Monday, July 14, 2014

The War and the Prophets (2)
An Introduction by Postage Stamp
My son Tom was a stamp collector as a boy.  (He is now a philatelist.) One of the South African stamps he acquired intrigued me.  It was a commemorative honoring Emily Hobhouse.  I’d never heard of her, but I set about reading everything I could find about her life.  The more that I learned about her, the more I wanted to know.
For a long time I hoped to write her biography.  Eventually Jennifer Hobhouse Balme, who had inherited a treasure trove of Emily’s letters and other papers, published To Love One’s Enemies: The Work and Life of Emily Hobhouse (1994).
Emily Hobhouse was born in 1860 in a village in Cornwall where her father was the Church of England rector.  In 1895 she went to the United States to work at an Episcopal Church mission in Minnesota.  Three years later she returned to England.  When politicians and newspaper editors were crying up a war with the little Republic of Transvaal in South Africa, Emily helped form the South Africa Conciliation Committee.  When war finally came in 1899, she continued speaking and writing against it.
Aware that women and children were the principal sufferers, Emily created the South African War Distress Fund for Women and Children to “feed, clothe, shelter, rescue and help without wounding self-respect” women and children “affected by the War, irrespective of Nationality or race.”  She wanted aid to be distributed by women, not by the army or a government agency, and went to South Africa in 1900 to make arrangements herself.
What she found there changed all her plans.  As the war in South Africa became a guerrilla war (like the war in Vietnam), the British army began a policy of burning farm buildings and forcibly relocating all civilians to concentration camps.
Emily Hobhouse visited the camps and was appalled by conditions there where overcrowding, poor food, and lack of sanitation led to a terrible death rate especially among children.
She worked tirelessly in South Africa and in Britain to expose and reverse this evil policy.
After the war was over, Emily returned to South Africa to set up relief for people who were repatriated only to find  their homes, barns, farming equipment, and livestock gone.
Emily’s concern for the young women who were living in poverty on devastated farms led to her next idea.  The South African Women’s and Children’s Distress Fund was transformed into The Boer Home Industries and Aid Society.  Under its auspices she returned to South Africa to set up weaving schools.  With some 26 such schools functioning by the end of 1908, she returned to England.
Emily Hobhouse was invited back to South Africa in 1913 to unveil a monument at the site of the former Blomfontein the women and children who bore the brunt of the war.
This is an introduction to the next chapters in her story.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The War and the Prophets (1) We are one in Christ and can never be at war

The War and the Prophets (1)

"We are one in Christ and can never be at war."

Can kings or presidents, a congress or a parliament, define who is my neighbor and who is my enemy?  If they proclaim it by a declaration of war, can I still love those who are now my enemies?

In July 1914, an ecumenical conference was held at Constance in Switzerland by Christians seeking to prevent the outbreak of war in Europe. Convinced that war was near, some 150 Christians came together, seeking desperately to find a way to head off the outbreak of hostilities. Before the conference ended, however, World War I had started and those present had to return to their respective countries. They hurried to catch trains back to their respective homelands.

At the railroad station in Cologne, Germany, two of the participants, Henry Hodgkin, an English Quaker, and Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze, a German Lutheran, pledged to find a way of working for peace even though their countries were at war. Believing that the bonds of Christian love transcended all national boundaries, vowed that they would refuse to sanction war or violence and that they would sow the seeds of peace and love no matter what the future might bring. As they shook hands in farewell, they agreed that they were “one in Christ and can never be at war.”
Out of this vow the Fellowship of Reconciliation was born. The formal beginning came four months later at Trinity College, Cambridge, where 128 English members elected Hodgkin as their first chairperson. The founding of the German branch, Versuhnungsbund, came later. Schultze was arrested twenty-seven times during World War I and was forced to live in exile during the Nazi period.
In 1915, Hodgkin came to the United States to meet with sixty-eight men and women at Garden City, New York where the American FOR was founded on November 11, with Gilbert A. Beaver as its first chairperson. Leaders during those early years included Edward Evans, Norman Thomas, Bishop Paul Jones (who had been removed from the Episcopal Diocese of Utah because of his pacifism), and Grace Hutchins.
They set out the principles that had led them to do so in a statement which became known as "The Basis". It states:
·         That love as revealed and interpreted in the life and death of Jesus Christ, involves more than we have yet seen, that is the only power by which evil can be overcome and the only sufficient basis of human society.
·         That, in order to establish a world-order based on Love, it is incumbent upon those who believe in this principle to accept it fully, both for themselves and in relation to others and to take the risks involved in doing so in a world which does not yet accept it.
·         That therefore, as Christians, we are forbidden to wage war, and that our loyalty to our country, to humanity, to the Church Universal, and to Jesus Christ our Lord and Master, calls us instead to a life-service for the enthronement of Love in personal, commercial and national life.
·         That the Power, Wisdom and Love of God stretch far beyond the limits of our present experience, and that He is ever waiting to break forth into human life in new and larger ways.
·         That since God manifests Himself in the world through men and women, we offer ourselves to His redemptive purpose to be used by Him in whatever way He may reveal to us.
(Because the membership of the FOR included many members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), who reject any form of written creed, it has always been stressed that the Basis is a statement of general agreement rather than a fixed form of words. Nonetheless the Basis has been an important point of reference for many Christian pacifists.)
John Haynes Holmes, Unitarian minister and one of the early FOR members, pointed out that most people believe war is wrong in general, but nonetheless go on to justify each particular war. Placing the claims of the nation state below that of religious faith, Holmes wrote: “No one is wise enough, no nation is important enough, no human interest is precious enough, to justify the wholesale destruction and murder which constitute the science of war.”

This is the first in a series occasioned by the centennial of the Great War 1914-1918 with applications to our world.