Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Epistle – 2020

Kia ora!

This morning I participated in the a virtual Meeting for Worship held by Friends of the Palmerston North Worship Group. While I appreciate that sitting in front of a screen displaying the faces of twelve individuals in ten frames, all sitting in silence for around 45 minutes may, for some, feel similar to watching wet paint dry, I find the whole experience uplifting. Perhaps not quite as uplifting as sitting in silence for an hour in the Friends Meeting house, but nevertheless, very fulfilling.

One of the “benefits” of the current pandemic has been the noticeable reduction in greenhouse emissions worldwide, and during reflection at this morning’s Meeting for Worship, I was reminded that the current circumstances are in fact a “warning” (sorry Nan, but not so much from God, but rather to humanity) that we have been very poor guardians of this planet.

In this country the private motorcar is so ubiquitous that our public transport is underdeveloped, and will remain so unless it becomes more publicly funded and/or many of us consent to forego private transport. Giving up owning and using even a subcompact car is something I have been considering, but I confess that the convenience of having it on tap, so to speak, makes me reluctant to take that leap. In these times, I can’t help thinking that public transport and public health are not fully compatible.

During this morning’s Meeting for Worship, the Epistle of the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand was read. I reproduce it below with the parts that spoke most strongly to me personally being highlighted. It’s also accessible from the Quakers Aotearoa New Zealand Epistles Web page.

Epistle of the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand – Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri 2020

To Friends everywhere

Greetings in love and peace from Friends of the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand. Because of restrictions during the current pandemic we were, sadly, unable to gather face to face this year. Limited by COVID19 restrictions to our homes, we have met online in our Monthly Meetings to consider our business, and have sought to find unity in responses. We also met online for a time of worship on what would have been the opening evening of Yearly Meeting. In these extraordinary times we send you this epistle, to reflect how the Spirit has been moving among us over the last year and at this time.

For us, for our country, and for the world, it has been a time of change, fear and loss. We feel particularly for all those who mourn, and those who suffer from the direct effects of the pandemic and from the impact of the various measures taken to control it. Many of those who are worst affected, often losing their livelihood, are those who were already suffering from the inequality of political and economic systems, globally and nationally, and from the impact of climate change. This is true of Friends in many places. Can we learn from the disruption we have experienced, and take the opportunity for all of society to rethink how we care for others and the earth? How can we, as Friends, offer witness and service to build a better future?

Peace, in its widest sense, is a calling for all Friends. We know we can do more, but are grateful that our Quaker Peace and Service Aotearoa New Zealand Committee contributes to what is being done with Quaker involvement here and in many other countries. Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and individual Friends engage in their own actions and donations. At a season when our nation remembers the death and suffering caused in war, we renew our stand against war’s cruelty and destructiveness.

Faithful continuity of worship is at the heart of our life. We are glad to see the development of newer Worship Groups, and some growth of numbers in others. National and local learning events sow seeds of spiritual growth, as do the various ways in which Friends prepare their own hearts and minds and enrich their spiritual life. Children’s Meetings have been growing in number, and we seek to develop them and enhance their life. A new Quaker website has been developed through skilled, perceptive and demanding work, to reach out to the public, and to connect us in unity. We give thanks for all forms of service, visible and invisible. “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord” (I Corinthians 12.4).

The many faiths in this country are finding greater unity and understanding since the murderous shootings inflicted a year ago on worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch. Friends responded by reaching out to local Muslim communities, taking part in vigils, and offering other support. Locally we are linking with various ethnic and faith groups, and becoming involved in interfaith and cultural activities, hoping to explore and put aside our (often unconscious) prejudices.

Young people and children have inspired our country in their work and heartfelt advocacy for effective response to the climate emergency; many of our young ones are involved. Yearly Meeting, its committees and Meetings, are donating to some of this work. Our response as a body is imperfect; we are moving to vegetarian food at events, have reduced air travel, have taken action locally, and have made representations to Government and public bodies, including on how militarism damages the climate. The Quaker Settlement at Whanganui applies principles of sustainability and permaculture to its land and gardens. But, like the questioner of Jesus, we still ask, “What do I lack?” (Matthew 19.20). Profound consideration continues of what we are called to do. We are reminded that all action on this concern requires a positive regard for all, and a stand for truth and integrity.

