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Quakers from around the world converged at Auckland in January for the Friends World Committee for Consultation. The theme was being faithful witnesses and serving God in a changing world.

They gathered for ten days in Auckland for the 21st triennial of Friends World Committee for Consultation which featured speakers Labour MP Marion Hobbs and Palestinian Quaker Jean Zaru.

Zaru, a keynote speaker, is described as living for over 30 years under occupation, and Ms Hobbs was the first speaker in a plenary session on witnessing to peace.

The World Quaker website says that about 175 representatives, appointed by the almost 70 affiliated yearly meetings and groups, meet together every three years at Triennials, “aiming to provide links between Friends as they seek to perceive God’s will more clearly, so that they may more effectively make their corporate witness.”

The Triennials aim to “act in a consultative capacity to promote better understanding among Friends the world over, particularly by the encouragement of joint conferences and inter-visitation, the collection and circulation of information about Quaker literature and other activities directed towards that end.”

Speakers included representatives from the United Kingdom, United States, Russia, Hong Kong, and Uganda. Sessions were interpreted from English, French and Spanish and focused on issues such as development and sustainability, refugees and asylum seekers, sexual orientation, genetic modification, peace-making in times of war, HIV and AIDS.

Clerk David Purnell said in his triennial epistle that long queues for meals gave delegates unexpected but valuable opportunities to exchange their wealth of differences.

“Our small worship and sharing groups increased our depth of knowledge of each other, as individuals and as members of diverse Friends’ meetings worldwide,” Purnell said as quoted in the online version of London-based Quaker publication The Friend.

Purnell admonished in his triennial epistle to bring forth true justice to all – “to the Palestinians but not at the expense of the Israelis, to women but not at the expense of men, to humanity but not at the expense of nature and Mother Earth. Rather, justice for all creatures and creation.”

Hobbs, a Quaker and in her second year as Minister of disarmament in New Zealand, was asked to speak on being a faithful witness to peace. In her speech, as relayed in the web version of The Friend, she said in bearing faithful witness to God, “I do focus at different levels – personal, community, nationwide and international.

“But the skills are often the same, focusing on goodness and on positives, reflecting and improving on what we do, learning how to resolve conflicts, stepping out into different communities to learn and to learn what is the shared rather than what is different, finding that little shared ground, seeking truth in the middle of conflict, clear communications and advocacy.

“We need to practice peace at a personal and at a community level. We choose our level of involvement. Sometimes involvement with our own immediate family precludes intense community involvement. But unless we practice peace maintenance at a personal and family level, we may not be able to maintain peace at the community level.”

[First published Challenge Weekly, 2004]

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