A guide to taking action to prevent British military action on the people of Syria

A Quaker guide a link to a PDF document with useful information and links to further information.
The debate looks planned for Wednesday 2nd December

Quakers Respond to Terrorism As Parliament prepares to debate next steps in Syria, Quakers in Britain have made this statement LINK

LINK to a thoughtful article "Confessions of a terrorist sympathiser


Quaker Peace & Social Witness November Mailing

Housing: Responding to social inequality and injustice

At Yearly Meeting 2015 we were reminded that the housing problem in Britain is not insoluble – although, as with the abolition of slavery, it may take some time (Qf&p 23.23).

As a continuation of the session at Yearly Meeting, a threshing meeting was held at Woodbrooke in September 2015 with the aim of helping Quakers in Britain strengthen individual action and to suggest how we can be more effective collectively in this area of social inequality and injustice.

The meeting began to identify alternative models and different strands which Friends might wish to work on. These are seen not  as isolated issues, but as interconnected and with many existing and potential links to activity already within BYM. Eight specific ideas are captured in the minute made by the group at the end of our weekend together.

The housing minute is available online [PDF: 89kb]. For further information contact Paula Harvey; paulah@quaker.org.uk / 020 7663 1036

Welfare reform

link to previous blog post 

Thank you to all those who responded to our recent action alert about the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. The Bill is currently at its 2nd reading in the House of Lords.

We are working with other faith groups to urge Peers/Members to support amendments that would remove or reduce the impact of clauses 11 and 12, which limit the support provided to families through tax credits and Universal Credit to the first two children.

When the Bill returns to the House of Commons there may be further opportunities to lobby your MP. Many Friends may have been disappointed by the initial response of their MP but please do not lose heart. This is a slow process but there is movement and raising your concerns is having an impact.

More information about what Quakers in Britain is doing about the Bill, as well as the joint briefing to the House of Lords, is available at http://old.quaker.org.uk/wrwb or from Ellie Roberts; ellier@quaker.org.uk / 020 7663 1056.

also of note 38 Degrees campaign is seeking funds to put posters up in Conservative MPs constituencies about tax credits link here

Climate justice through Paris

If you are wondering what you can do to uphold climate justice during the climate negotiations in Paris in December then visit http://old.quaker.org.uk/climate-justice for ideas and links to more detailed briefings, or contact Ellie Roberts; ellier@quaker.org.uk / 020 7663 1056.

You might want to:

Join the People’s March for Climate, Justice and Jobs, on 29 November in London (and 28 Nov in Cardiff and Edinburgh). Sign up for the march to let us know you are coming and to join a Quaker meet up point.

Tell the UK government to stop financing fossil fuels abroad. We have joined with Christian Aid, as part of their ‘Big Shift’ campaign, to tell Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, to make a public commitment to ending the government’s support for coal projects through export credit guarantees.

Come to Friends House on 14 December to hear Eileen Flanagan, US Quaker climate activist speak about the journey that led her to handcuff herself to the White House fence. More details about the talk on the event page.

To stay in touch with future climate justice activity, and what QPSW is doing on economic inequality too, make sure you sign up to the Earth and Economy mailing list. We email updates once a month, and circulate a full newsletter twice a year, with the latest edition just out!

***Freddie from Milford Haven/Haverfordwest intends going there for the last day.***

War and conscience

2016 marks the centenary of the introduction of conscription and the recognition of the right to conscientious objection in law. Speakers on ‘Objections to war: A Quaker approach’ are now available for meetings to book. To request a speaker for your meeting, please contact Helen Bradford; helenb@quaker.org.uk / 020 7663 1071.

Friends have long argued that it is the conscription of our money rather than our bodies which makes war possible today (Qf&p 24.19). We are continuing to support Conscience: taxes for peace not war in their work to introduce a ‘Taxes for Peace’ Bill into Parliament. More information is available at www.conscienceonline.org.uk

Be the change

QPSW has teamed up with Quaker Life to develop a new resource to support young Quakers to take action on Friends’ concerns. It’s called Be the Change.

To begin with, we have chosen three themes – ‘tackle inequality’, ‘create climate justice’ and ‘no nukes’ – each of which will be the focus of much Quaker activism in the coming year.

There are postcards for young Quaker activists to get started on the three campaigns and a webpage for each so that they can collaborate online – planning, sharing and publicising their activism together.

To request postcards for young people in your meeting email Cat Waithaka at catw@quaker.org.uk or 020 7663 2011. To get started, young Quakers should go to www.yqspace.org.uk/bethechange and create a ‘Causes’ account, which will allow them to share their activism online.

Peace education

The new Fly Kites Not Drones peace education pack is now available. Inspired by the internationally successful project from Afghan Peace Volunteers, it introduces children and young people to creative nonviolence in action.

In or out of school, the pack offers activities to learn about the impact of drones on human rights and on children in particular, inviting young people to come to their own critical understanding of the issue.

