Fellowship of Reconciliation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR or FOR) is the name used by a number of religious nonviolent organizations, particularly in English-speaking countries. They are linked by affiliation to the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR).

In the United Kingdom, the acronym "FoR" is normally typeset with a lower-case "o", and an E added for England (FoRE); elsewhere, it is usually typeset in all capital letters, as "FOR", such as in "IFOR".

Religious Peace Fellowships[edit]

Since 1935, FOR has helped form, launch, and strengthen peace fellowships of many faith traditions to form a network of faith-based nonviolent action. Membership of these peace fellowships has changed and grown over the past decades; what follows are fellowships that are currently affiliated with FOR:

The FoR in the United Kingdom[edit]

The first body to use the name "Fellowship of Reconciliation" was formed as a result of a pact made in August 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War by two Christians, Henry Hodgkin (an English Quaker) and Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze (a German Lutheran), who were participating in a Christian pacifist conference in Konstanz in southern Germany. On the platform of the railway station at Cologne, they pledged to each other that, "We are one in Christ and can never be at war." To take that pledge forward, Hodgkin organised in 1915 a conference in Cambridge at which over a hundred Christians of all denominations agreed to found the FoR. They set out the principles that had led them to do so in a statement which became known as "The Basis".[1] It states:

  • That love as revealed and interpreted in the life and death of Jesus Christ, involves more than we have yet seen, that is the only power by which evil can be overcome and the only sufficient basis of human society.
  • That, in order to establish a world-order based on Love, it is incumbent upon those who believe in this principle to accept it fully, both for themselves and in relation to others and to take the risks involved in doing so in a world which does not yet accept it.
  • That therefore, as Christians, we are forbidden to wage war, and that our loyalty to our country, to humanity, to the Church Universal, and to Jesus Christ our Lord and Master, calls us instead to a life-service for the enthronement of Love in personal, commercial and national life.
  • That the Power, Wisdom and Love of God stretch far beyond the limits of our present experience, and that He is ever waiting to break forth into human life in new and larger ways.
  • That since God manifests Himself in the world through men and women, we offer ourselves to His redemptive purpose to be used by Him in whatever way He may reveal to us.

Because the membership of the FoR included many members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), who reject any form of written creed, it has always been stressed that the Basis is a statement of general agreement rather than a fixed form of words. Nonetheless the Basis has been an important point of reference for many Christian pacifists.

The FoR had a prominent role in acting as a support network for Christian pacifists during the war and supporting them in the difficult choice to become conscientious objectors - and in taking its consequences, which in many cases included imprisonment. In the interwar years it grew to be an influential body in United Kingdom Christianity, with federated associations in all the main denominations (the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, the Methodist Peace Fellowship, the Baptist Peace Fellowship, etc.) as well as a strong membership among the Society of Friends (Quakers). At one time the Methodist Peace Fellowship claimed a quarter of all Methodist ministers among its members.

The FoR was active in the anti-war movement of the 1930s, and provided considerable practical support for active pacifism during and after the Spanish Civil War. It could be argued that it lost influence when the Second World War came, was won, and was widely perceived as morally justified, especially as the horrors of Nazism became known in the post-war period. Equally, it could be argued that the questionable morality of the Cold War threat of mutually assured nuclear destruction again vindicated the FoR philosophy. The FoR retained considerable strength in post-second world war British Christianity, and many of its members were active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1950s and 1960s. Prominent members included Donald Soper, a high profile President of the Methodist Conference of the period and later a member of the House of Lords. With the continuing decline of Christianity in Britain, the FoR has lost influence, although active Christians in the UK are now probably further to the left politically, on average, than they were in the 1930s or 1950s.

FoRE remains active: Norman Kember, the British peace activist kidnapped in Iraq in December 2005 was a member of the Baptist Peace Fellowship and a Trustee of the FoRE. There are Roman Catholic members of FoRE, and although most Catholic pacifists affiliate instead to the specifically Catholic peace organisation, Pax Christi, FoRE and Pax Christi work closely together. Although many members have universalist sympathies and are happy to co-operate with pacifists of other faiths or none, the FoR in England has remained a distinctively Christian organization. However, with a number of Hindu, Buddhist and other supporters, members, and staff, there is a degree of flux here as well.

Currently, there are separate FoR organizations in England, Scotland and Wales.

The FOR in the United States[edit]

United States Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR USA) was founded in 1915 by sixty-eight pacifists, including A. J. Muste, Jane Addams and Bishop Paul Jones, and claims to be the "largest, oldest interfaith peace and justice organization in the United States."[2] Norman Thomas, at first skeptical of its program, joined in 1916 and would become the group's president. Its programs and projects involve domestic as well as international issues, and generally emphasize nonviolent alternatives to conflict and the rights of conscience. Unlike the UK movements, it is an interfaith body, though its historic roots are in Christianity.

FOR in the USA was formed initially in opposition to the entry of the United States into World War I. The American Civil Liberties Union developed out of FOR's conscientious objectors program and the Emergency Committee for Civil Liberties.

In 1918, FOR and the American Federation of Labor formed Brookwood Labor College, which lasted until 1937. Also in January 1918, FOR began publication of The World Tomorrow, with Norman Thomas as its first editor.

National Secretary Paul Jones wrote in 1921 that the Fellowship of Reconciliation was established as one vehicle to aid in the application of Christian principles to "every problem of life."[3] In addition to the impossibility of harmonizing war with "the way of Christ," Jones stated that members of the organization had come to believe in the parallel necessity of a "reorganization of Society as will establish it on a Christian basis, so that no individual may be exploited for the profit or pleasure of another."[3] Rather than the FOR itself serving as the primary fulcrum for this activity, "in general the members of the Fellowship endeavor to work out their aims through existing organizations and discussion," Jones noted.[3]

John Nevin Sayre was active in FOR between 1924 and 1967, and was its chairman from 1935 to 1940.

