Peace Testimony and Sept 11, 2001

Webservant’s note: Our old website had a section on the Peace Testimony and 9/11.  At the time of transferring to our new site in 2012, the page was quite dated and many links were stale.  To preserve the section, I’ve included it here as a post, using the date of what appears to have been the first entry on the page, though it evolved thereafter.  The section consisted of several pages, which I have tried to incorporate appropriately. 

graphic by Steven Lyons

Our Quaker Peace Testimony

Queries Quoted from Faith and Practice of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, August 1988

Margaret Fell has been credited as the first Quaker to write a declaration against … war and violence for any purpose. She delivered this in person to Charles II in England on June 22, 1660. She ended her declaration with: “We are a People that follow after those things that make for Peace, Love and unity…[we] do deny and bear our Testimony against all Strife and wars….Our weapons are not Carnal, but Spiritual.” (Quoted from: Margaret Fell and the Rise of Quakerism by Bonnelyn Young Kunze, Standford University Press, 1994) (See more about the history of the Quaker peace testimony at the Quaker Peace Page.)

Since their beginnings over 300 years ago, Friends have been led by their commitment to the ideal of peace to renounce wars and violence … The Queries are a device used within the Society of Friends for promoting both corporate and individual self-examination. (The Queries regarding the peace testimony follow.)

Do you endeavor to live “in virtue of that life and power which takes away the occasion of all wars”?

Do you work to make your peace testimony a reality in your life and in your world?

Do you weigh your day-to-day activities for their effect on peace-keeping, conflict resolution and the elimination of violence?

Are you working toward eliminating aggression at all levels, from the personal to the international?

Many of us have deep concerns regarding our reponses to the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and the war in Iraq. This page is for contributions from persons from the Pataspco Friends Meeting and other F/friends. It is devoted to the concerns we have regarding the effects of the September 11 tragedy and with the manners in which we honor of our peace testimony.

Please note, items listed under actions or resources and web links, unless specifically identified as sponsored by Patapsco Friends Meeting, are placed here to be helpful, but we do not necessarily endorse the views expressed by other persons or organizations.

Limits to Nonviolence? – more queries on the peace testimony, thinking and rethinking our Quaker peace testimony (a letter from Chuck Fager)

Sharing from PFM – sharing of the personal responses and experiences of those of us at Patapsco Friends Meeting

Sharing from Others – sharing of the personal responses and experiences from beyond our meeting

Actions postings of announcements of healing actions, peace actions, and meetings

Resources and Web Links – postings of web site and outside resources that may be of help in the peace effort


What are the limits to nonviolence?

Dear Friends,

In the current wartime environment, and especially in light of the perceived threats of terrorism against “civilians,” many Friends in the US and elsewhere are thinking and rethinking the meaning of the Friends Peace Testimony. Some of the questions being asked are:

  • How “pacifist” were early Friends, really?
  • What are the limits, if any, to the pacifism of the famous 1661 declaration?
  • Is there a valid distinction between “police actions” and military force, from the Quaker perspective? If so, how is the distinction determined?
  • What is the proper place for punishment and revenge in situations such as we now face?
  • Does pacifism have any meaning in the face of violence against the innocent and defenseless?

Already, one Friend with a high public profile, Scott Simon of National Public Radio, has gone on record as abandoning his understanding of pacifism in the face of recent violence. Others may feel similarly, but many Friends still are resolved to hold to a strong pacifist commitment.

To assist in further exploration of these and related issues, I have set up The Quaker Peace Page, a webpage, at:

The Quaker Peace Page

Here you will find excerpts from various Quaker statements on peace and pacifism, old and new, plus links to numerous related articles (including Scott Simon’s statement), all also on the web. I expect to add to the page as additional resources become available.

I hope Friends and others will find this page and its links of use in sorting out these difficult issues for themselves.

Chuck Fager

Sharing from Patapsco Friends Meeting

I have yet to find my voice, Elizabeth, 09/30/01:

September 11, 2001 and I have yet to find my voice. “What would you say to Bush,” my friend asked me. And I was silent.

I have yet to find my voice. No one I know personally was harmed physically, no one died. But many I know have been deeply affected. I am changed. I sit in my yard, reading a book on cell biology, preparing a unit to teach on line. My cats jump around in the foliage. The birds sing.