The resource pack is available from www.flykitesnotdrones.org  and hard copies are available from the Quaker Centre;  quakercentre@quaker.org.uk / 020 7663 1030.

Conflict resolution led by young people

Quakers were at the forefront of developing peer mediation in Britain. Recently, Quakers from Hammersmith Local Meeting supported a local school to train its first peer mediators. A team of Year 6 pupils are now on hand to help fellow pupils find win-win solutions to the conflicts that inevitably arise in school, just as they do in any part of life.

We are hoping to support more Quakers with a passion for peace education to take steps to support schools in their area to develop peer mediation. Contact Ellis Brooks; ellisb@quaker.org.uk  / 020 7663 1009 if someone in your meeting would be interested in joining other Quakers in a ‘train the trainer’ workshop to develop their skills as a peer mediation facilitator.

To stay in touch about future peace education activity, as well as what QPSW is doing around disarmament sign up to receive Educate & Disarm

QPSW peaceworkers

Each year QPSW recruits peaceworkers to support the work of peace organisations at local, national and international levels. This year our UK peaceworkers are Rhianna Louise, Zara Rizvi and Holly Wallis. Look out for their journal letters on our website in early December.

Rhianna Louise is placed with Medact in London, working on issues around revitalising the health for peace movement and the recruitment of children (under 18s) into the British armed forces.

Zara Rizvi is placed with Omega Research Foundation in Manchester. Her project is on the use of military, security and police equipment in committing human rights violations.

Holly Wallis is placed with Conscience: taxes for peace not war, to play a key role in their work to promote a Conscientious Objection to Military Taxation (COMT) Bill.



Fairtrade nuts

The Fairtrade folk sent out this video from Liberation Nuts [a company who sell Fairtrade nuts - I had some this week!]


urgent action on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill

An urgent action alert, from Quaker Peace & Social Witness, to ask you to contact your MP about the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, due to be debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday 27 October. Please also forward this others who are likely to be interested. 

Some MPs are still deciding whether or not to support the Bill so it's important that as many of them as possible hear your concerns. If you have already contacted your MP there are still things you can do.

The Welfare Reform and Work Bill forms a key part of the Government’s strategy to make a further £12 billion of cuts to our social security system. The welfare section of the Bill will hit some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and will have a particular effect on children, large families and people who are unable to work because of sickness or disability.
It is hoped that as many people as possible will be able to raise their concerns about the Bill. Please let Ellie Roberts know when you have emailed your MP and send us a copy of any reply you receive, by contacting ellier@quaker.org.uk. This will help QPSW to understand how MPs are responding to these concerns and help them plan further action around this Bill.

What can I do?
Please send a quick email to your MP, highlighting some of our concerns and drawing their attention to the Quakers in Britain briefing [PDF] about the Bill. The debate will take place on Tuesday 27 October, so it would be most useful to get in touch with your MP before then.
You could use our briefing to help frame your arguments. If you have personal experience which is relevant to the proposals being discussed please consider sharing it as this will strengthen your message.
MPs are much more likely to listen to personally written letters than standard templates. Here are some suggestions about what you could include in your email. If you already know what your MP thinks about further social security cuts do try and adapt your message accordingly.
General points:
The last round of social security cuts has already had a disastrous impact. Now is not the time to be making further cuts.
The welfare section of the Bill will increase already unacceptable levels of poverty, and make Britain an even more unequal, divided society.
Several aspects of the Bill will substantially alter the nature of our social security system by severing the link between what is necessary to meet a household’s basic needs and the amount of support it will be entitled to from the social security system. Many households, particularly large families, will not have enough money to live on and will experience severe hardship as a result.
The government is presenting further welfare cuts as an inevitable consequence of the deficit. In fact, there is nothing inevitable about further weakening our social security system. It is a political choice.
If your MP is opposed to the proposed cuts, or you don’t know what they think, you could:
Emphasise why we need an effective social safety net and that this Bill would significantly damage our social security system.
Ask them to take part in the forthcoming debates and to highlight the human and social costs of the proposed changes.
Ask them to consider supporting amendments designed to mitigate some of the most harmful aspects of the Bill and, if necessary, to vote against the Bill in its entirety.
If you know that your MP has already spoken out against the Bill, don’t forget to thank them!

If you know your MP is in favour of further social security cuts you could:
Emphasise the fact that depending on benefits is not a lifestyle choice but the inescapable reality for millions of adults and children.

Highlight the fact that children will be disproportionately affected by the Bill. The proposal to limit child tax credits to the first two children in a household will disadvantage children, simply because they have more than one sibling.
Emphasise how an effective social safety net is a vital foundation of a just and compassionate society. Proposals to dismantle this further raises uncomfortable questions about our values as a society.
Suggest that the government’s arguments that withdrawing benefits will tackle the root causes of poverty and create work incentives are flawed. There is very little evidence to suggest that this will be the case.

