“The Religious Society of Friends (better known as Quakers) began as a radical redefinition of Christian Truth in England in the 17th century.
At the very centre of the Quaker faith lies the experience of the Inward Light: in every human being there is implanted an element of God’s own Spirit and divine energy. Known to Friends as “that of God in everyone”, this element forms the basis the Quaker way of life of which non-violence is an essential expression.
We totally oppose all wars, all preparation for war, all use of weapons and coercion by force, and all military alliances. No end could ever justify such means.
We equally and actively oppose all that leads to violence among people and nations, and violence to other species and to our planet.
Refusal to fight with weapons is not surrender. We are not passive when threatened by the greedy, the cruel, the tyrant, the unjust.
We must start with our own hearts and minds. Wars will stop only when each of us is convinced that war is never the way.
Together, let us reject the clamour of fear and listen to the whisperings of hope.”
— Aotearoa/New Zealand Yearly Meeting, 1987
Quakers in Belgium and Luxembourg express dismay at Eurosatory arms fair, June 2012.
From 11 to 15 June 2012, Paris hosts more than a thousand producers and users of the latest means to kill. At the last exhibition in 2010, buyers from Ghaddafi’s Libya were amongst the official guests. Others came from countries that have turned weapons against civilian populations, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Israel.
Spokespersons for Belgium and Luxembourg Quakers called for this Eurosatory to be the last.
In the guise of a progressive technological and commercial fair, the banalisation of killing is taken to new heights. Nowhere in the glossy Eurosatory publicity is there reference to blood and death, to casualties and destruction. Instead, the focus is on the celebration of the latest, often electronic and robotic, equipment for ‘defence’, ‘security’, or ‘protection’. George Orwell would take grim satisfaction in these examples of ‘doublespeak’.
Belgium and Luxembourg Quakers, like thousands of others, like the millions who have been on the receiving end of war and like many of those who have delivered war, are convinced that our societies’ focus on military responses to the world’s many problems – far from solving the problems – creates even more; it exacerbated rather than alleviated.
Eurosatory, by encouraging the development and purchase of weaponry by armies and ‘security’ services across the world, merely makes things worse. It certainly does not promote solutions. The world would be a grim place, indeed, if there were no alternatives at hand, but there are. Fortunately or unfortunately, we’ve been unable to create a structure in which, in the words of T.S. Eliot, ‘no one needs to be good’.
Economic welfare and development will come not from selling weapons but from focusing on a sustainable future for all, reducing the gap between rich and poor, creating useful employment, and addressing human suffering across the world.
Belgium and Luxembourg Quakers call on economic and political decision-makers to focus their energies on building peace and not on selling, through the Eurosatory festival of destruction, the seeds of our own destruction. To survive and prosper, the European Union must disassociate itself from Eurosatory and invest its efforts in peaceful and sustainable livelihoods.
Quakers salute those who are going to Paris during this event, not to exhibit their weapons, but to demonstrate against them and to demonstrate for peace, to remind the participants that they are fouling their own nests. Coming from many countries of Europe, they are a reminder that the European Union was built on the embers of a World War in order to secure peace between nations and people, not to prepare for more war.
Since the 1650s, Quakers have witnessed to their belief that true religion is a personal inward experience, a direct link with God and a consequent transformation of everyday life. We know that there is ‘that of God’ in everyone. This is the origin of our long-standing witness to peace.