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Peace and Service Consultation 2010

We gathered together through the afternoon and evening of Friday 19th November 2010, in the welcoming and peaceful old Abbey in Kortenberg, in mild and misty autumnal weather. In spite of flight cancellations, delays on trains and the usual complications of travelling long distances, we came together from all over the Section, from Cork in the West, St. Petersburg in the East, Scandinavia and Ramallah, the latter via the United States!

Our theme is drawn from Exodus 3:2 “And behold, the bush burned with fire and the bush was not consumed.” Can we dedicate our life to burn with passion for peace and service, and not be consumed?

We reflected on the many challenges and burdens that we encounter in our work. The current financial climate – whole countries’ economies under threat, the European Union failing to set a budget for 2011, social unrest and the violent repression of it by law enforcers, growing xenophobia in many countries, continued European involvement in the war in Afghanistan, increasingly seen as not having a military solution, even among politicians and the military establishment itself.

We draw inspiration from the creative ways in which some communities respond to the challenge of polarized political extremism, the emergence of solidarity in some places, as in the example of Groningen in the Netherlands, where neighbours whitewashed the walls of a mosque that had been defaced by graffiti.

In Epilogue we symbolically laid down the burdens we carried with us to begin our time together of retreat and exchange, and we reminded ourselves of the psalmists’ reliance and trust in God in the face of overwhelming and crushing circumstances.

During the weekend we considered:

Quaker Work in the Middle East, particularly the through the Friends International Centre in Ramallah, the recent QCEA conference, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, and Quaker Service Norway’s support for the Palestinian Early Childhood Education Project, which supports 13 kindergardens in Gaza.

Quaker work in Africa and Asia, including a Farm and Food Security project in Burundi, a self-help women’s project in Bangladesh, Rural Service projects in Western Kenya which includes Trees for Africa, Change Agents for Peace Programme (CAPP) and Change Agents for Peace International (CAPI). The Quaker Peace Network brings together 40 organisations in Africa, with meetings once or twice a year. Its main task has been election monitoring.The EU funded Civil Society Dialogue Networked managed by the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office of which QCEA is a member, provides opportunities for Friends involved in service projects to participate in policy dialogue.

We also looked at opportunities for Quaker witness in our own countries in Europe, particularly in respect of current economic difficulties, racism, security concern which are used to restrict civil liberties, the re-emergence of nationalism and intolerance, energy security and the consequences of global change.

We look forward to getting together again in November 2011.

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