And I am changed because I feel so solemn – I realize how fortunate I am – I wonder how long this “safety” will last. We are in limbo now, the time before our country may take irretrievable steps that will forever banish our assumptions of our safety. I guess in reality, we are and were never fully safe anyway.

And I am changed because I feel such deep joy of mindfulness of this precious moment of life, of having the peace of environment and the peace of mind to indulge myself in complex learning. It is not that I haven’t had such moments before, but now they come more often because I am more and more aware of how fleeting they may be in the future. But I have yet to find my voice.

The peace testimony has always been the most difficult for me. Although I have rarely acted in violence, I know what is in my heart at times. I know I would want to destroy, be ready to destroy, anyone in the act of harming my family, if that’s what it would take to stop them. So I struggle with this peace testimony of ours.

I am in some strange way feeling blessed because my first reaction (and continued reaction) is to listen. I want to get together with Muslims and gain an understanding, an appreciation, for their culture and spirituality. I want to hear why so many countries hate our country so much. I have some ideas why, but I want to check them out, find out more. So, I feel blessed for this reaction, a reaction of peace that was spontaneous and from within. So maybe its OK that I have not yet found my voice – maybe its time for me to listen.

Pacifism is a Difficult Leading, Sherri, 101501:

It isn’t possible to capture all the rampant emotions and the mix of thoughts caused by the events of September 11 and its aftermath. Nonetheless, one can try to cull out a few pertinent events, internal as well as external. I was driving up North Capitol Street in Washington, DC when I heard the news of the crashes in NYC. I called my spouse from the car. After hanging up, I heard about the Pentagon crash, looked up and saw the smoke billowing across the sky. Such a perfect day otherwise, the Capitol framed by clear blue sky. I wondered if my next view would be an airliner piercing the dome. I wondered if I should be driving in the opposite direction.

Driving home from work in midday I sensed that Friends might wish to be together this evening. I, too, felt compelled to sit with others who would appreciate the enormity of how our world situation had changed in one awful morning.

Week one was spent absorbing as much pain and loss via the television as I could handle. I felt it was my duty as a citizen of this country to watch the horror and not turn away, to be a witness, albeit distant. The office was closed on Wednesday. I stayed in bed with the television on until afternoon. With so many victims, such dramatic crashes, such media coverage, so many unexpected hits, I sensed, “We will never get over this–we will always bear the scars of September 11.” And ever-present was a sense of dark foreboding, gloom and deep grief for how our country was certain to respond. I did not need the news to tell me that we would send war planes to bomb foreign soil, that we would incarcerate hundreds with uncertain legal rights, that the powers-that-be would take this as a carte blanche to retaliate. These were all certainties as I viewed the doomed flights crash into the WTC over and over. I had a surreal sense of the world as we know it ending.

And I had a clear picture that speaking out against this impending future was what I was called to do. These events brought into focus my years of personal striving to lead a just and peace-promoting life. How we behave when we are personally attacked is the true measure of where our values lie. It was crystal clear to me that as an individual pacifist and as a Quaker I was called to step forward and say, “NO.” To say, “No, we do not have to respond this way. We do not have to destroy other nations and peoples to achieve justice. We do not have to act like the wounded bully that we are. We can take the hit, learn something about ourselves and relentlessly pursue justice without alienating the entire Islamic world.”

Bursting with this compulsion I found one other Friend to join me in a vigil in our local community. Then the doubts and questions began. Friends asked me, “What is the alternative to military action? How will we round up the guilty parties if they don’t surrender or aren’t handed over? How will we prevent further attacks if we let the masterminds remain at-large?” My sole companion for the vigil quietly informed me that he would not be available. Suddenly, I wasn’t clear on this leading at all. If Quakers were confused about how to respond to September 11, maybe I was way off base. Was I reacting automatically to the actions of a President I did not vote for or personally respect? How would I feel if a Democrat or a Green were in power? Would I have such a compulsion to speak out? Worse yet, I was haunted by the concern that publicly disagreeing with our national leaders in this time of crisis would be insensitive or disrespectful of the victims’ families–disunity is not what is needed. I felt misled by Quakerism–if Quakers had such a wide range of views on the use of force perhaps I was fooling myself all along about the virtues of non-violence. Maybe it is only useful when you don’t really need it. And that is the crux of the matter. If non-violence doesn’t work in the heat of conflict then we had better stop holding it out as a virtue worth aspiring to. It is only when violence is imminent that pacifism becomes powerful. The strength of not responding as expected, of holding back when you could lash out, is how maturity is displayed.

