No. 215 June 1999




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European Peace Agency

Never Again? - the Hague Appeal for Peace

Report from Young Persons Study Tour 1999

Religions - Do they help or hinder in conflict?

Notes from Quaker House


Prospecting for Peace - a European Peace Agency

David Gee presents an introduction to the project we see as the most important initiative QCEA has ever taken.

We do not understand war and we never will. Even if we are not directly involved, it demands understanding we struggle to find but cannot. To this end, we produce anguish and outrage and sadness and love and bitterness and anger. In our minds we seek explanations, we look for causes, separate right from wrong, measure peace against justice. No-one has ever won a war. Like money and like power, war is too big to understand, too big to control - and like these it conspires against us, not with us. We see in Yugoslavia now that the initiators of the war on all sides are too weak to stop what they have started. Their tool has become their master.

Many say there have always been wars and there always will be - they are a function of history whose source is human nature itself. But we can remind ourselves of our anguish at times of war, and the love which gives rise to that. Of our struggling to understand, perhaps anguish is our most powerful testament to a love of peace. With this in our hearts, we deny war its legitimacy and challenge its inevitability. If we are prone to war, then we are also prone to peace, and must ask whether it is possible to prevent the unleashing of what we cannot control.

The idea of an Agency

Peace does not seem to be about solutions, but process. For QCEA, part of our involvement in this process is a proposal for a European Peace Agency. Readers of Around Europe will know of this from previous issues. The assumption which underpins the proposal is that it is sometimes, if not always, possible to prevent violent conflicts, and even to resolve them, peacefully. The inspiration is anguish, not outrage, and the aim is to help prevent war.

We need to question whether coercive diplomacy, the threat and use of military force, political and economic sanctions, and partisan support for one side in times of violent conflict, are the full range of measures political institutions like the EU can take. And we need to be able to present and promote viable alternatives, peaceful in every way, which come from an understanding of conflict rather than a condemnation of it, and tackle its root causes at the social and individual level. To do this seriously, we need to ask what works and what does not, what lends itself to human dignity and what abuses it, what helps others and what amounts to interfering.

The European Union

In Around Europe 212, we described the changes we are witnessing in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. In particular, we see the prospect of a militarising EU as a narrow foundation for European security. However, we also see increased EU competence in foreign affairs as a potentially positive development if it means building good relationships with other countries, and helping other societies move away from the dangers of war. We would like the EU to see conflict prevention in terms of committing its resources to democratisation, civil society, human rights, cross-cultural learning and reconciliation, creating access to the resources people need to live, and the many other things that make for peace. Yet if peaceful early responses to conflict are not taken seriously now, the dependence on military capabilities to support foreign policy objectives could crystallise and become a fait accompli.

Other partners

There are many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and research institutions concerned with practical, non-violent measures to prevent violent conflicts. An imaginative, and therefore flexible, foreign policy would incorporate the resources and experience of these NGOs, which are earnestly seeking partnerships of this kind.

The Peace Agency would help bring NGOs and policy planners together to help them build both ad hoc and long-term relationships. It would channel voices from conflict areas who would not have ready access to communication at the EU level. It would make the various capabilities of the EU and peacemaking NGOs mutually known. It would also display the long-term benefits of serious peaceful solutions for political and social problems to decision-makers, the media and the public where possible. We are describing the Peace Agency as an ‘EU/NGO interface’. It would not monitor conflicts or undertake its own advocacy work. We think this interfacing role could be performed by two or three full-time programme staff.

And now...

So far QCEA has developed the proposal in consultation with key NGOs and with EU personnel over its desirability and feasibility. Many of these have contributed their thoughts and others are upholding the idea. In the political world, however, new organisations are often seen as a threat, as each competes for funding and influence. We do not want to undermine other initiatives, and implementation of our proposal will depend on a can-do and want-to-do philosophy on the part of NGOs. It will also depend on an openness on the part of the EU to embrace dialogue and partnerships with NGOs in the field of foreign policy planning.

Not all the hurdles have yet been overcome. But we believe we have now enough support for our work to engage the direct involvement of those organisations the Peace Agency would serve, so that they can join QCEA to oversee and develop the proposal from here. We see this involvement of others as the sine qua non for its success.

