I've asked myself many times "How do we remain non-violent when an evil such as the Taliban is running rampant?" I'm a member of the Rockingham Meeting, and my good friends there Jack and Susan have offered many good answers.
Fighting evil with violence generally fosters more violence, and thus we create an endless cylce--that is one way many Friends answer this question (there are other answers as well). You may be interested to read this article in Time Magazine today: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1924322,00.html?xid=n...
It is an interview with a former Taliban commander who was defeated, and then decided to join the Karzai government forces. The government forces lied to him on many fronts, tortured his brother, etc.--and now this man is back to fighting with the Taliban. Reading this story gives soundness to the Quaker answer cited above.
What do the rest of you think? If we aren't going to be violent, then what will we do?

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I have personally been pondering this question lately. I am so appalled by the violence directed at women by Sharia law (probably not spelled right). Someone sent a video to a local friends discussion, of a woman being stoned to death. I did not watch it, being forewarned of its content. Some who did were opposed to it, on the grounds that it's purpose (they believed) was to incite Islamaphobia (also probably not spelled right). I don't know if that was there intention, but I know that what that video showed happens. I don't want to not talk about it because its uncomfortable. Maybe instead of trying to match blow for blow to stop violence as you stated, we should try to give something to the victims to help them in their struggle? Concentrate on how can we help you back up when evil knocks you down? Aspirit1
Maybe we simply don't have the power to eliminate violence from the world? Quakers have known for a long time that no one has the power to eliminate violence by doing violence. So we try to think of better ways-- and this is infinitely better than the marvelous cleverness that goes into practicing violence more effectively-- but "effectiveness" is a measure, not the goal.

If we want to help people find their way out of those ways of thought that make violence a plausible option, a good start would be reducing their fear. That seems to imply helping them find what it is they can safely put their faith in.

People talk about "religion" as a source of violence-- but the problem seems to be the result of people desperately clinging to some 'idol', whether this refers to a religious doctrine or a political one. People who are spiritually grounded, in touch with the solid religious Fact, can recognize that grounding in other people, even when their ideas differ. It's ignorant fear that leads to stoning people to death-- or bombing them to death.
How do we remain non-violent when an evil such as the US government is running rampant? We simply recognize that no violence we could imagine would improve the situation.

To reduce the temptation that turns people to supporting violence... we would need to reduce the underlying fear that makes violence seem "necessary."

So after years and years of trying to do good by practical means-- perhaps we need to find ways to spread true faith, that there is a solid spiritual Fact that everyone can find, meet and know-- and that grounding ourselves in that, rather than in doctrinal imaginations about it, is our only true security.
Forest, It is true to say we can't stop all violence. I am not sure what you mean by "trying to do good practical means" What good does it do to tell people who are starving, brutalized and murdered to be "warmed and filled?" Do you think there is nothing practical that Quakers can do to help victims? aspirit1
We have scored a lot of points by providing actual food to people who were hungry. In doing so, we were right in not making conversion to our ways a requirement for our help.

Where we went wrong, in hindsight, was that this at least looked more like "charity" than like solidarity. The implied message was evidently "We nice people are going to give you food because we belong to this nice religious sect." It doesn't look like we conveyed anything like "You could do things like this too, if you sought to know God within yourselves (perhaps our way, perhaps following some variation you find more appropriate...)" We were sharing something they desperately needed, but couldn't/wouldn't/didn't interest them in the available spiritual food.

We fed people suffering from the Allied blockade of WW I Germany. Many of these were children who grew up to be Nazis. Wrong to feed them? Of course not! But we left them unfed, for whatever reason, in whatever they would have needed to heal from their experience spiritually and emotionally. (A few years ago, incidentally, I visited the Friends Meeting in Vienna-- It's a tiny group, mostly foreigners, speaking English as their most convenient mutual language.)

We seem ill-equipped to convert even our own countrymen-- or even our Friends. To convert them to what?-- to "Quakerism"? to "traditional Quaker doctrines"? No, to the kind of faith that would sustain them, regardless of what "belief system" they might dress it in. Words can't do it alone-- but you can't expect to manage without words (not unless your audience is willing to undertake years of Zen sitting, or the equivalent...)