Dear Friends, we pray that in these difficult times you may be protected and guided, and may live faithfully in mutual love. We recall the words sent by Philadelphia Friends in 1683 across the Atlantic to Britain: “And though the Lord has been pleased to remove us far away from you, as to the other end of the earth, yet are we present with you, your exercises are ours; our hearts are dissolved in the remembrance of you, dear brethren and sisters in this heavenly love.” (Christian Faith and Practice 677, London (now Britain) Yearly Meeting, 1959)

In love and peace,

Lesley Young
Clerk

What I have observed in recent times is that the current pandemic and the mosque shootings in Christchurch just over a year ago have brought communities of all faiths, and non-faiths closer together than ever, especially when it comes to cooperation.

Perhaps this has been demonstrated most clearly by opinion polls and Friday’s ousting of Simon Bridges, the leader of the opposition National Party and the largest party in the Parliament, for what was seen as opposition for opposition’s sake rather than constructive criticism. I intend to write more on this subject in another post (with an emphasis on intend – it’s not a promise).


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Contrasting styles

The leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand and the United States of America have radically different styles and perspectives. I’m quite confident that a majority of Kiwis hold similar values to those expressed by our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Can the same be said of Americans regarding the values expressed by Donald Trump?

Below is a clip taken from parts of the UN speeches of the two leaders. For those who find the Kiwi Accent difficult, I have included a transcription below the video clip.

JA: If I could distill it down into one concept that we are pursuing in New Zealand, it is simple and it is this: kindness.

DT: America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.

JA: In the face of isolationism, protectionism, racism, the simple concept of looking outwardly and beyond ourselves, of kindness and collectivism might just be as good a starting point as any. So let’s start here with the institutions that have served us well in times of need and will do so again.

DT: We withdrew from the human rights council and we will not return until real reform is enacted. For similar reasons, the United States will provide no support and recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy and no authority.

JA: New Zealand remains committed to continue to do our part to building and sustaining international peace and security, to promoting and defending an open, inclusive and rules-based international order based on universal values, to being pragmatic, empathetic, strong and kind.

DT: The United States is the world’s largest giver in the world, by far, of foreign aid but few give anything to us.

JA: Tēnā koutou. Tēnā koutou. Tēnā koutou katoa.
[Salutations to you all.]

DT: Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the nations of the world. Thank you very much.


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The Rainbow Warrior (almost) 30 years on

On the 10th of July 1985 a friendly nation committed an act of terrorism on New Zealand territory. No allies or friendly counties criticised France for the sinking of the Rainbow warrior in Auckland Harbour and the killing of a crew member. Even the United Kingdom sat on its hands as France forced an economic blockade on NZ products into Europe in an effort to gain the release of the convicted terrorists. New Zealand had no option but to capitulate or face economic disaster.

Was it any wonder that less than two years later, 92% of the population supported the anti-nuclear weapons legislation when it was enacted. Many non New Zealanders believe this country is Nuclear Free, It’s not. It’s nuclear weapons free.

The NZ herald has published an on-line feature article Rainbow Warrior – 30 years on that is worth a read if you are unfamiliar with the event.


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Lest we Forget: Quaker Peace Statement

peacepoppy-smallLest we Forget – Statement from the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand, Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri, May 2014

On the eve of commemorations of World War I, Quakers in Aotearoa New Zealand are concerned that history is not reinvented to glorify war.

We remember the loss of life, the destruction of the environment, the courage of soldiers, dissenters and conscientious objectors; we remember all those who still suffer the ongoing trauma of war.

We also note the increasing use of scarce resources for war. In Aotearoa New Zealand over ten million dollars a day is being spent to maintain our armed forces in a state of ‘combat readiness’ [Note].

We actively support alternative processes for resolving conflict and violence both within and between nations.

We reaffirm our words of 1987:

“We totally oppose all wars, all preparation for war, all use of weapons and coercion by force, and all military alliances; no end could ever justify such means.

We equally and actively oppose all that leads to violence among people and nations, and violence to other species and to our planet. This has been our testimony to the whole world for over three centuries.

The primary reason for this stand is our conviction that there is that of God in every one which makes each person too precious to damage or destroy.

Refusal to fight with weapons is not surrender. We are not passive when threatened by the greedy, the cruel, the tyrant, the unjust.

We may disagree with the views and actions of the politician or the soldier who opts for a military solution, but we still respect and cherish the person.

What we call for in this statement is a commitment to make the building of peace a priority and to make opposition to war absolute.

We challenge New Zealanders to stand up and be counted on what is no less than the affirmation of life and the destiny of humankind.”

