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Witnessing for peace at Yearly Meeting

Alison Mitchell reflects on why Quakers will be coming together to witness for peace during Yearly Meeting.

We will hold in the light all those affected by war. Photo: Michael Preston for Britain Yearly Meeting
We will hold in the light all those affected by war. Photo: Michael Preston for Britain Yearly Meeting

There are 110 armed conflicts currently happening across the world. Each will have its victims – the combatants, civilians, families, children, plus the impact on the economic, emotional and cultural life of the countries at war. Britain is not at war, but we too can see the effects of money spent on arms and of a mindset that war is a valid way of achieving aims.

This fills me with despair. I am horrified by the suffering and deprivation caused by war. I am ashamed that I can name only a handful of the 110 conflicts. I struggle to accept “those emotions, attitudes and prejudices in [myself] which lie at the root of destructive conflict" (Advices & queries 32). Sometimes I sit in meeting for worship close to tears, trying to hold in the light those who are at war, trying to bear witness to the suffering.

Coming together with Friends in worship helps – it always helps. Sitting in expectant stillness, holding in love whatever issue is on our mind, is perhaps the best thing that can be done. Sometimes I am comforted; often I am inspired, led to some insight or maybe some action.

I cannot solve the conflicts, but I can express my views and share with others who also seek to challenge the mindset – to suggest another path. I've been on lots of demos; I've protested against all sorts of wars, arms and tyrants. There is a joy, an uplift, in being with people you agree with – a Quaker witness is much more powerful.

With Friends from my meeting I have stood in the high street in silence, in prayer, holding in the light victims and instigators, remembering those who must take decisions. People notice us: some mock, some pause, some join us. It doesn't stop the conflict, but we come together. We share our hope with each other.

Committing to hope


We remember war, we remember the victims, but we commit to hope – to work for peace.


The most powerful meeting for worship I've attended was an Epilogue at Yearly Meeting in 2014. It coincided with the centenary of the beginning of World War I, when in churches across the country lights were held up and then extinguished. As Quakers, we too held up lights and extinguished them, but after two minutes we turned the lights back on. We remember war, we remember the victims, but we commit to hope – to work for peace.

At Yearly Meeting 2024 we hope to offer Friends the opportunity to come together to witness for peace. This will be on Sunday 28 July at 5pm. For 30 minutes, Friends are invited to encircle Friends House and stand in silence together, holding in the light all those affected by war. It won't be a meeting for worship, but it will be worshipful.

'Quakers for Peace' banners and placards will be available. We won't be carrying any flags, and Friends are asked not to bring their own placards. If you have a 'Quakers for Peace' T-shirt, do please wear it. If not, they can be purchased from the Quaker Bookshop or online.

The witness will have stewards and we will have a briefing beforehand. The stewards will be able to talk to any passers-by who want to know more. It is entirely optional, and the café and Community Hub will remain open. Feel free to join for just a few minutes if that's all you can spare. There will be chairs in the garden for those more comfortable sitting. If it's raining, the witness will still go ahead, but maybe only those Friends who were led to bring a coat will be led to take part…

Witnessing together

We hope to have a supply of origami cranes. Friends might like to hold these as they witness, and we could offer them to passers-by. This means we need a lot! We'd like to invite Friends to fold cranes and to bring or post them to Yearly Meeting.

There are many online guides to folding cranes – ask any search engine for help. Maybe local meetings could come together to fold cranes as part of our witness. Folded cranes can be posted to Lyndsay Burtonshaw, Faith in Action Coordinator, at Friends House (173 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ).

Britain Yearly Meeting is a big community, so much more than those Friends who are able to come to Yearly Meeting. We'd like to invite local meetings to consider whether they could hold a witness – perhaps at the same time as the one at Friends House or at another time over the weekend.

Could your meeting hold a witness for peace, holding in the light all those affected by war? Can we connect across our community as we witness together? Please share plans for your witness or send photos of it afterwards to faithinaction@quaker.org.uk.

Our witnesses for peace won't stop the wars. But we will be strengthened; we will share together; we will build hope; we will show that we see a different way.

I hope you'll be able to join one of the witnesses or hold in the light those who are witnessing for peace.

Register for Yearly Meeting to receive updates about the outdoor witness for peace: www.quaker.org.uk/ym