Hope in challenging times

NFPB members met in Dumfries on 17th June. More than 30 Friends were present, including a number from Dumfries and from Castle Douglas Quaker Meetings. We met on the same day that a large demonstration was taking place in New York, with women calling for a ban on nuclear weapons.

NFPB members in Dumfries

NFPB member Janet Fenton was part of the march and was planning to be present for the international negotiations at the United Nations, which are seeking to reach agreement on a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty by mid-July. Friends in Dumfries sent a message of support and greeting.

In the weeks leading up to our meeting, we had seen the General Election campaign, violent attacks in London and Manchester and the Grenfell Tower fire. Friends reflected on accountability and integrity in politics, on unpredictability and opportunity, on catalysts to action and on the importance of long-term thinking.

Friends in this part of West Scotland had been active in following up the concern of military involvement in schools; they described to NFPB members the steps they had taken to become better aware of what was happening and to raise awareness of what they had found out. We were given an update as well on the work of the Scottish Parliamentary Engagement Officer on the same concern, working with Forces Watch through the use of a petition to the Parliament in getting and making visible information about military visits to schools. We also heard about the work of Quaker Peace and Social Witness in both challenging the role of military in schools and in promoting peace education alternatives. Friends were keen to share information and experiences of taking action on these issues in different parts of the country.

NFPB members gave some time at this meeting to reviewing our approaches to communication and building links with Local and Area Quaker Meetings. Our workshops will be seeking to provide support to Friends, but we also depend significantly on written communications, and on one-to-one contacts through our membership, to make these links work most effectively. Issues arising from our discussion in Dumfries will be taken on board to help Trustees in their wider review of communications. Friends’ wider input is welcome on what is and is not working well in this regard; please contact the NFPB office.

Some NFPB members were able to join with Scottish Friends the following day in one of their periodic Meetings for Worship at the nuclear weapons base at Faslane. Ministry at the Meeting reflected on both the sense of despair we can feel when faced with the enormity of the challenges facing us, whilst the birdsong amidst the razor wire and military infrastructure gave hope.

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Related external links:

“Nuclear Ban” website from Scottish CND http://www.nuclearban.scot/

“Petition on military visits to Scottish schools to be heard at Holyrood” | CommonSpace https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/9319/petition-military-visits-scot...

Forces Watch information about the petition https://www.forceswatch.net/content/scottish-parliament-petition

Peace Education resources from QPSW https://www.quaker.org.uk/our-work/peace/peace-education

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