#whitefeather diaries

The Northern Friends Peace Board

Wednesday 30 March 2016

The Northern Friends Peace Board (NFPB) was set up in early 1913 by Quakers in the North of Britain “to advise and encourage Friends ... and through them their fellow citizens ... in the active promotion of peace in all its height and breadth.” Philip Austin reflects on the different strands of the NFPB story and their work today promoting peace.

The phrase “promotion of peace in all its height and breadth” from the NFPB founding mandate underscores that peace does not come about just by saying no to war. As well as saying no, our work is about finding what we are led to do together, today, supporting individuals and the wider community in learning and taking practical action for peace.

Sustainable security

A century on from the beginnings of the NFPB we still find a world where militarism and violent conflict are at the forefront of national and international agendas. We recognise through our work on Sustainable Security that this is part of a complex picture of unequal economic and political relationships. There is pressure on the environment and global resources. Competitive rather than collaborative approaches are used to resolve differences. While our members join others to take action and speak out against militarism, they also promote ways of living together based on interdependence and equality, rather than exploitation.

Cultures of peace

In addressing the United Nations' challenge to promote ‘cultures of peace’ we recognised tensions in towns and cities where our members lived, and explored what a culture of peace might mean at this local level. Under the title of Building Peace in Diverse Britain we encouraged people to engage in their own communities to help speak out against racism, develop conflict-handling skills and promote dialogue. Our project, taught us the importance of good listening and peaceful communication skills. And we learned the importance of being alongside the particularly marginalised. Peacebuilding is not the preserve of Quakers and working with others enriches us.

We are still developing priorities for the next phase of this work and are committed to taking this forward in new directions in our changing, varied and rich cultural landscape.

Supporting a community of action

Our members, from across the North of Britain, meet together regularly. We celebrate the diversity of our challenges and our response to current needs. This might be promoting peace education resources in schools, or working with others to welcome those who seek sanctuary and asylum. 

From nonviolent witness at nuclear-weapons bases to engaging with politicians, NFPB continues as a community of Quakers learning from and supporting one another and the wider  community. We promote practical action and share challenges and hopes. We are profoundly grateful for, and still inspired by, the vision of those Northern Friends who set the NFPB ball rolling.

Walking for peace

To mark our centenary year in 2013 we organised a peace walk between Richmond Castle and RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire. The former was used as a prison for conscientious objectors during World War I. The latter is the location of a United States-run base integral to that country's global military communications infrastructure today. Along the way, a community of walkers was built, who learned about different needs and interests, resolved differences and helped one another along – while stopping to look at the beauty of the natural world. Peace is all of these, and about being faithful to our own vision here and now.

Find out more about the work of the Northern Friends Peace Board.

Related Materials

Memorial stone for conscientious objectors
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Bert's brother Philip visited him shortly before his sentence was confirmed. Bert describes what happened after the sentence was read out.

Conscientious objectors memorial stone
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Harold Tennant, Under-Secretary of State for War, had told Parliament that no COs had been sent to France, before making an embarrassed climb-down and admitting what had happened. This exchange took place in the House of Commons on 26 June 1916.