But practical issues beg for practical answers and people needed for something to happen and happen soon. I poured out my worries to a kind Friend, desperate to regain my earlier clarity lest I end up standing vigil alone, and unbelieving. Being called to wait is not sexy, nor is it seen as decisive. But that is what I believe we as a nation are called to do: for law enforcement to do its job the best it can; for diplomats to do their job the best they can; for finance ministers to plug the leaks and loopholes; for leaders to call on their people to be strong, resilient, persistent and above all, patient. When politicians are called to wait, they do not say they are doing nothing. They say they are “exercising restraint.” Waiting can be a very active task. And it can cause those who would see our downfall to wonder what we are up to and to exercise restraint in return.

To bring this story full circle. I was nervous, but not alone at the vigil. I still have questions about how to prevent more attacks on our nation, but I am confident that war will not bring us the security we expect. Just as our leaders must proceed even if ambiguities remain, so too, I can step forward against the tide of public opinion even as I wrestle with my own doubts.

Sharing from others

Affirm Life, Subheir Hammad, 09/30/01

Subject: from suheir hammad

A Palestinian woman poet living in New York

1. there have been no words.

i have not written one word.

no poetry in the ashes south of canal street.

no prose in the refrigerated trucks driving debris and dna.

not one word.

today is a week, and seven is of heavens, gods, science.

evident out my kitchen window is an abstract reality.

sky where once was steel.

smoke where once was flesh.

fire in the city air and i feared for my sister’s life in a way never

before. and then, and now, i fear for the rest of us.

first, please god, let it be a mistake, the pilot’s heart failed, the

plane’s engine died.

then please god, let it be a nightmare, wake me now.

please god, after the second plane, please, don’t let it be anyone

who looks like my brothers.

i do not know how bad a life has to break in order to kill.

i have never been so hungry that i willed hunger

i have never been so angry as to want to control a gun over a pen.

not really.

even as a woman, as a palestinian, as a broken human being.

never this broken.

more than ever, i believe there is no difference.

the most privileged nation, most americans do not know the difference

between indians, afghanis, syrians, muslims, sikhs, hindus.

more than ever, there is no difference.

2. thank you korea for kimchi and bibim bob, and corn tea and the

genteel smiles of the wait staff at wonjo – smiles never revealing

the heat of the food or how tired they must be working long midtown

shifts. thank you korea, for the belly craving that brought me into

the city late the night before and diverted my daily train ride into

the world trade center.

there are plenty of thank yous in ny right now. thank you for my

lazy procrastinating late ass. thank you to the germs that had me

call in sick. thank you, my attitude, you had me fired the week

before. thank you for the train that never came, the rude nyer who

stole my cab going downtown. thank you for the sense my mama gave me

to run. thank you for my legs, my eyes, my life.

3. the dead are called lost and their families hold up shaky

printouts in front of us through screens smoked up.

we are looking for iris, mother of three. please call with any

information. we are searching for priti, last seen on the 103rd

floor. she was talking to her husband on the phone and the line

went. please help us find george, also known as adel. his family is

waiting for him with his favorite meal. i am looking for my son, who

was delivering coffee. i am looking for my sister girl, she started

her job on monday.

i am looking for peace. i am looking for mercy. i am looking for

evidence of compassion. any evidence of life. i am looking for


4. ricardo on the radio said in his accent thick as yuca, “i will

feel so much better when the first bombs drop over there. and my

friends feel the same way.”

on my block, a woman was crying in a car parked and stranded in hurt.

i offered comfort, extended a hand she did not see before she said,

“we’re gonna burn them so bad, i swear, so bad.” my hand went to my

head and my head went to the numbers within it of the dead iraqi

children, the dead in nicaragua. the dead in rwanda who had to vie

with fake sport wrestling for america’s attention.

yet when people sent emails saying, this was bound to happen, lets

not forget u.s. transgressions, for half a second i felt resentful.

hold up with that, cause i live here, these are my friends and fam,

and it could have been me in those buildings, and we’re not bad

people, do not support america’s bullying. can i just have a half

second to feel bad?

if i can find through this exhaust people who were left behind to

mourn and to resist mass murder, i might be alright.

thank you to the woman who saw me brinking my cool and blinking back

tears. she opened her arms before she asked “do you want a hug?” a

big white woman, and her embrace was the kind only people with the

warmth of flesh can offer. i wasn’t about to say no to any comfort.

