Mount Street.
    W ordered order 200 white poppies from the Peace Pledge Union for our Local Meetings to be worn around Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.
    We are looking at ways of supporting Sam Walton, who acting outside his official Quaker post, entering BAE Systems’ Warton site in order to disarm warplanes bound for Saudi Arabia. His trial has been scheduled to be held in Burnley in October 2017.

    There still appear to be a few Friends who regard us as a Peace Group that will organise events for them. Rather, we still adhere to our three original aims. While we will initiate activities, particularly if there are time pressures, we still see our principle purpose as informing Friends about peace issues and directing them to resources or other groups doing similar things to the ones they want to be involved in. We would probably be better named as ‘Area Meeting Peace Activation Group’.

    Elizabeth Bailey
    Stewart Bailey

Manchester Quakers
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