Updated on 4 February 20201
Perhaps Quakers are best known for their testimony to peace and this was formally declared in their 1660 peace pamphlet.
The pamphlet is titled, A Declaration from the Harmless and Innocent People of God Called Quakers Against all Plotters and Fighters in the World and it was presented to the newly restored King Charles II by founding Friend Margaret Fell.
The Quakers had come together as a recognised movement eight years earlier in 1652, in the aftermath of the English Civil War Period (1649 – 1651). During the subsequent Commonwealth of England (1649 – 1660), Many groups such as the Fifth Monarchists rejected the return of England being ruled as a monarchy and as such they were held in high suspicion by the authorities.
This was a time when there were several plots to overthrow the king.
The Quakers wanted to distance themselves from the politics of such plots. Therefore, the pamphlet contains no political positions, only spiritual arguments. The part of pamphlet that is most often quoted declares:
“All bloody principles and practices, we, as to our own particulars, do utterly deny, with all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world.”1660 Declaration of Peace Pamphlet
With the Quaker’s refusal to bear arms they positioned themselves as peacemakers, The 1660 Declaration of Peace Pamphlet became the foundation of what is known as the Peace Testimony. Quakers live out the Peace Testimony by seeking to resolve both inward and outward conflict. By first seeking inward peace, Quakers seek outward peace by helping to resolve conflict and war across the world.
Quakers often declare themselves as ‘pacifists, but not passive’. Pacifism is the belief that war and violence are unjustifiable and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means. Quakers actively engage in ways to seek peace and are most certainly not passive.
The Quakers in Britian website states:
“We don’t assume that we can escape from the realities of a world in which violence appears so deeply rooted. We are, however, constantly challenged by the existence of weapons of mass destruction, the number and intensity of violent conflicts, the cycles of poverty, alienation and violence that destroy peace in many deprived communities, and apparently random acts of terrorism.”Quakers in Britian
In the 360+ years since the 1660 peace pamphlet was first printed its primary aim has been undoubtedly proven – the Quakers are a peaceful people. However, its wider aim of a society without war remains a steadfast commitment that can be attained.
Image from http://laquaker.blogspot.com