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Peace Testimony Workshop Development

Peace Testimony Personal Statements

The members of the ILYM Peace Resources Committee gathered in early 2006 to finalize the elements of the Peace Testimony Workshop and test their effectiveness by doing them ourselves. After a day of personal exercises, worship sharing, and group discussion, each person wrote their own Personal Peace Testimony. What is included here has been posted with permission. We are eager to help others to do similar work.

Chuck Hutchcraft, 3/2006
Many years ago, I bought a T-shirt that said, "Peace Begins with Me." It has taken me a long time to see the truth of this.

Peace is an intimate, ongoing process of working with ourselves.

In each of us are the seeds of peace as well as the seeds of violence. None of us is exempt, regardless of whether we are pacifists or not. If we are to be peacemakers, it is up to each of us to nurture our own seeds of peace. No one else can do it.

To understand this is to know that we are evolving beings and that we can foster or hinder our own evolution.

To foster our evolution requires a subtle awareness. From moment to moment, we see how our conditioned states, our habit patterns, shape our responses to constantly changing circumstances. Thus we see when we nurture the seeds of peace or the seeds of violence. We not only see, but feel this in the very fiber of our existence. As this awareness deepens we refine our sense of what it takes to be peace and of the many ways we cause violence. We see that to hinder this evolution is itself violence.

As we nurture this awareness, without judgment and with compassion for ourselves, our hearts open. We transform ourselves. We evolve.

Actually this awareness is not learned, it is not obtained from somewhere outside us. It is that from which we all come. When we awake to it, we come home. In coming home, we find the way to peace.

Breeze Richardson, 3/2006
At my core, to be at peace; both with myself and those around me. To be honest, thoughtful and forgiving.

In my heart, to honor the virtue and sacredness of all life. To act outwardly how I feel in my heart; and to live each day with intention and gracefulness, guided by the still, small voice within me.

And with conviction, to work for justice; so that others may find peace and live by it. To address anger and violence towards me with groundedness, strength, straightforwardness and truth.

For we each carry only one drop of knowledge.

Bridget Rorem, 3/2006
Bridget's Peace Testimony:
I attempt to be led by the Spirit of Christ: to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to give comfort to the sick and imprisoned, to love my enemies, to resist evil non-violently. I am not universally successful in such attempts. I am willful and far too often have not noticed, or taken care to notice, the feelings and conditions of those around me. I am too slow to seek forgiveness and sometimes reluctant to grant forgiveness. I am impatient.

But the Spirit of Christ asks me to do better. I truly desire a world without war, a world without the misery of poverty, a world without greed. I know, because the Spirit has led me to know, that I must lead my life with greater integrity, that I must every day submit to being led by the Spirit. I seek unity with God, who is on no one's side, but in whose eyes we are all equal and loved beings.

Charles T. Smith, 3/2006
A Personal Declaration of Peace:
I see that of God in every person: me, my wife, my kids, my extended family, my friends, strangers on the street, Osama Bin Laden, everyone. Therefore, I cannot kill or support the killing of others. Further, I know from experience and from listening to the Spirit that every conflict among humans can be resolved nonviolently. I also know that many conflicts are not resolved nonviolently, but I understand that that is not caused by the Spirit. It is, instead, caused by human beings not hearing or not listening to the Spirit. I have no enemies and I am not at war, but I also know that I must constantly remind myself of these simple facts. I acknowledge that I have been trained to kill and that I have often been seduced by "the myth of redemptive violence." I forgive myself for this and seek the forgiveness of any I have harmed. I will be ever vigilant to look ahead and take the steps necessary to find nonviolent solutions to conflict. I am committed to rooting out violence in every facet of my life. Only in this way can I be a part of bringing forth the peaceful kingdom of God here now on Earth.

Dawn L. Rubbert, 3/2006
Personal Peace Testimony of Dawn L. Rubbert:
There is that of God in everyone. When I do harm to another, knowingly or unwittingly, I do harm to God. The good thing is, God can take it. Others may not fare so well.

There is that of God in everyone. When I do harm to myself I do harm to God.

Harm is anything which wounds the body, the spirit, the mind. Harm disturbs peace.

Peace is the condition of living harmoniously with God's creation earth, air, fire & water. Peace is living in community with all life plant, animal & human.

Living peacefully is the condition of continual discernment regarding what acts are harmful. Living peacefully means periodically becoming vulnerable within community to re-examine how I am doing, to discover how I have grown, and to learn what I must change to continue on the path of peacefulness.