Ultimately however, the success of the EU’s role in making peace through foreign policy will depend on much more than a successful European Peace Agency. In a loveless world, there could be no desire for peace, and in a world without imagination, we could not create it. Dare we say ‘never again’ to war - again? We have to, but we need to access and engage the love and imagination among our decision-makers to fulfil their role as serious peacemakers, helping to avert war and to build sustainable and just peace. Unless we can do this, history will repeat itself yet again.


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The European Peace Agency proposal document is at



Never again?

In Around Europe 214 we previewed the Hague Appeal for Peace, a conference which ran from 11 to 15 May. Its stated purpose was to remind the world that the United Nations was founded to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Richard Seebohm and David Gee have returned, exalted but weary, and Richard tries to recapture the experience.

We thought there would be over 3,000 people there. In fact there were nearly 10,000. About 50 Quakers assembled on the first day and as many worshipped at The Hague Meeting House on the second evening. There were masses of Americans, glad to escape the militarism of their domestic media. There were Japanese, reminding us that 54 years after Hiroshima nuclear testing still goes on. The children of Sudan pleaded for peace. The Sarajevo Drum Orchestra showed that there can be exuberance after trauma. There were several thousand children’s footprints traced on paper leading us around, and the word PEACE on a panel in many languages and scripts.

The programme

Not many of us got in to the plenary sessions - the biggest hall would only hold 2,100 - but there were screens for the overflow and at least 30 other halls held audiences for the succession of one and a half hour sessions with titles such as The role of the media in conflict... If women ruled the world... Civil-military relations... Peace in Korea... Lessons from Belgium regarding the co-existence of plural communities...

Some 600 display booths promoted a kaleidoscope of causes and resources - I was delighted by the clarity of books for children by Peace Child International, such as a history of the United Nations and a commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


What QCEA did was to make a formal presentation of the European Peace Agency proposal to the assembled conflict resolution specialists at the European Platform on Conflict Prevention and Transformation. We also said our piece in a workshop, whose planning we had led, on the use of trained civilian peace professionals. Some 90 people heard us in a room with seats for 80. All I will quote from the event is someone from Balkan Peace Teams, who said that their three people in Kosovo could achieve relatively little but this was a lot more than could have been done by sending in three soldiers. One of many contacts we made was with an official of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) which may now be more open to dialogue than it once was.

The Balkans

A highlight for me was the analysis of Kosovo and its region by Johan Galtung and Jan Oberg, two well-seasoned peace thinkers. Above all, they said, we must avoid the temptation to fragment and segment the issues. Everyone has the right to have their suffering and loss acknowledged. Never isolate anyone you are going to have to deal with - Serbia should not have been expelled from international bodies. It is no use adopting the concept of ‘good guys and bad guys’. Many political and ethnic groups have interactions - not just Serbs and Albanians - and they must all be brought into balance. For example, there may be divisive issues needing mediation between Albanian Muslims and Bosnian Muslims.

I will end with two symbolic scenes. On the first evening the International Action Network on Small Arms, of which QCEA is a member, marked its public launch with a bonfire of weapons in the middle of The Hague. And on the Friday morning I arrived very early to find that the only sign of life was eight Buddhist monks on a dais chanting and drumming - ah, ah, ah, or, or, or, BOING; ah, ah, ah, or, or, or, BOING...


Young Persons’ Study Tour

The Young Persons’ Study Tour to Brussels takes place each year as a joint venture between QCEA and the Quaker schools in York, and is advertised through the Friend and other publications to young Quakers around Europe.

At the beginning of the trip there was a certain divide between the friendship groups. However, by the end of the week progress had been made towards overcoming this tension. Tension did not make an appearance at the talks we received from European institutions based in Brussels, which included the Commission, the Parliament and the Council of Ministers. We were very privileged to be admitted into these, as some do not generally accept groups of under 18 year-olds, and it was due to the reputation of the trip that we gained admittance.

The trip provided a clear insight into how the European Parliament is run and stressed the importance of public knowledge of this Parliament to ensure that it moves towards the appropriate goals. One of the most worthwhile lectures was given at SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters for the Allied Powers in Europe), where NATO officers could speak to us ‘off the record’. This was given at a personal level, and the representatives proved responsive to Quaker values. The personal level was the central pillar of the trip, which also included a Dane who spoke to us about the European Commission and Danish bacon.

This trip would strongly appeal to anyone considering a career in any aspect of the European Union or who is interested generally in politics.

Mat Paskins and Justine Williams


Do religions help or hinder?

