Collection this Month: ICENI
Our collection is for Iceni: an Ipswich based group tackling drug dependence and abuse, particularly involved in the aftermath of the murder of five Ipswich prostitutes.
If you wish to donate but can’t attend at the Meeting House, please send a cheque to Rachel Bach made out to “Ipswich Quakers”. Please send this before the end of the month concerned.
This year passages from Quaker Faith and Practice will alternate monthly with short poems by the American poet Carl Sandburg.
QFP 2.68- In my young tempestuous days I heard many things in the Friends’ meeting that I disliked and some that seemed to me quite false, and I felt the need to answer them. I was taught, and I believe correctly, that to insist on answering there and then would be to destroy the meeting; and that we all sit under the baptising power of the spirit of Truth, which is its own witness. We sit in silence so as not to trip over words; and we trust the good in each other which is from God, so that we may be kept from the evil. (J. Ormerod Greenwood, 1980).
These will start promptly at 7pm in the library, with the film being shown without an interval and a short discussion afterwards. The film for February 24th is ‘Philomena’ an Oscar nominated film with the unlikely pairing of Judie Dench and Steve Coogan. It has both humour and pathos as a young mother sent to a convent as a ‘fallen woman’ searches for the son she gave up for adoption. It is also a study of the many facets of religious experience. Running time 107 minutes.
QQ Discussion Group
Talk on Being Muslim in Britain Today by Manwar Ali
Manwar is a small man with lovely brown smiling eyes and a long wispy beard which I had a great desire to trim.He spoke for a short time about the things that really mattered to him and have shaped him: Beauty, Humility, The true understanding of Sharia, Self-knowledge, and Doubt. This immediately drew us to him as a wise man. Then he insisted that Britain has been to him a very comfortable and forgiving country in which to be a foreigner of an alien faith. There have been few negatives and many positives.
He gave us a brief account of his life. As a young man, working for BT, had been cheerfully signed out by his boss from time to time as going off to do some Freedom Fighting, in Afghanistan and on other fronts. He was in fact a jihadist before the word signified terrorism, and extremism. He had been very narrow and passionate in his Islamic faith, but over a long time, perhaps 10 years, he had slowly come to realise that he was mistaken. He read a great deal, anything he could lay his hands, and studied the Koran in great depth. His main realisation, one that broadened his understanding, was that there are the words passed down by Mohammed, from Allah, which are sacred, and there are the commentaries. And the commentaries are not authentic. Thus his faith is in the original texts, which is neither extreme nor condemnatory. He now dedicates much of his time to working to dissuade young Muslims from becoming radicalised and pursuing jihad.
Manwar then mentioned some of the Muslim issues which we might want to discuss, including the extreme ideas of Sharia Law, Terrorism, Radicalisation, etc. This was just what we had hoped for, so we of course fell to asking questions, and a lively debate followed.
It was very gratifying to be able to talk quite openly with an intelligent, broad-minded and enlightened Muslim who spoke fine English, and was nonetheless a convinced believer. Unlike the academic Imams we have met at SIFRE and other places, Manwar could listen, connect and respond with dignity and wisdom. It was a pity you couldn’t be in two places at once!
Monthly Special Collections.
Thank you once again to all of you for contributing. It does not matter how much or little is given, as you can see it all adds up. I’m always amazed by the generosity of our small ‘congregation’!
September- Medical Aid for Palestine £98.10
October – Drone Wars UK £74.59
November -Quaker Christmas Shelter £88.01
December- Nepal Childrens Trust £91.50
Also a big thank you to Ipswich Meeting from Quaker Social Action for our donation of £100. They say:
‘We act on poverty but we never act alone. Thank you so much for £100 towards our work. Thanks to you eight families can buy affordable furniture at Homestore this month (December) instead of facing a Christmas without beds, tables and chairs.’
On Wednesday 5th October Andrea Needham gave a talk in the Meeting Room as part the the Quaker Quest series. Andrea was one of a group of 10 women who planned to disarm a Hawk warplane at a British Aerospace factory to stop it being used in Indonesia’s genocide in East Timor (one should know about this ghastly episode). Four of the 10, including Andrea Needham, volunteered to carry this out and were arrested, subsequently spending 6 months in jail awaiting their trial.
