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Working for Peace

Perhaps one of the most difficult dilemmas presented by our Quaker testimonies is the tension between seeking to address that of God in every person and those times when we feel clear that speaking Truth requires advocacy for justice in active confrontation with one constituency or another. One of the compelling challenges of Quakerism—not always realized—is to find the higher Truth that speaks to the condition of all parties concerned.

In “Dilemmas of Our Peace Testimony” (p. 11), Judith Reynolds Brown addresses some of these issues. She reminds us that peace and justice are inextricably bound together and that we must work for worldwide peace in community with others who share this aspiration. But she also recognizes that there is a place for confrontation and dialogue about differences. In the spirit of this latter insight, we offer you a collection of letters in the Forum (p. 4) received in response to our March issue, which focused on the Palestinian perspective in the current conflict in the Middle East. Judith Brown asks if it isn’t healthy “to air … reservations, deal with those tensions rather than complacently to leave them lying? Dialogue can bring out our differences, give life to our meetings, and tolerance to our hearts. We need it.” I hope that you will dialogue about the issues raised by our letter writers and share your thoughts with us.

This month we also touch on the work of two remarkable Friends whose lives were committed to the pursuit of peace, freedom, and social justice. Margery Post Abbott’s “Emily Greene Balch, Pioneering Peacemaker (1867–1961)” (p. 9) gives a wonderful profile of the first secretary/treasurer of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), one of two women with Quaker connections to win the Nobel Peace Prize. It is interesting to note that a person of Balch’s stature in the peace movements of her day struggled deeply herself with the dilemmas presented by our Peace Testimony.

On page 25 a book review of Peacemaking in South Africa: A Life in Conflict Resolution by H.W. van der Merwe lifts up the life work of this South African sociologist whose 24 years as director of what is now the Centre for Conflict Resolution played a significant part in bridging the gap between the apartheid regime in South Africa and elements of the African National Congress in prison and exile. As Judith Brown points out (p. 11), van der Merwe believed that “peace and justice are complementary,” and his obituary (p. 36) tells us that he emphasized not only justice in his peacemaking work, but forgiveness as well.

On a separate note, I am delighted to announce that Friends Journal has just launched a new website. We are pleased to offer sample articles from numerous issues and to give readers and interested seekers an opportunity to learn about us and about Quakerism. We’re also pleased to offer another means to contact us with questions, concerns, manuscripts, graphic art, subscription orders, and online pledges of gift support for those who prefer communicating through the Internet. We editors have begun to dream about useful features that we might add to this site. (Check out our online Readership Survey, for instance.) I’m also delighted to announce that Martin Kelley has joined us as our new web manager. Martin spent six years at New Society Publishers, working in the production and editorial departments. Since 1995 he has worked with Nonviolence Web, designing and hosting the websites of 15 peace and social justice organizations. For the past two years he has worked (and will continue to work) as webmaster for Friends General Conference. Martin will keep our site refreshed and will assist us in adding new features to it. I’d love to hear what you think of this new means of communication with you and to hear your suggestions for ways we might improve it or add new features to it.

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