Statements from Quakers in Britain on Syria & Gaza

Quakers in Britain have relased statements in the past week on the crises in Syria and Gaza.

On Syria:

“We see with horror the death and devastation being imposed on the people in and around Syria. We believe that the use of chemical weapons should be challenged. However, as a faith community our religious understanding and experience is that true peace cannot be imposed by military might.

“We remain convinced that there are both moral and pragmatic reasons to oppose military action in Syria. Bombs dropped from the air kill indiscriminately, and also increase the risk of terrorist retribution. Those who suffer the most in violent conflict are non-combatants, ordinary people including women and children.

“Instead we support the process of building peace. Peace is rarely immediate or easy, but it results in genuine long-term security. True peace comes from hard work and thoughtful actions.

“We urge the Prime Minister not to sideline democratic processes, and to consider the long-term impact of any action in Syria.”

Quaker Peace & Social Witness will be attending the hand-in of a letterorganised by the Stop the War Coalition at 5pm on Friday at Whitehall.  Quakers who are able to attend at short notice are invited to join them.

On Gaza:

“Once more, Quakers in Britain are watching with horror the ongoing killings in Gaza. The killing of Palestinian protesters, with hundreds injured, by the Israeli military comes as Palestinians in Gaza embark on six weeks of nonviolent protest known as the ‘Great March of Return’. The march aims to draw attention to the forced expulsion and fleeing of Palestinians from their land when the state of Israel was created in 1948.

“We write remembering the millions of Palestinian and Israeli lives lost and damaged during a conflict, which, this May, will enter its 70th year.

“We wish to stand with all nonviolent protesters seeking a peaceful and just end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. As we are not able to be with them there, our presence has to be one of speaking out here.

“As Quakers, we support and celebrate the use of nonviolent direct action in struggles for freedom, equality and justice around the world. The peaceful, civil society-led ‘Great March of Return’ follows a long and proud tradition of nonviolent resistance including Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930 and Martin Luther King Jr’s 1963 March on Washington. We have recently marked 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and are reminded of his words:

‘We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to surface the hidden tension that is already alive.’

“We call on the Israeli military to end their violent use of live gunfire on unarmed protesters, in clear violation of international law. We mourn the ongoing 50-year military occupation of Palestinian land by the Israeli government that has led to such despair and tension. We consider that the Israeli government can engage constructively with the issues that have led to this civil disobedience: the blockade of Gaza and the military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. We call on them to do so immediately.

“We find hope in the perseverance of Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activists. We are moved by the ‘Sorry Commander, I cannot shoot‘ campaign by B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights organisation. This campaign emphasises that if soldiers receive orders to shoot live gunfire into crowds of unarmed civilians, they are duty-bound under international law to refuse. The resolve of B’Tselem to speak out and advocate for international law is both brave and inspirational.

“In contrast, we are astounded by our own government’s failure to condemn the killings, or to uphold nonviolent efforts and systems of accountability within international law to end the conflict. We urge the British government to support the UN Secretary-General’s call for an independent investigation into the killings. All governments are capable of leadership that is both moral and pragmatic. Let ours not be the ‘appalling silence of good people’ so warned against by Martin Luther King Jr.”