How did George Fox turn a listener to "the Teacher within"? I don't know either, but I think we'll need to consult that Teacher more closely if we hope to do that-- and no lesser goal seems sufficient!
It seems to me a first step is not to demonize an enemy, to recognize that of God in everyone isn't looking for some grain, however tiny it might be, that is 'salvageable'. It is to recognize in each other we are fundamentally made in the image of God. Evil or if you will sin doesn't alter that fact (Calvinism e.g.). I look at sin as a symptom rather than a cause of our spiritual condition. When I fail to act as I ought it isn't because there is something depraved about my soul anymore than the mustard seed is a defective mustard 'tree' because it doesn't yet have branches. I am all too aware of my own journey and the evil I have done to move from calling something someone or some group has done as evil to calling the people reponsible evil. It makes the whole love your enemies thing a little easier too.
Forrest and Jeff,
First off I did not call anyone evil. I was referring to the acts themselves. Yes, we all can commit evil acts. There are a lot of Quakers who feel we, as part of our country are implicit in the evil of war. So, with that cleared up...Forrest, I guess I am a much more simple (or maybe just simple minded) person. I was not even thinking about helping people who were suffering with the thought of converting them to anything, except maybe non-violence. I just put myself in some woman's place and think " If I were her and had children who were starving, what would mean the most to me?" Who knows, what they'll grow up to believe, or become, but I as a woman would try to reach out to another mother, for no other reason then we are both human and they are suffering. I guess my question was to find out if this situation bothered anyone else enough to do something Or if anyone knows of something concrete, someone may already be doing.aspirit1
The question of how best to deal with the evil -especially, great evil; was really struggled with by that generation which came of age in the age of progress, then lived through the war to end all wars only to be faced by the great depression and then the second world war. Niebuhr and Bonhoeffer both ended up abandoning their Christian pacifism. In the end I come down that it is better to fight for justice violently than to be a quiet "innocent" bystander to injustice, but it is better yet to speak truth to power at risk to oneself. It of course, remains true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and we are far better off preventing war by addressing it's causes than stopping a war after it has broken out.
Anne,

I think there are many people out there trying to do something. I just googled "quaker afghanistan women" and came up with this website: http://afghanistan.quaker.org/AidOrgs.htm Perhaps your meeting's peace committee would be interested in taking up your concern on behalf of the meeting. I think that's how we're supposed to work. If you feel genuine passion about women in Afghanistan and other countries where they are oppressed, your meeting should be interested in that. Your concern, if Way is open, should be contagious.

Of course, all we can ever do are things within our measure and following the leadings of the Guide. Sometimes these actions seem very humble. But I disagree with Forrest that feeding German children after WWI was merely "charity" and unfruitful in the Spirit. There was an article in Friends Journal in April ("Quakers in Germany during and after the World Wars") describing what they did, and this month Jeremy Mott sent a letter in response to the article citing a book by Hans A. Schmitt, Quakers and Nazis: Inner Light and Outer Darkness, which explains the results of the "Quaker soup." The effect was small in the context of the Holocaust, but real. I don't think the RSOF has ever stopped a war, nor did they stop slavery, but I believe we would be more fruitful if we didn't think too much about our own results and just did what we're led to do.

Rosemary
Rosemary,
Thanks for the link I will check it out. There was some question raised about writing our Senators and such but the people that were contacted in the meeting declined. I wrote my letters and sent them.Anyway I will definitely check the link. There are some sights on Oprah, but I have been trying to find out if there were any Quaker groups already involved. Thanks again Anne
Very disappointing when you feel strongly about something and your meeting just seems to give a collective shrug. But I sometimes find it's a longer process than that. We had a simple issue with part of the building falling down(!) It took a long time to galvanize people to see that something had to be done.
I hope it goes well for you.
Rosemary
Rosemary,
I guess that is the case, I really don't know what the outcome of the committee meeting was. When the committee person told me that the people she contacted, declined to write a letter, I just said thats fine. I wrote one for myself and sent it. I had planned on doing that anyway. I did not realize that anything else could happen. You are certainly right about the "long process" I guess if you are waiting for the collective meeting to do something. To me, its okay if they don't, If I feel strongly about doing something I'll just do it. Life is short, mines getting shorter. Thanks for your perspective.
A.Stansell

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