Whether religions are a help or a hindrance in resolving conflict was the theme of a conference organised by the Wyndham Place Trust in April. Martin Bell MP instantly caught our attention by asserting that churches and mosques had been selected as targets in Balkan cities like Mostar and Vukovar. He recalled how in 1993 some religious leaders whipped up religious hatred and intolerance in the former Yugoslavia. Religion in the Balkans had little positive to offer except comfort after disaster.


Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, said that if we, true believers, remain passive, religious symbols will be used in a malignant way. Too many people are attracted to peacemaking. The Anglican Church itself, however, is an old experiment in conflict resolution. Dialogue between Muslims and Christians is important to prevent mutual demonisation and bigotry. The Anglican Church is setting up ‘centres for listening’ to facilitate contact between Muslims and Christians. As some issues cannot be resolved by endless chatting, therefore project work like that of the Catholic social organisation San Egidio may be a better way forward.

The Jewish faith

Rabbi Jonathan Gorsky, a historian specialising in Jewish studies, is the Education Director of the Jewish Cultural Centre in Northwest London, and Education Adviser to the Council of Christians and Jews. For the purpose of this conference, he asked, ‘what do we mean by religion, does it relate to the academic or to the street; to the very pious or the very liberal?’

Community is one key to understanding religion. Religion is part of culture, so we respond when it is threatened. Our personal political situation determines our religious approach. Community, as carrier of truth, creates outsiders, which is obvious in Israel, Northern Ireland and the Balkans. The power of ethnicity plus nationalism overwhelms the boundaries of religion. Even what is thought to be a ‘just war’ or a ‘good’ conflict shreds the moral fibre of the fighters and of the societies in which it happens, as shown in the biblical books of Joshua and Judges. There is a need for a critical selection of truly religious scriptures to be passed on to the next generation, distinct from the historical battlefield accounts that now form part of most religious education.


Farhan Nizami of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies also stressed the importance of community, since believing is belonging and belonging has a material component: territory. Hence the sanctity of territory, often felt to be God-given. One cannot invest trust in the creator and not in his creatures. We should be careful not to equate God-given rights with human rights.

A Buddhist view

Sulak Sivaraksha, a Thai Buddhist and co-founder of the Network of Socially Engaged Buddhists started with a criticism of the Huntington book ‘The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order’. By and large, religious establishments go along with governments and transnational corporations, especially in the West. Be they Buddhist, Christian or Muslim, people are being brainwashed into believing that globalisation is needed. Consumerism is the religion of our time and directly responsible for violence, the root causes of which are greed, hatred and delusion. If religious leaders are unaware of this structural violence, which is controlled by the transnationals and the media, they are co-responsible for violent conflicts everywhere. Religious leaders, therefore, should pray and meditate more and seriously question the present social structure and international economic order.


Barney Leith, Secretary of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the UK, challenged all of us, of whatever nation, religion, or ethnic origin, to lay the foundations of a global society reflecting the oneness of human nature. He reminded us of the three ‘V’s’:

- Vision: The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.

- Virtue: Trustworthiness is the greatest portal leading towards tranquillity and security of people.

- Values: So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.

As most of the speakers were religionists one might have expected the tone to be optimistic, but it was unfortunate that nobody picked up on the dark side in religion such as the absoluteness of its demands, which brook no compromise, and its tendency to personify evil.

A key aspect of the churches’ role should lie in early sensitivity to the risk of violent conflict and its prevention. A relevant project commended to us was the rebuilding of mosques by parties of young people from Christian and other faith communities, supported by the YMCA and Quaker Youth and Service.

Religious leaders and institutions have a long-standing and pervasive presence on the ground and a well-developed infrastructure, with communications networks at the local, national and international level. They are well-placed to play a positive role in promoting mutual respect and understanding between cultures and religions. This may be their most important contribution to civilization in decades to come.


Anita Wuyts, Edward Haasl, David Gee



Notes from Quaker House

The European Peace Agency proposal document is on QCEA’s web site at

Click here for a briefing paper on the European elections issued by the European Ecumenical Commission for Church and Society, to which QCEA contributed.

Also on the web site are the two Short Reports recently issued by QCEA. They are:

99/1 - Conscientious Objection to Military Service: Developments in 1998

99/2 - Renegotiation of the Lomé Convention.

QCEA’s 1998 Annual Report will shortly appear on the web, but in the mean time we can send you this and all the documents just mentioned if you fax (+32 2 230 6370) or email or write to the address on our home page.