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Contents VOL 169 NO 33 3 Riots: the challenge Eleanor Nesbitt 4-5 When is enough enough? Nigel Norie 6 Target setting Kelvin Beer-Jones 7 Re-thinking Sufferings Roger Sanderson 8-9 Letters 10-12 Poetry:
Making the Quaker connection Sibyl Ruth 13 Our shared future Anne Adams Yearly Meeting Gathering 14 Junior Yearly Meeting Epistle 15 Under 19s’ minutes 16 Young people’s minute 17 Q-eye 18 Friends & Meetings
Friends commemorate Hiroshima Day with a ‘Peace Tree’ at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh. See page 16.
courtesy of Sue
Cover image: Smashed shop front on St John’s Road, London. Photo: Heather McKay/flickr CC. See pages 3-5.
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the Friend, 19 August 2011 Reflection
Riots: the challenge
Eleanor Nesbitt considers how to find ‘that of God’ in the rioters and their actions
The morning of 10 August brought phone calls from anxious friends in India asking ‘How are you?’ Are you all right?’ One caller is a Tibetan woman in Dharamsala. Once she had established that my family and I were not in danger she told me about the current suffering of monks and others in Tibet.
I was moved that a friend whose people have so courageously suffered so much for so long was concerned about me in the UK. I was saddened at the power of the media to spread, instantaneously, around the globe images of looting and burning buildings and vehicles, as the now indelible images of my country. My husband watches news programmes daily on NDTV (India’s equivalent of the BBC) and I had watched an Indian reporter in Tottenham interviewing upset passers-by.
In common with countless ‘people of faith’, Quakers look for signs of God, or at least for signs of faith, hope and love, in whatever happens. This week’s ‘rioting’ and ‘criminality’ raise so many issues and stir so many emotions. In the midst of these, it is heartening to have distant friends’ loving phone calls and to know, too, that in our cities local people are rallying to restore shattered localities and lives. We will all have been stirred by Tariq Jehan’s appeal for calm after the violent death of his son and two of his friends. We have been inspired too by twenty-yearold Mohd Asyraf Haziq’s optimistic composure as he recovered from being mugged by a succession of teenage assailants.
In 1991 Diana Lampen wrote: We Quakers say we have no creed. We almost do! For nearly all of us would say we believe in ‘that of God in everyone!’
Quaker faith & practice 29.08
Does this mean discerning an essential goodness, or a potential for goodness, in everyone, at every time, including a hit and run driver or teenagers taunting police while destroying premises and looting property? Or does it mean recognising God (or an ultimately just and/or loving power) at work in apparently ungodly aggression? Possibly so. Certainly, in infinitely more terrible circumstances of oppression and bloodshed than the current unrest in parts of the UK, religious thinkers have dared to state that the oppressors were God’s servant or agent. (I am thinking of words of the Hebrew prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah, as well as some verses by the Sikhs’ founder, Guru Nanak, and by a twentieth century rabbi, Ignaz Maybaum.) Is it possible – or appropriate – to understand the distressing behaviour of ‘thugs’, thieves and vandals in this way too?
The lawlessness of these past few days, like the volatility of the financial markets and the apparently increasing number and intensity of ‘natural disasters’, is symptomatic of the turbulence caused by simultaneous processes of change on many levels. Meanwhile, we are all challenged to be hopeful, loving and faithful in every way we can. Jesus used the metaphors of salt and yeast, active in unseen ways. We can renew our individual and collective commitment as agents of change through our prayer and action – whether our focus is on guiding our own children or on our professional or voluntary roles in society.
Our own commitment involves acknowledging that others too can change into a less destructive mode. This potential (‘that of God’, maybe) means that the individuals whose lives are so meaningless and opportunistic that they are caught up in stealing, even from the victim of violence, can change. To quote from Diana Lampen again: Some of our closest friends used to be involved in violence and have changed. I have learnt so much from them and their courage in changing and I am encouraged to believe that anyone can change.
Quaker faith & practice 29.08
Eleanor is a member of Central England Area Meeting.
the Friend, 19 August 2011