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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS – VOL 168 NO 13 3 X marks the spot – Quakers prepare for general election 4 Education key to tackling new drug challenge,
says QAAD 5 Friends gather to witness a hundred years of
Ramallah Friends Meeting House Sue Glover Frykman 6 Israeli boycotts, sanctions and divestments – is a corporate Quaker stance possible? Sue and Tofte Frykman 7 Comment
Symon Hill and Drew Miller 8-9 Letters and epistle 10-11 A house to call a home
Rosemary Hartill 12 It’s the economy, clever
Judy Kirby 13 In comes the citizen approach
Christopher Vincenzi 14 Because spiritual matters
Catherine James 16 q-eye: witness 17 Friends & Meetings
Cover image: Celebrating a hundred years of Ramallah Friends Meeting House. Image: © Cally Gibson. www.callygibson.co.uk. See pages 5, 6 and 9. Images on this page from top: Exhibits at the Barney Smith Toilet Seat Art Museum in San Antonio, US. Photo: juliegomoll/flickr CC: BY. A toilet being cleaned in London. Photo: Jez Smith. The iCarta. Photo: rojer/flickr CC:BY. See page 16.
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the Friend, 26 March 2010 News
X marks the spot – Quakers prepare for general election
Symon Hill reports on Quaker involvement ahead of an expected election
Quakers across Britain look set to play an active role in the general election, with several Local Meetings involved in running hustings events while a number of national Quaker bodies lobby candidates on issues of particular concern.
In Cambridge, Jesus Lane Meeting has taken the initiative in bringing together local community groups to put their own concerns to the constituency’s wouldbe MPs. They asked over forty organisations to submit possible questions to candidates. The resulting list covers subjects as varied as national identity cards, the inequality of wealth, housing, learning disabilities, sex trafficking, the armed forces and reform of the House of Commons.
Jesus Lane Meeting will now identify five or six questions that seem most representative and important. They will put these to each candidate and hope that a local paper will publish the answers.
Emphasising that it is important ‘to have an electorate as accurately informed and as participative as possible’, Cambridge Friends are encouraging Quakers in other areas to become just as actively engaged. Meanwhile, Friends working at national and regional levels have backed campaigns to secure candidates’ commitments to particular policies.
In Wales, Friends are backing a plan to question all candidates on their position on torture. The initiative has been launched with the support of Cytûn, a network of churches in Wales that includes the Religious Society of Friends.
‘We need firm commitments’, said Roy Jenkins of Christians Against Torture. ‘Everyone will say that they dislike torture, but the key question is whether candidates believe that torture is unacceptable in all circumstances.’
Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) has contributed heavily to a general election briefing produced by the Network of Christian Peace Organisations (NCPO). It encourages voters to recognise that ‘real security comes from justice and sharing resources’. It suggests questions on issues including Afghanistan, Palestine, the arms trade, nuclear weapons, military spending and long-term security.
QPSW also played a key role in the production of a general election briefing by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (see ‘Religious groups publish election resources for voters’, 19 February). It devotes one page to each of several key topics, summarising the main issues behind them.
In addition, a number of Quakers have backed Power 2010, a broad-based movement aimed at securing meaningful political reform and ‘a healthy democracy that works for all of us and not just a powerful few’. It is described as ‘a unique campaign to give everyone the chance to have a say in how our democracy works for us’.
The movement, which is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, ran a large-scale online vote to determine its priorities.
Over 100,000 people contributed to the selection of five key aims: proportional voting, an end to the database state, an elected chamber to replace the House of Lords, only English MPs voting on laws that affect only England and a written constitution. Candidates are now being asked to ‘sign the pledge’ supporting these aims.
Power 2010, with the support of the Christian thinktank Ekklesia and groups including the Student Christian Movement and the British Humanist Association, has also urged supporters to email Church of England bishops in the House of Lords. They are asking the bishops to sign up to five more specific points for democratic change.
A poll by ICM recently found that seventy-four per cent of the population, including seventy per cent of those who define themselves as Christians, consider it wrong that bishops should have automatic seats in the Lords.
The general election is widely expected to be held on 6 May, to coincide with local council elections. The last possible date for the election would be 3 June.
Are you planning to stand as a candidate in the election? Or is your Meeting hosting a hustings event or similar? If so, the Friend would like to hear from you. We are interested in news of Quakers involved in the run-up to the election, whether through promoting a party or lobbying candidates. You can contact us at email@example.com or via the contact details on page 2.
the Friend, 26 March 2010