What makes Quakers a “peaceable” people? As Anthony Manousos explains, it’s not a lack of conflict.
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Before being a Quaker, I hated war. I was antiwar but I didn’t really understand peace. And so I think what has changed for me since becoming a Quaker is I also have an understanding that peace starts within me.
What It Means to Be a Quaker Peace Activist
My name is Anthony Manousos, I’m a member of Orange Grove Meeting here in Pasadena. I am currently a Quaker peace activist, retired. I used to be an editor for a Quaker magazine and a college professor and a coordinator for a youth program for the Quakers, but I feel so blessed that I can be full time doing peace activism on behalf of Quakers.
Starting With Worship
We have a world that is out of balance, and we have a world where people are suffering, where there’s injustice. For me, being a Quaker peace activist means to be part of a movement to restore wholeness, and for me it starts in meeting for worship where I center down and I experience a sense of something greater than myself: a sense of the divine. Also, I feel more aware of the conflicts in my own life or the conflicts in the world. In that place of silence and that feeling of connectedness, I sometimes receive guidance in how I can become an instrument of that peace.
The Quaker Testimony on Peace
Our Quaker testimony on peace goes back to the very earliest days, where unfortunately Christians were killing each other—millions of them—over doctrinal differences. The Quakers were a group of Christians who felt that they could not, and would not, kill anyone for any reason, but certainly not for the sake of religion. And so they had a peace testimony in 1660 that said that they would be a peaceable people, and so that’s been our testimony for the last 350-some years.
Being a “Peaceable People”
To be a peaceable people doesn’t mean that you never have conflicts, and that’s actually something that I have learned through sometimes challenging experiences. Quakers are just like everyone else; we have conflicts—sometimes bitter conflicts. And what we have are tools to resolve those conflicts that help us to—when we’re at our best—not sweep them under the rug, to really deal with them. We have things like clearness committees, where if we have a conflict with an individual we can sit down with that individual and several other people in the spirit of worship and really listen to each other and to try to work through the conflicts that we have. I have learned a lot about compassionate listening, and that’s one of the best tools for peacemaking because it builds trust and it helps us to really hear each other’s stories. I think that’s the essence of our Quaker peacemaking process—is compassionate listening.
Bringing Peace to a Global Scale
To be a peaceable people on a global scale means that we recognize that we are one human family, and to celebrate our diversity and to recognize and affirm our unity at the same time. It means that we acknowledge that we have hurts and wounds from the past and conflicts, at the same time we are confident that we can resolve those conflicts in a way to make it a better world.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.
- Quakers are not a peaceable people because of a lack of conflict. On the contrary, we have regular—sometimes bitter—conflicts. The difference, Anthony says, is that we have tools to listen to one another and an intention to be one human family. What are some peaceable ways that you’ve seen conflict resolved?
- What are the tools at our disposal as Friends to help us navigate conflict without losing fellowship with one another?