Friends’ peace testimony arises from the power of Christ working in people’s hearts. Since there is that of God in every person,Friends believe that every person is worthy of infinite respect. Our words and lives should testify to this belief and should stand as a positive witness in a world still torn by strife and violence. The Society of Friends has consistently held that war is contrary to the spirit of Christ and stated its position clearly in the Declaration to Charles II in 1660:
We utterly deny all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretense whatsoever; 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 certainly know, and testify to the world, that the Spirit of Christ, which leads us into all truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ nor for the kingdoms of this world…. Therefore, we cannot learn war any more.
We base our peace testimony on a fundamental conviction that war is wrong in the sight of God.
So the keeper of the House of Correction was commanded to bring me up before the Commissioners and soldiers in the market place; and there … asked me if I would not take up arms for the Commonwealth against the King. But I told them 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’ doctrine (James 4:1). . . . But I told them I was come into the covenant of peace which was before wars and strifes were.
George Fox, 1651
Since our first allegiance is to the God of love, we must obey the law of God rather than human law when this allegiance is challenged by the demands of the state. We support those who oppose war by performing work as conscientious objectors and those who resist any cooperation with the military. We hold in love, but disagree with, those of our members who feel that they must enter the armed forces. We recognize that the entire military system is inconsistent with Jesus Christ’s example of love. We work toward the day when armaments and conscription will no longer be tolerated.
Since our peace testimony is not only opposition to active participation in war but a positive affirmation of the power of good to overcome evil, we must all seriously consider the implications of our employment, our investments, our payment of taxes, and ourmanner of living as they relate to violence. We must become sensitive to the covert as well as the overt violence inherent in some of our long-established social practices and institutions, and we must attempt to change those elements which violate that of God in everyone.
Our historic peace testimony must be also a living testimony as we work to give concrete expression to our ideals. We would alleviate the suffering caused by war. We would refrain from participating in all forms of violence and repression. We would make strenuous efforts to secure international agreements for the control of armaments and to remove the domination of militarism in our society. We would seek to be involved in building national and transnational institutions to deal with conflict nonviolently.
The almost unimaginable devastation that results from modern war makes ever more urgent its total elimination.