(From Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand, Statement on Peace, 1987)

The full text of the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand 1987 Statement on Peace is available at http://quaker.org.nz/ym-peace-statement

[Note] ‘Some comparative facts and figures from the 2014 Budget’, Peace Movement Aotearoa, 16 May 2014, http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/gdams.htm


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What causes war?

While the reduction or removal of guns is not likely to see peace break out, it work certainly reduce significantly the harm caused by conflict.

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warThis is a question I’ve given plenty of thought to recently, in light of the centenary of World War I, the Syrian conflict and more recently the renewal of Israel-Palestine hostilities. I’ve been reading a lot of opinions on blogs and news sites.

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Remembering the Rainbow Warrior and the fallout

Rainbow WarriorIt is twenty nine years ago today that the French sank the Rainbow Warrior. The event was a trigger for me and many of my compatriots to reevaluate how we viewed NZ’s relationship with our so-called allies. For those who are unfamiliar with the Rainbow Warrior Affair, I suggest reading the Wikipedia article Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior.

I felt NZ had been betrayed twice. Firstly by France. That a supposedly friendly nation could condemn the sinking as an act of terrorism — when it was in reality guilty of the act itself — was quite appalling. The second betrayal was the refusal of our allies to condemn the sinking once it was discovered that France was the guilty party. Both the U.S. and U.K. made it quite clear that they were not not interested in the sinking, and it was a matter to be resolved between NZ and France.

Even after NZ jailed two of the DGSE agents and NZ was being crippled by France’s blockade of our produce to Europe — mainly the U.K. — neither of our major allies were prepared to comment. To rub salt into the wound, the U.K. bought produce from France without so much as a murmer. A great way to discover who your friends aren’t.

NZ has always had an antinuclear stance but the reaction of our so-called allies shifted our attitude even further against Nuclear weapons. When the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act was passed in 1987, it was supported by 92% of the population.

In the wake of the Rainbow Warrior sinking, the U.S. made the mistake of testing NZ’s antinuclear stance by requesting access to our ports for the USS Buchanan. The ship was capable of launching nuclear depth bombs, and it would have been political suicide for the government to have accepted the visit. How could Reagan have misread NZ’s attitude so soon after the sinking? His reaction to the refusal was certainly not the way to retain a friend.

So how did the the Reagan administration react? They scrapped the ANZUS treaty. We could live with that. Judging by the support NZ received over the Rainbow Warrior affair, it would be a mistake to expect the treaty to be honoured. What was insulting was that NZ envoys were denied access to the U.S. administration. While so-called enemies such as the USSR and China could access the U.S. administration, NZ could not. There were elements of the administration that wanted to punish NZ with trade sanctions: “How dare a little country stand up against us”. Is it any wonder that anti American sentiment rose many fold?

It has taken the U.S. twenty five years to get over their perceived insult by NZ. We are finally allowed to participate in multinational military exercises, and can take part in trade negotiations with the U.S. The American right still want to have trade liberalisation tied to the scrapping of our antinuclear legislation, but it seems that the Obama administration accepts that is not going to happen.

Will NZ and America ever return to the close relationship that existed before 1984? Somehow I doubt it. The fallout from the Rainbow Warrior Affair has seen a profound Change in how NZers see our place in the world. Is it for the better? I’m not sure. Only time will tell.

 


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Some attitudes make me angry

The RSA (Returned Services Association) is objecting to a memorial to WW1 consciousness objectors being erected on ANZAC Avenue “because the avenue is named after the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps and is there to commemorate those soldiers who fought in WW1”. Really? Surely ANZAC has come to include all those who fought or suffered in all wars.

Our conscious objectors during WW1 were treated abysmally. It’s a shameful blot on our history. In case you are not aware of their story, the following is a shortened version of what they went through.

Conscious objectors were shipped to the front line in France where they were beaten and starved. They would be bound hand and foot to stakes and placed in the line of enemy fire for up to four hours per day.

Lest we forget

Lest we forget

Another inhuman treatment was to restrain the objectors beside munitions stores if a store came under enemy bombardment. Could it be that they don’t want to be reminded that it was the ANZACs who were responsible for the treatment handed out to the objectors.

The memorial has been proposed by the Archibald Baxter Trust named after the most famous of the WW1 conscious objectors.  The purpose of a memorial is.to raise consciousness. What better place for the memorial than on ANZAC Parade.