From 1935 onwards, the US branch of FOR published a magazine, Fellowship. Fellowship's contributors included Mohandas Gandhi, Vera Brittain, Norman Thomas, Oswald Garrison Villard, E. Stanley Jones, Walter P. Reuther and Muriel Lester.[4]

In 1947, FOR and the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, which had been founded by FOR staffers James Farmer and George Houser along with Bernice Fisher, sponsored the Journey of Reconciliation, the first Freedom Ride against southern segregation in the wake of the Supreme Court's 1946 Irene Morgan decision.

In 1954, China was facing famine and the United States was enjoying surplus harvests, so the FOR organized the Surplus Food for China campaign to convince the government to send food to the Chinese.

In 1955 and 1956, Glenn E. Smiley, a white Methodist minister, was assigned by the FOR to assist the Rev. Martin Luther King in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The two, sitting behind the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, were seatmates on the first interracial bus ride in Montgomery.

In the 1960s, FOR launched "Shelters for the Shelterless," and built real shelters for homeless people, in response to increasing public demand for fallout shelters. FOR members such as Alfred Hassler made contact with the Vietnamese Buddhist pacifist movement and sponsored a world tour by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. [5]

In the 1970s, FOR founded Dai Dong, a transnational project linking war, environmental problems, poverty and other social issues, involving thousands of scientists around the world. They sought to reverse the Cold War and the arms race with campaigns, marches, educational projects and civil disobedience, and opposed the death penalty in a concerted campaign with ACLU.

In the 1980s, FOR took the lead in initiating the Nuclear Freeze Campaign in cooperation with other groups. They initiated a US-USSR reconciliation program, which included people-to-people exchanges, artistic and educational resources, teach-ins and conferences. They led nonviolence training seminars in the Philippines prior to the nonviolent overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship.

In the 1990s, the organization sent delegations of religious leaders and peace activists to Iraq to try to prevent war and later, to see the massive devastation caused by the economic sanctions imposed upon Iraq. They initiated a "Start the Healing" campaign in response to escalating levels of gun violence in the United States, and FOR is an organizational and founding member of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which advocates gun control. FOR initiated the "Bosnian Student Project," which brought students from the former Yugoslavia out of war zones and into US homes and schools, and later started the International Reconciliation Work Camp Project. They also worked to get the US military to withdraw from Panama.

FOR has most recently been active in advocating for the demilitarization of US foreign policy. It works to counter military recruitment of young people in the United States — through FOR's "I Will Not Kill" campaign, and in partnership with the Ruckus Society, the War Resisters League, and others in the Not Your Soldier project.

Particular areas of geographic focus have been the Middle East — especially Israel/Palestine and Iran — and Latin America and the Caribbean — especially Colombia and Puerto Rico. In the Middle East, FOR's Interfaith Peace-Builders program (now independent) builds relationships between Israeli, Palestinian, and North American peace activists. Founded in 2005, its Iran program has drawn on FOR's legacy of sending delegations to nations that are labeled as enemies by the US government, and is working to prevent war and create peace-centered connections between ordinary citizens of both countries. In the Americas, FOR has a permanent five-person Colombia peace team of volunteers who provide human rights accompaniment to endangered civilians and support locally organized peace initiatives. FOR was also instrumental in the movement to pressure the US Navy to stop using Vieques as a bomb testing ground.

Fellowship Europe[edit]

The Fellowship also has a European branch. In the post-World War Two period, the secretary of the European FOR was Pastor André Trocmé, known for saving Jews during the Nazi occupation of France. [6]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "The Basis on the FoR (England) website". For.org.uk. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  2. ^ "Fellowship of Reconciliation - For a World of Peace, Justice and Nonviolence". Forusa.org. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  3. ^ a b c Paul Jones, "The Fellowship of Reconciliation," The World Tomorrow [New York], vol. 4, no. 10 (Oct. 1921), pg. 317.
  4. ^ Advertisement for "Fellowship", in Politics magazine, March 1947 (p.46).
  5. ^ Mary Hershberger, Traveling to Vietnam: American Peace Activists and the War. Syracuse University Press, 1998 ISBN 081560517X, (p.21, 157)
  6. ^ Thomas W. Currie, Searching for Truth: Confessing Christ in an Uncertain World. Westminster John Knox Press, 2001 ISBN 0664501397 (p.99 ).

Further reading[edit]

  • Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • Nicholson Baker, Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008)
  • Vera Brittain, The Rebel Passion: A Short Biography of Some Pioneer Peacemakers (Nyack, New York: Fellowship Publishers, 1964)
  • Derek Charles Catsam, Freedom’s Main Line: The Journey of Reconciliation and the Freedom Rides (Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press, 2009)
  • Paul R. Dekar, Creating the Beloved Community: A Journey with the Fellowship of Reconciliation (Telford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House, 2005)
  • Joseph "Kip" Kosek, Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010)
  • Murray Polner and Stefan Merken, eds. Peace, Justice and Jews: Reclaiming our Tradition (New York: Bunim & Bannigan, 2007)
  • Louisa Thomas, Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family – A Test of Will and Faith in World War I (New York: Penguin Press, 2011)
  • Walter Wink, ed. Peace is the Way: Writings on Nonviolence from the Fellowship of Reconciliation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000)

External links[edit]