David H. Finke, 3/2006
("...but what canst THOU say?")
One Friend's Peace Testimony:

I hope to give faithful expression to that heritage handed to me, but on which I must make a personal commitment. The gifts of the past must find expression in the challenges of the moment; I must know where I stand, and in what I am rooted, to be able to act with responsibility and integrity in a world filled with violence, depredation, inhumanity, cruelty, irrationality. I must trust that if I go to the Fountain, and drink of the Living Water, I will be sustained. If I attend to the promptings and leadings of My Teacher, I shall not be abandoned. God promises to be ever-present in our engagement with Life.

Though not born a Quaker, I had the blessing of being nourished in a family which took seriously Jesus' example and teachings, and sought to be witnesses in this world to his Living Presence. Thinking about the implications of the Gospel for concrete issues of war and peace, racial justice, equitable economic relations, and all the affairs of life, has always seemed very real to me. Nonetheless, I could not and cannot live off the virtue of others; I continue to believe that I must attend to my own "call to discipleship."

To echo what I just told a newspaper reporter this last week, trying to understand conscientious objection, I do not point to a single passage of scripture, a specific text, to guide my own action on issues involved in our testimony of peace. Rather, I see the whole impact of a life of prophetic vision, service, and sacrifice as it affected an emerging sense of peoplehood, in whose lineage I take my place. "Yeshua ben Youssef" of Nazareth is my rabbi, my master, my teacher, and my continuing Companion and Guide, whom the forces of death and conspiracies of evil could not overcome. Looking to the guidance of God's Holy Spirit, indelibly revealed in Jesus' life, is the source of my own Peace Testimony. The implications of God's unfolding will for my life will continue to grow, I trust, for the rest of my life.

It is manifestly clear to me, as it was to that first generation of followers of Jesus (and rediscovered in the first generation of Friends of the Light), that his Way and the way of the sword are incompatible. I am called to the Way of Reconciliation, of understanding, of forgiveness, of Active Goodwill. (I learn much the same lessons in the life and teachings of other enlightened and faithful human beings, such as Gandhi and Day and King, and Friends I have known in the flesh — a universality of the Truth of God.)

Sometimes I use the shorthand phrase of "nonviolence," to express where I come from and what I'm about, but that word is too limited. Rather, I want to acknowledge both the foundational Source as well as the concrete expressions of how God's love transforms human life — a rich, unending, and complex challenge, for which I have had and will have "companions along the way."

Friends Peace Testimony grew out of unmerited suffering, in which they strove to show their harmlessness (Gandhi's ahimsa.) But they sought and I seek not simply an exempted, privileged position away from the conflicts of the world. Rather, this testimony of peace must entail work with and on behalf of "the least of these, my brethren," in testimony to that sense of Justice so passionately expressed by the ancient Hebrew prophets, from whom I also take guidance. This is part of what is meant by saying No to warmaking and saying Yes to peacemaking. "Would that ye knew the things that make for peace" — a lament we read in the Bible. My work in faithfulness to a Peace Testimony must take shape in the pursuit of Shalom, which entails wholeness and structures of justice, not just absence of conflict.

I am exceeding the length I intended to write. The fascinating challenge is for us to keep sharing these personal pilgrimages and insights with each other, and then to move beyond our individualism to find how we corporately, as a people, show forth "the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control..." and have a transformative place in the liberation of our world.

Among Friends article Summer 2006

[this is a copy of an article on the process, printed in the Summer 2006 issue of Among Friends, on pp 25-26.]

In March, members of the Peace Resources Committee gathered at a retreat center in Southern Illinois. The task we had set out for ourselves was no small job: create a workshop on the Peace Testimony. The genesis for the workshop arose, in part, as the committee pursued a vision for the Peace House on the Prairie and, in part, from desires expressed during the Dream Gathering process.

But mainly it was spurred on by the war in Iraq and the sense that it is incumbent on Quakers to re-examine their relationship to the Peace Testimony and how it manifests in their lives. It was our hope that we could offer the workshop to Meetings throughout Illinois Yearly meeting, and that the workshop would draw Friends of all ages.

PRC owes a great debt to Breeze Richardson of 57th Street Meeting, who put together big chunks of what would become the workshop and made the rest of us think that we did a lot of work. Looking back, we did do a lot of work by way of laying the foundation. In several meetings over the previous five months we prayerfully shared our understanding of the Peace Testimony and our hopes for the workshop.

The words of George Fox kept coming back to us, What canst thou say? It was our sense that the Peace Testimony is not a concept or statement cast in stone, but an awareness and understanding that will deepen and grow, when nurtured by continual inward re-examination and spiritual endeavor, individually and collectively. We tested the workshop by going through it ourselves. It took a better part of that Saturday. We found it to be, in many ways, a transformative experience.

A segment of the workshop will be offered each day of the annual sessions at McNabb. We will then offer the full workshop it to Monthly Meetings upon request.
by Chuck Hutchcraft

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