Rejecting violence and embracing our neighbours

The recent murders in Paris were intended to provoke a military reaction that could be used to attract vulnerable people to Daesh’s violent ideology. It was an attempt to divide communities, but one that each of us has the power to resist, by rejecting their attempt to foment hatred.

The experience of Quakers involved in working to reduce violence shows that the only way to counter darkness is with light. In our interconnected world, policies that are born of fear and retribution will only reduce security for our neighbours and ourselves.

Molenbeek silent peace vigil. 18 November 2015. Credit: Hans Soete

Some of those who committed the violence had lived in the Molenbeek suburb of Brussels. On Wednesday 18 November 2015 thousands of residents held a silent peace vigil in Molenbeek’s central square. Credit: Hans Soete


Last week’s silent peace vigil in Molenbeek was a demonstration of the commitment of people in Brussels to defy the attackers’ wish to incite hatred, by choosing to stand with their neighbours. In recent days, concerns about further violence have disrupted the transport network, education and sporting events in Brussels. This is affecting lives and the economy, but the foundations of our security remain strong whilst we reject hatred and love our neighbours.

European Quakers engaged in peace work and other types of service met near Brussels this weekend, to discuss the theme ‘Who is my neighbour?’ QCEA staff joined representatives of national-level peace committees and Quaker agencies as part of this annual Peace and Service Consultation.

At the end of the gathering participants used their peacebuilding experience to produce a statement on behalf of the Peace and Service Consultation of the Europe and Middle East Section of the Friends World Committee for Consultation of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Image Credit: Quaker Council for European Affairs

Image Credit: Quaker Council for European Affairs. For more in the internal security strategy click here.

It reads as follows:

European Quakers call for an end to the cycle of violence

As Quakers from across Europe, meeting in Belgium in the aftermath of the recent murders in Paris and Beirut, we mourn with those who have lost someone close to them. We also acknowledge the anxiety and fear people are feeling across France, Lebanon and elsewhere.

No one is secure unless all of us are secure, and that includes the people of Syria and other war-torn countries as well as the people of France and the rest of Europe.

We call upon our respective governments and the European Union to break the endless cycle of violence that has been fuelling war and terror in recent years. We need to move away from expensive, indiscriminate and ineffective military power and stop fuelling war and the spread of arms.

Instead, to prevent violent extremism, European governments should support the political settlement of the conflict in Syria, and foster economic development in the region. Both in Europe and the Middle East, appropriate funding and civil-space must be provided for community groups, social services, educators and families, to support people who are susceptible to ideologies of violence.

Sustainable and shared security can be created only by addressing the root causes of violence. The stream of refugees testifies to the fact that all people need safety, ways to earn their living, and a hopeful and positive future for themselves and their children. The refugees are fleeing from persecution, war and violence in their countries. Please listen to this clear message.

The faith that led us over the past centuries to deny war, oppose slavery, support conscientious objection, help rescue Jewish children in the 1930s, care for refugees and rebuild war-torn Europe, impels us today to pledge ourselves to serve our neighbours, whoever and wherever they may be, and to take a principled stand against the belief that violence is the solution to conflict.
We call on those in power to reject military responses, and adopt non-violent strategies to bring about stability and safety for all people.

Representatives of Quaker peace committees, service committees and Quaker agencies gathered near Brussels, 20-22 November 2015, for the Peace and Service Consultation.

Representatives of Quaker peace committees, service committees and Quaker agencies gathered near Brussels, on 20-22 November 2015, for the Peace and Service Consultation.

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