Daffodils waved in the March 16 spring sunshine to welcome 29 stalwart souls, many of whom, perhaps more than a little wistfully, had set down their gardening tools to gather in the stained-glass tranquility of the Christ Church Gabriola sanctuary. We were there to explore the Quaker way of peace in these turbulent times with our Burnaby-based presenters, Ruth Walmsley and Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta. Ruth and Maxine are long-time members of the Religious Society of Friends, known to many simply as the Quakers. In harmony with their Quaker beliefs and practices, their personal commitment to peaceful social activism has led them into uncharted territory both here in British Columbia and as far away as Jerusalem.

Ruth Walmsley, who finds singing to be an increasingly important vehicle for merging spirituality with activism, employed her guitar and sweet voice to lead us into a group chant honoring freedom for all captives. Ruth’s personal testimony of peaceful civil disobedience here in BC, culminating in a 9-day incarceration in the Alouette Women’s Correctional Centre for Women, added depth and poignancy to those lyrics.

Ruth shared with us a brief and fascinating history of the genesis of the Quaker tradition at the time of the restoration of King Charles II to the English throne, pointing out some of the key principles of pacifism, refusal to swear oaths, and gender equality that distinguished this new expression of faith as a radical departure from convention — not without its perils and persecution when openly practiced.

Ruth introduced us to the acronym SPICES, a useful mnemonic device for remembering the core Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and the relatively recent addition of stewardship, in direct response to the dire issues facing our suffering planet. She then illustrated some of the many ways in which the Quaker community offers humanitarian aid ,such as battlefield ambulance services in global conflict zones, as the Quaker expression of living according to these core principles.

Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta is the principal author, with Palestinian and Israeli editorial partners Ghassan Andoni and Jeff Halper, of the interview-based book “Refusing To Be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance of the Israeli Occupation”. Maxine, who once lived in Jerusalem for seven years and has visited the area repeatedly, led us through a truly overwhelming array of websites devoted to various efforts at passive and non-violent resistance in Israel and Palestine over decades — in fact so many that unfortunately she ran out of time before offering a current update and discussion concerning “Standing Together”. This is a relatively new organization whose membership of some 5000 Israeli Citizens, both Jewish and Palestinian, jointly advocate for and actively work towards a future with “peace and independence for Israelis and Palestinians, full equality for everyone in this land, and true social, economic, and environmental justice” and was the primary draw for participation by a significant number in attendance. However, both printed resource sheets and a mailing list were made available to those wishing to learn more, including about Standing Together (www.standing-together.org/eng).

After a brief question and answer exchange, we concluded with thanks to Christ Church Gabriola for the rental of their lovely sanctuary, to our guest presenters, and to all who had contributed to this opportunity, including Shri Hill who served as the welcoming host to our honoured guests. Ruth once again put her guitar and voice to blessed use, leading us in the classic “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me” — a heartfelt sentiment of all! Our sincere thanks to you, Ruth and Maxine. May your chosen path always lead to Peace.