Friends World Committee for Consultation - Europe & Middle East Section

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EMES Peace and Service Consultation 2012

We met once again at Kortenberg, in Belgium. 19 organisations were represented – all but one Quakers. The exception was Church and Peace, represented by their newly appointed General Secretary, Davorka Lovreković.

As well as exchanging news and information, we focused on:

  • how Friends can respond to the Kabarak Call to Peace and Eco-Justice
  • support the World Council of Churches (WCC) to adopt more fully the call from their International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica in 2011, for the development of a Just Peace doctrine to replace the “just war” theories and work for war to be made illegal, at their General Assembly in Busan, Korea in October 2013;
  • prepare for the commemorations for World War I which will begin in 2014 and will continue for the following four years;
  • what is happening in the Middle East.

We were reminded of the 50 years history of the Peace and Service Consultation in our Section, and how it began with a joint project in Algeria, which several Quaker Service Committees across Europe worked on together.

The exploration of the theme Being the change we want to see in the world (Gandhi) was led by Helen Rowlands of Woodbrooke. who introduced us to the work of Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, on how to overcome the seemingly built-in resistance to change that we all experience. We explored how complaints and frustrations in our lives often are manifestations of deeply held commitments to positive values. By re-framing these complaints as statements of commitment, we move from a habit of blame to one of taking responsibility for the issues that trouble us. We must be sustained by hope. Our way of making decisions is distinctive and rooted in the belief that when we set aside our small egos we make ourselves channels for a greater wisdom.

The message that came from this work is that just noticing our own and other people’s complaints, commitments, worries and assumptions, bringing awareness to bear on difficult and complex situations can and does change patterns of behaviour and outcomes, even where no active decision to make changes has been made. This model is a different way of expressing deeper truths we are already familiar with from our Quaker and Christian roots – that when we give up judgement and blame, when we stand still and bring things into the light, transformation is possible, that we are nourished and sustained by hope, faith and love – and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

We can speak truth with power, rather than “to” power, always bearing in mind that we do not have exclusive rights to the “truth”. We can be both humble and empowered, as individuals, and as communities of faith.

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