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Statement - Religious Society of Friends

Peace Movement Aotearoa

PO Box 9314, Wellington. Tel (04) 382 8129, fax (04) 382 8173,

Here are copies of letters written yesterday to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair by Britain Yearly Meeting of The Religious Society of Friends and Northern Friends Peace Board(NFPB)in opposition to the UK/NATO bombing of Kosovo/a:

Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain (Quakers)

Recording Clerk: Elsa Dicks

Dear Tony Blair,

As members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), we are writing to express our profound opposition to the use of military force in attempting to resolve the current conflict in Kosovo/a .

For over 300 years, Quakers have rejected the use of violence in all its forms. In today’s complex world, this rejection applies equally to all use of military force, whether by the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, by the Kosovo Liberation Army, or by our own country. When violence, in the form of bombing, is conducted by our own armed forces and paid for by our taxes, we feel a compelling responsibility to speak out.

To oppose the use of violence is not to do nothing; Quakers remain deeply involved in, and committed to, work for the peaceful resolution of disputes through peaceful means. Since 1991, Quaker Peace & Service (the international department of Quakers in Britain) has been gradually developing relationships of trust and co-operation in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia with locally run peace-building, relief and community reconstruction projects; two Quaker Peace & Service representatives in Sarajevo are currently working with civil society groups committed to rebuilding a sustainable peace in the region. We also have links with non-governmental initiatives in Kosovo/a itself, such as the Balkans Peace Team, Catholic Relief Services, and the Centre for Protection of Women and Children in Pristina.

From these contacts and from our own experience, we are convinced that coercive diplomacy and military action cannot lead to a just and sustainable settlement of the complex tragedy of Kosovo/a. Our fear is that they will, instead, serve to inflame existing fears and hatreds and spread violent conflict again through a region which has been a crucible of European wars for centuries. Far from alleviating ethnically motivated murders, the present bombing may intensify them with a vengeance.

We call on the UK Government to suspend military action immediately and to work through the UN Secretary General and Security Council, and through the OSCE, to initiate a multilaterally supported political process for new negotiations between the parties to the conflict within the framework of international law. Representation of the leadership in such negotiations should include not only governing officials, military officers and leaders of armed factions, but also the leaders of civil society institutions. In addition, we call for assertive and continuing efforts to hold all involved in the conflict accountable under international law for crimes, war crimes or crimes against humanity - excepting no official, no matter how central to the previous Dayton Accords or to any new negotiations.

Quakers have always had a deep respect for the rule of law, which we believe has been violated by the use of NATO, ostensibly a defensive military alliance, in mounting an attack on a sovereign state. We ask the UK Government itself, in all its attempts to resolve this crisis, to act in ways which are both fully accountable to Parliament and consistent with international law.

We pray that in this challenging situation peaceful ways may yet be found to promote a just and a lasting resolution to the conflict.

Yours sincerely,

Jane A. Chattell
Clerk of Meeting for Sufferings,
Religious Society of Friends in Britain

Northern Friends Peace Board

NFPB Calls on Tony Blair to rethink support for NATO action against Serbia

26 March 1999

Rt. Honourable Tony Blair, MP
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA

Dear Tony Blair,

In your statement to the House of Commons you spoke at length about the problems and the needs that NATO military action in Yugoslavia would be seeking to address.

We have no wish to trivialise the problems, but are not convinced that the current military action by NATO is either right or effective.

We would simply ask you, as a matter of extreme urgency, to consider it possible that you may be mistaken in your commitment to the current approach. Do the ends really justify the means? Might not the consequences be far worse?

Yours sincerely,

Gillian Smith, Clerk

NOTE : There are protests going on all over the country. When Parliament finally got to debate the US-NATO-led bombing of Kosovo/a and the UK Government's part in it (after it had already started...just like Iraq!) members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords were disunited and some grave concerns were expressed.

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