Friends Peace Testimony since the 20th Century

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Here are findings I recently made while investigating the birth of pacifism and more specifically Friends Peace Testimony since the 20th century.  Humanity has been longing for peace for a very long time.

My good friend William Woodard, an archeologist specialized in Minoan, Mycenaean and Bronze Age noted in conversation a few days ago that there are certain indications which lead to may have been peaceful civilizations in pre-historical age.  He pointed to Khera and Knossos because in spite of their vast constructions they did not have fortified cities.

In historical times, the quest for peace seems to have been a constant.  War however always took over. Contrary to the accepted notion that Judaism kept its notions of a wrathful God, scriptures show pacifism rising within Judaism.  The concept of a God destroying Israel’s enemies, herem, is replaced with the notion of trust in a merciful, forgiving and loving God who will resolve the conflict, hesed.   This happens gradually with Amos, Zechariah, Isaiah and then with Jesus, the epitome of the peace movement[1].  There are indications that Jesus wanted to re-use old Jubilee practice found in Mosaic laws. André Trocmé Jesus had a financial and social program aimed at jump-starting the economy of Israel under Roman occupation. [2] Jesus would have convinced the Sanhedrin.  It was a split decision against him.  Jesus died but problems continued to develop.

Pacifism, associated to Jesus within the synagogues could have grown within the Jewish religion. St Paul did not start by creating a new church.  He went to Greece and the Aegean Sea where powerful commercial cities attracted culture and wealth within the Roman Empire.  St Paul convinced Jewish authorities of Jerusalem to accept uncircumcised gentiles as members.  The trade-off was that it allowed him to raise funds through the Aegean network of synagogues to support Israel.  It is while bringing back funds to Jerusalem that he was arrested and brought to Rome where he found his death.  

It is very likely that a group of Jewish members and attenders split within synagogues top form the early Christian Church.  The split was over the matter of non-violence between the first (66-70) and the second Jewish war under Adrian (130).  Pacifists had to show the Romans they were neither terrorists nor Zealots. 

When by 313 the Roman Empire finally absorbed Christianity under Emperor Constantine it lost both its pacifism and its social reform impulse.  Pacifism disappeared within the Roman Empire. [3]  By 438 one had to be Christian to be a soldier!  The church developed the notion of “Just War” raised by Cicero with St Augustine of Hippo or St. Ambrose.[4]

The vacuum left was filled by Islam.  That is likely why the root word of which is SLM, Salaam, like Shalom, Peace.  Islam too was perverted later on into violence. It was over the word  Jihad which originally meant an inner struggle to reach peace within.  That notion was later abused and transformed in the 10th century into an outer struggle, a fight against enemies of Islam.  It was yet another political subversion of religion.   .  Jihad as war is just as un-Islamic as Crusades are un-Christian.  Jesus’ teaching is pacifism.

Sadly, then the general line looks like a big failure of pacifism.  But the reasons and the conditions of its rise from the dead may give clues as how pacifism will prevail in the end.  The scriptures do not hide that the reign of come is to be a reign of peace.  The reign of God is be reign of peace.

 Pacifism in Europe sprouts again with the Lyon merchant,  Pierre Waldes in the 12th century.  Then still within the Holy Roman Empire in Bohemia with John Hus, who was burned to death in 1415.  We have to wait for Chelciky’ book, the net of faith to see a pacifist book.  (it was later read by Tolstoi).  This gave birth to the Brethrens. We have to wait for the 16 the and the 17th centuries to see the rise of rather small but persistent pacifist Christian groups.  

The main difference between now and then is the vessel.  The limit of the earth has been reached. Everything is global.  The Earth cannot be invaded from the outside and people of the world have to share the planet, like it or not.  Unfortunately global institutions do not exist yet and our US government has not been seizing the opportunity given by the end of the “Cold War” to establish a world order of peace and prosperity. 

Economy does not require looting and slavery, violence and war to develop, quite the contrary.  Peace is needed for business to develop.   Poverty, disease, homelessness, ignorance keep the ills alive.  Productivity rises when coming out of them.  Even overpopulation problems will be solved with human development investments and care for the rest of that Life which is the creation and which feeds and harbors us.

Contrary to widely accepted economic notions, human development investments and natural resource management are not a cost to the economy. They actually create economic growth before they are invested into by Capital. 

Signs that awareness about theses economic matters seem to come up.

The whole matter is that We have to help our institutions and our governments to abandon violent methods of solving problems here in side the US and outside the USA as well.

As foretold by Jesus the pacifist those who win by the sword will perish by sword.

We should not listen to fear it is a bad advisor.

The great majority of the world needs peace to survive.

Establishing it is our task, as it has been since dawn.


[1] Peace Testimony of Friends in the 20th Century, Friends Coordinating Committee, Chapter one, The religious basis of the peace testimony, T. Canby Jones, 1967

[2] See on this a book by André Trocmé: “Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution”, Labor et Fides, Geneva..  André Trocmé was a protestant pastor at Le-Chambon-sur-Lignon a village of 5000 which saved 5000 refugees during War for the World II ).

[3] See Peter Brock : A brief history of pacifism

[4] Peace Testimony of Friends in the 20th Century, Friends Coordinating Committee, Chapter one, The religious basis of the peace testimony, T. Canby Jones, 1967