Statement on Seeking Nonviolent Resolution of the War Between Israel and Palestine
New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends represents Quakers in New York, northern New Jersey and southwestern Connecticut.
We grieve for the deaths, casualties, displacement and destruction caused by lethal violence and the inhumanity of human beings towards each other in the Middle East and across the globe. The current conflict in the Middle East demonstrates that war rewards power, chaos, brutality, cruelty and misery. As an historic peace church, our faith guides us to honor life and to embrace nonviolence in all aspects of our lives, beginning with recognition of how the “seeds of war”(1) arise in our own conduct. We ask our leaders to examine where the seeds of war may be found in their actions. We ask each person to do their part to create sustainable peace in the world.
We call for:
- an immediate ceasefire in Israel/Palestine;
- the swift provision of humanitarian aid and economic assistance to all affected by the war;
- a commitment by the warring parties and their supporters to resolve their differences through negotiations that recognize the patterns of oppression in the parties’ relationships and their rights to peacefully coexist;
- the release of all hostages and prisoners of war;
- an immediate and permanent stop to the supplying of weapons, munitions, bombs, military intelligence and military assistance by the United States and other arms providers.
Since the founding of our faith over 350 years ago, Quakers have proclaimed that the path to peace runs through the garden of understanding and love.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."(2)
In faithfulness to Jesus’s teaching, the Religious Society of Friends rejects “all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretense whatsoever.”(3) George Fox, a founder of the Religious Society of Friends, was imprisoned for preaching that God’s gift is present within every person and thus that God’s guidance can be discerned directly by a seeker. When offered release from prison if he would accept a commission in the army, he stated: “I told them I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars. . . I told them I was come into the covenant of peace which was before wars and strifes were.”(4) Other early Friends testified to this experience. Margaret Fell, often called the founding mother of Quakerism, said: “We are a people that follow after those things that make for peace, love, and unity; it is our desire that others’ feet may walk in the same, and do deny and bear our testimony against all strife, and wars." (5)
We believe there is no religious or moral justification for war. Warring parties attempt to justify their actions through charges that an adversary is evil, malicious, inhuman, barbaric, etc. Responding to violence with violence, however, leads to endless wars. The outcomes of wars do not vindicate righteousness or sanctity, but only reward superior destructive force. Peace and justice are achieved through recognizing the humanity of all, meeting basic needs (food, housing, medical care, etc.), and using skilled diplomacy.
People who proclaim Jesus’ message of peace are not naive or foolish. Rather, it is those who endlessly promise peace through victory who misapprehend truth and contradict the biblical commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
As spiritual kin in this global, interdependent world, our hearts and spirits are broken by the war in Gaza and by every war. We call on our nation, communities, and people everywhere, to live by these words of faith and truth: The only road to justice and peace is to “Never seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone, but love your neighbor as yourself.”(6)
Steve Mohlke, NYYM General Secretary
Gloria Thompson, NYYM Clerk
1. John Woolman, A Plea for the Poor
2. The Gospel According to Matthew, 5:43-47 (NIV)
3. Declaration of Friends, “Against All Plotters and Fighters in the World,” addressed to King Charles II, January 21, 1661
4. George Fox, 1651
5. Margaret Fell, Letter to Charles II, June 1660
6. Leviticus 19:18