Perhaps Quakers are best known for our peace testimony. This arises from our conviction that love is at the heart of existence, and that we must live in a way that reflects this essential truth. It has led Quakers to refuse military service, and to become involved in a wide range of peace activities from practical work in areas affected by violent conflict to the development of alternatives to violence at all levels from personal to international.
The first comprehensive statement of the Quaker peace testimony was presented in a letter to King Charles II in 1660. Although Quakers value and still quote this historic document, the peace testimony is a living thing. It grows out of our experience in Quaker worship and Quaker community. It is an expression of our experience of the transforming power of the divine.
This expression takes many forms. It shapes our approach to child-rearing and education, it fosters movements for prison reform, economic justice, non-violent conflict resolution, opposition to torture and the death penalty, advocacy for those who are oppressed and marginalized in our society. Some of this activity takes place in local meetings, and some on the national level. A few of the Quaker organizations working for peace and justice in North America are listed on our Find Out More page.
It is important to realize that individual Quakers can interpret the peace testimony very differently, and there are many different ways of expressing it. As with all the testimonies, the peace testimony is at heart an expression of individual inward experience, shared with others, but not dictated by any outside authority. It is based on a longing to carry the deep peace we experience in worship into the world, and bring our lives into harmony with it. The variety of possibilities this open up, and the challenges it poses, enrich us all.