Their defence was that under the Criminal Law Act, 1967, one is allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to prevent crime and that what they were doing was reasonable because they, and hundreds of other people, had done everything else in their power previous to the action to stop the sale of the Hawks to Indonesia. They’d marched and demonstrated and petitioned and done direct action and written to their MPs and everything else they could think of, and nothing had worked.
And the planes were about to be delivered to Indonesia.
The jury, having heard all the evidence about East Timor, the Hawks, and what the Hawks were doing in East Timor, and the efforts to stop the delivery of the planes to Indonesia, found that the women’s action was indeed reasonable.
I had previously read Andrea’s book, The Hammerblow (they used hammers to damage various parts of the Hawk) which I found eminently readable and gripping – and I speak as one who is defeated by reading anything long, especially books. I was and am enormously impressed. How many of us, in pursuit of a moral aim, would undertake such a huge personal commitment and risk the indignities and stress of prison life?
And this was one of the topics under discussion when Andrea’s audience broke into small groups.
One would think she would either be a big strong person or perhaps a bit of an eccentric, but Andrea is slight, shy and unassuming. Her aim in life was as a nurse, which she became, and she had no idea how things would turn out.
She very gradually became drawn into the politics of justice when living in Washington, D.C., in the late 1980s, first at the Community for Creative Non-Violence, and then at Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. In Britain, she has campaigned on issues including war and sanctions on Iraq, the arms trade and climate change. Originally from Suffolk she lives in Hastings with her young daughter and currently works on campaigns against roadbuilding and biofuels.
The following extracts are taken from the early part of the book, during the period of almost a year before the action, and focus on decisions, discussions and surveillance:
‘The British government insisted that they were ‘engaging’ with Indonesia about East Timor but saw no reason to stop the Hawk deal. As for British Aerospace , the Hawk sales were worth £550m, (price over twenty years ago)and made a large contribution to overall profits, which after several bad years were finally rising. What possible reason could there be for them to reconsider the deal?
After several years of campaigning, it was becoming increasingly clear that the deal was unlikely to be stopped by conventional means. Perhaps it was time to consider more forceful action.’
‘The gathering ended with a circle in which everyone announced which weapon they’d like to disarm. Many people chose a Trident submarine, while others opted for nuclear -capable bombers or even landmines. Jo and I, however, were unequivocal: ‘An Indonesian Hawk,’ we both said. Lynn and Lotta were less certain of their choice of weapon, but when it came to their turns we exchanged smiles. For all four of us, the decision was clear:we were going to do it.’
‘One of the issues we discussed at some length that weekend, and at several subsequent meetings, was our fears. Many were common to most of us:fear of a long prison sentence(whether for disarming or for conspiracy), fears around the action itself, such as a violent reaction from security guards, fears about how our families would react.’
‘In the end, after much debate, we agreed that we could tell the broad details of the action to close friends and family more or less on a ‘need to know’ basis. We would keep the group informed of who we had talked to, and would stress to anyone who was told that this was not a topic for discussion with others.’
‘We seemed to have found the perfect observation point, with a full view of the hangar and a little protection from the cold wind in the form of a scrubby hedge. But within an hour the cows were upon us, completely obstructing the view. We moved much closer to the fence, where we were in quite an exposed spot, but we’d had no sign that British Aerospace was aware of our presence so it seemed safe enough.
We’d brought lots of food that first night, as well as a flask of soup and even a tiny bottle of whisky, which was perhaps a mistake since the point of the exercise was to stay awake and alert. Lying on our backs munching our sandwiches , we stared up at the stars and reflected on how beautiful the sky was when seen from the darkness of the countryside. My tummy comfortably full, I soon drifted off to sleep.
Unfortunately, Jo fell asleep too-we were both supposed to stay awake-and by the time I woke it was four o’clock and we’d slept through half the night….However, we’d learnt a lesson for subsequent visits , when we always took it in turns to watch and to sleep, thus ensuring that we missed nothing.’
Extracts from ‘The Hammer Blow’ by Andrea Needham, published 2016 by Peace News Press, 310 pages, paperback price £10. ISBN 978-0-946409-20-4. A copy may soon be in our Meeting House library.