#whitefeather diaries

Peace advocacy in Europe

Thursday 24 March 2016

The Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) was founded in 1979 to promote Quaker values at the European level. They work towards a peaceful, compassionate and just Europe. Tim Harman, Peace Project Officer for QCEA, discusses some of their recent peace advocacy and reflects on the calling to work for peace.

Here in Brussels, the institutions of the European Union (EU) take decisions that affect millions of people's lives. EU policy is made mostly by negotiation between national governments, Members of the European Parliament, and the European civil service. But there is also room for lobbyists of one kind or another to have an influence. Many lobbyists work for the business community and advocate for policies that benefit a particular industry. My work is to promote the Quaker value of peace in European policy-making.

Recent work for peace

Recently we founded the European Forum on Armed Drones (EFAD). Armed drones are remote-controlled flying robots that carry weapons – and they are changing the nature of war, making it easier than ever for governments to kill. EFAD brings together advocacy organisations concerned about this issue, and enables them to work together to influence policy.

We have also been challenging the EU's military response to irregular migration. Refugees seek to cross the Mediterranean in boats and the EU has sent warships to seize the boats before refugees can use them. This naval operation (called ‘Operation Sophia’) risks trapping refugees in Libya – a politically unstable country where refugees are in physical danger.

As Quakers, we are also concerned about the size and influence of the arms industry. Arms industry lobbyists keep close to those in power, including at a European level. To raise awareness of this we recently produced an information sheet on the EU arms industry, published in four languages, to be used by anyone campaigning on this issue.

Moving by small steps

This is what I do for a living — and yet, it is much more than that. This is work that arises from my deepest experience. It comes from the encounter that I have, in the stillness of my heart, with what I, as a Quaker, would refer to as Divine love. From the depths of my heart, I am ashamed that we human beings seem unable to find loving ways of dealing with conflict – ways that do not involve killing. And I feel a sense of calling to do something about this. That is why I spent a considerable part of my life savings on a change of career – going back to university to study for a master's degree in peace studies, so that I could work professionally for peace.

In the damaged world in which we live, I cannot give my inward experience its purest expression. According to my vision, I should be working for an end to all war — for the peaceable kingdom, where the wolf dwells with the lamb. But in politics – certainly, in the mundane, practical politics that I find here in Brussels – there is only compromise, and the opportunity to move forward by small steps. And so I find myself working towards a moderate set of restrictions on armed drones, or criticising some particularly harmful use of military force, or discussing the details of arms-export licensing.

I find this difficult. I would like to sing about peace and love, and about how we are all brothers and sisters and are forbidden to kill one other. And yet I have to go to meetings in a smart shirt, and argue for slight mitigations of policies that treat human life as expendable. Am I being true to my calling? Yes, I think so. After all, I can only do what is within my power. There is a long way to go to the peaceable kingdom, and one has to start somewhere.

Find out more about Quaker work at a European level.

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