Highlight the fact that the reforms that the government is introducing to offset social security cuts, will only do so partially at best. Some of them will not come into force until after some of the cuts have hit, leaving many families substantially worse off, particularly in the short term.
Ask them to reconsider their position on some of the specific issues highlighted in our briefing.

What if I've already written to my MP?
Many thanks to all those Friends who have already been in dialogue with their MP about this Bill. You are probably the best person to judge whether or not it would be useful to contact them again at this stage. However, here are some thoughts that might help you decide whether this is the right course of action for you.

Where do the different parties stand?
Individual MPs will, of course, have different views about the various reforms proposed in the Bill. However, here is an overview of how the main parties stand.
Conservative: The large majority of Conservative MPs are expected to support the Bill. However some are worried about the impact of cuts to working tax credits, which were agreed separately to the Bill by MPs a few weeks ago. There is a possibility that some Conservative MPs might consider supporting amendments designed to mitigate the impact of working tax credit cuts in this Bill.
Labour: The Labour front bench is expected to come out strongly against many aspects of the Bill, and will probably instruct MPs to vote against it. However it is by no means certain that all MPs will do so.
Liberal Democrats, Green, SNP, Plaid Cymru: Have all stated clear opposition to the Bill and their MPs are expected to vote against it.



Armed Forces visits to schools in Wales update

The Welsh Government has agreed in principle to more research into armed forces visits to schools in Wales, and accepts that a balanced image of the military must be ensured, as should the expansion of the range of employers going into schools. See ForcesWatch press release HERE

The debate will be on Wednesday September  30th

 The written response by the Welsh Government to the Report of the Petitions Committee entitled Stop the Army Recruiting in Schools – Report on the Consideration of a Petition (23 September 2015) can be FOUND HERE

Additional note from ForcesWatch: "The language the Welsh Government use in their statement is pretty conservative, and they don't emphasise the concerns as much as we at ForcesWatch would have liked, but them recognising that at least some of the main concerns around armed forces visits to schools in Wales are significant enough to warrant some action is in itself big progress. Hopefully the debate on the issue in the Welsh Assembly next Wednesday will be rigorous"

Quaker Peace & Social Witness inbetween mailing information

QCEA-QPSW conference: Castle or community? Quakers' role in building the new Europe | 4-6 December 2015
An opportunity to explore our vision for Europe, and connect with and build community with Friends from across Europe. Held at Chant d'oiseau conference centre, Brussels.
More details

Statement on the European refugee crisis
Meeting for Sufferings on 5 September agreed a statement which was sent out to local and area meeting clerks and to the media, and put on our website. You may well have seen it already, but we wanted to ensure that all QPSW Correspondents received it. The press release containing the statement is available online. [or see our post HERE] Please note that as QPSW does not have staff working on this subject, the best place to go for advice and support is the website of the listed informal group Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN) at www.qarn.org.uk  If there is anyone in your meeting who is doing professional or voluntary work with or for refugees, they might well find QARN a helpful network to be part of.


New briefing on armed forces visits to schools in Wales

From Forces Watch:

There is new ForcesWatch briefing on armed forces visits to schools in Wales, which we've produced to try and inform Welsh Assembly Members of the key evidence of why they should accept the three recommendations in the Petitions Committee's report following their investigation on the issue, and highlighting a few other important points. We will also use the new briefing to inform the general public about the issue. The briefing includes some evidence that the Petitions Committee did not see, because it has come to light since its final meeting, which took place in 2013.

See a brief outline and link to download the pdf full briefing: HERE

or a link to just the PDF 273 kb HERE

ACTION: We're encouraging people to write concise emails/letters to their Welsh Assembly Members
contact details can be found at THIS LINK remember you have local and regional Assembly members

include the LINK to ForcesWatch's briefing, urging them to call on the Welsh Government to accept the Petition Committe's three recommendations (which, being very reasonable and well-evidenced, we hope the government have accepted, in their response to the report, which was to be sent to the Petitions Committee in July, but which won't be made public until a week before the plenary debate).  
The Welsh Assembly debate on the issue is likely to take place on 23 September.

Also please can you encourage all your contacts in Wales to do the same, and spread the word generally

This briefing supports the Petition Committee’s recommendations to the Welsh Government by presenting the key evidence that armed forces visits to secondary schools in Wales:
are disproportionately high to schools in more disadvantaged areas;
do not present a balanced view of the armed forces;
and, are more numerous and more career-focused than visits by most other employers
(particularly the emergency services).
This briefing also presents evidence that:
armed forces visits to schools are motivated by an agenda of engaging students in a long-term
recruitment process;
quality and transparency of armed forces record-keeping makes a full study of the extent of visits
to schools problematic.

NOTE from blog poster: I did try to make the PDF into a Word document but the formatting would have taken ages ro sort out...  

if you live in mid and west Wales [link to all mid & west Wales] your regional AMs are:

thn there will be a constituency member
Preseli Pembrokeshire: Paul.Davies@assembly.wales
Ceredigion: Elin.Jones@assembly.wales