“my brother’s in the navy,” i said. “and we’re arabs”. “wow, you

got double trouble.” word.

5. one more person ask me if i knew the hijackers.

one more motherfucker ask me what navy my brother is in.

one more person assume no arabs or muslims were killed.

one more person assume they know me, or that i represent a people.

or that a people represent an evil. or that evil is as simple as a

flag and words on a page.

we did not vilify all white men when mcveigh bombed oklahoma.

america did not give out his family’s addresses or where he went to

church. or blame the bible or pat robertson.

and when the networks air footage of palestinians dancing in the

street, there is no apology that these images are over a decade old.

that hungry children are bribed with sweets that turn their teeth

brown. that correspondents edit images. that archives are there to

facilitate lazy and inaccurate journalism.

and when we talk about holy books and hooded men and death, why do we

never mention the kkk?

if there are any people on earth who understand how new york is

feeling right now, they are in the west bank and the gaza strip.

6. today it is ten days. last night bush waged war on a man once

openly funded by the

cia. i do not know who is responsible. read too many books, know

too many people to believe what i am told. i don’t give a fuck about

bin laden. his vision of the world does not include me or those i

love. and petittions have been going around for years trying to get

the u.s. sponsored taliban out of power. shit is complicated, and i

don’t know what to think.

but i know for sure who will pay.

in the world, it will be women, mostly colored and poor. women will

have to bury children, and support themselves through grief. “either

you are with us, or with the terrorists” – meaning keep your people

under control and your resistance censored. meaning we got the loot

and the nukes.

in america, it will be those amongst us who refuse blanket attacks on

the shivering. those of us who work toward social justice, in

support of civil liberties, in opposition to hateful foreign


i have never felt less american and more new yorker – particularly

brooklyn, than these past days. the stars and stripes on all these

cars and apartment windows represent the dead as citizens first – not

family members, not lovers.

i feel like my skin is real thin, and that my eyes are only going to

get darker. the future holds little light.

my baby brother is a man now, and on alert, and praying five times a

day that the orders he will take in a few days time are righteous and

will not weigh his soul down from the afterlife he deserves.

both my brothers – my heart stops when i try to pray – not a beat to

disturb my fear. one a rock god, the other a sergeant, and both

palestinian, practicing muslim, gentle men. both born in brooklyn

and their faces are of the archetypal arab man, all eyelashes and

nose and beautiful color and stubborn hair.

what will their lives be like now?

over there is over here.

7. all day, across the river, the smell of burning rubber and limbs

floats through. the sirens have stopped now. the advertisers are

back on the air. the rescue workers are traumatized. the skyline is

brought back to human size. no longer taunting the gods with its


i have not cried at all while writing this. i cried when i saw those

buildings collapse on themselves like a broken heart. i have never

owned pain that needs to spread like that. and i cry daily that my

brothers return to our mother safe and whole.

there is no poetry in this. there are causes and effects. there are

symbols and ideologies. mad conspiracy here, and information we will

never know. there is death here, and there are promises of more.

there is life here. anyone reading this is breathing, maybe hurting,

but breathing for sure. and if there is any light to come, it will

shine from the eyes of those who look for peace and justice after the

rubble and rhetoric are cleared and the phoenix has risen.

affirm life.

affirm life.

we got to carry each other now.

you are either with life, or against it.

affirm life.

suheir hammad


We who believe in freedom cannot rest until its won. Ella Baker

Native American Wisdom, 10/29/01

Here is a short bit of Native American wisdom. This message was sent to a friend in Maryland by Bill Rodefer, a Disciples minister from Indianapolis.

Some ElderSpeak:

A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt about a tragedy.

He said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving,

compassionate one.”

The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?”

The grandfather answered, “The one I feed.”

Resources and Web Links

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