The Peace Testimony, also known as the Testimony Against War, is a shorthand description of the stand generally taken by members of the Quaker testimonies, it is less a "belief" than a commitment to act in a certain way, in this case to refrain from participation in war and to actively oppose it and those who participate in war. The Quakers' original refusal to bear arms has been broadened to embrace protests and demonstrations in opposition to government policies of war and confrontations with others who bear arms, whatever the reason, in the support of peace. Because of this core testimony, the Religious Society of Friends is considered one of the traditional peace churches.
General explanation[edit | edit source]
The Peace Testimony is largely derived from the teachings of Jesus to love one's enemies and Friends' belief in the inner light. The Peace Testimony does not mean that Quakers believe in passive resignation; in fact, they believe in and practice passionate activism. It does mean that Quakers believe that nonviolent confrontation of evil and peaceful reconciliation are always superior to violent measures.
Development of the Peace Testimony[edit | edit source]
George Fox, perhaps the most influential early Quaker, made a declaration in 1651 that many see as the first declaration of the peace testimony:
- I told [the Commonwealth Commissioners] I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars and I knew from whence all wars did rise, from the lust, according to James's doctrine... I told them I was come into the covenant of peace which was before wars and strifes were. 
The best-known version of this testimony  was stated in a declaration to King Charles II of England in 1661, following an armed revolt by religious radicals in London in January; its issuance at this particular time was as much to remove any suspicion that Friends might have been involved as a desire to make their position clear. This excerpt is commonly cited:
- We utterly deny 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. The spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight any war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world. 
Some Quakers initially opposed the Peace Testimony because it did not deny use of the sword to the magistrate or ruler of the state. It also contained no prohibition against paying taxes for purposes of war, something that would trouble Friends to the present.
Application of the Peace Testimony[edit | edit source]
The peace testimony has inspired Quakers to protest wars, refuse to serve in armed forces if drafted, to seek conscientious objector status when available, and even to participate in acts of civil disobedience. Not all Quakers embrace this testimony as an absolute; for example, there were Friends that fought in World War I and World War II. During extreme circumstances this has been a difficult testimony for some Quakers to endorse and to uphold, yet Friends have almost universally been committed to the ideal of peace, even those who have felt the need to compromise on the application of it.
The Friends Service Council was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 on behalf of all Quakers for their work for peace after both world wars.
References[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- Some Early Statements Concerning the Quaker Peace Testimony
- Pamphlet from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, RSF, on the Peace Testimony
- 'Think Peace' - a series of six articles from Quaker Peace & Social Witness of Britain Yearly Meeting
- Quaker women and the Peace Testimony
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