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HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
In the 1980s, during the apartheid years, at the time of the forced removals of thousands of people from the City of Cape Town to the Cape Flats, the Cape Western Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends (Quakers - see right column) supported first a peace worker and then, as the work expanded, others until in 1988 the Quaker Peace Centre was established.
From small beginnings it grew to be quite substantial with a staff of 30-35 working mainly in the townships but with programmes and training also taking place at the Centre in Mowbray.
The emphasis was on non-violent responses to the injustices of apartheid, conflict resolution, community mediation, youth support and training, empowerment of women, peace education
During the years after the unbanning of the ANC (African National Congress) and other political parties the Centre continued with conflict resolution work, peace education in schools and added training in vegetable gardening and sewing for families who had no income. It also ran a re-integration programme for returning exiles.
After the first democratic elections in 1994 the Centre provided mediation training to enable the communities to resolve their own conflicts non-violently. It opened a youth programme and realigned its work in schools to the changing environment in the education system. Ten years after the first democratic elections the Centre made a new shift to realign its work to the challenges facing South Africa then and in this process the following priorities were identified. As before the focus was "hands on" i.e. training was directly offered to many people.
- Strengthen public participation in democratic processes
- Promote individual and organizational competence at peace-building
- Promote the value of diversity and combat prejudice
- Network and support endeavours that promote human security
The Quaker Peace Centre is no longer an official project of the Cape Western Monthly Meeting but stands alone overseen by an annually elected Board the majority of whom are Quakers. The Centre enjoys close contact with community organisations and other non-governmental organisations.
Quakers - The Religious Society of Friends
Formed in the mid 1600s during the English civil war as a religious movement on a Christian base, the Quakers were severely persecuted - as dangerous radicals - by the government. The movement rapidly spread to North America and Europe. Persecution eventually gave way to reluctant tolerance. The movement is now worldwide.
The official name is the "Religious Society of Friends" but the commonly used name "Quaker" arose when one told a sentencing judge that he did not fear him and "quaked" only before God.
While Quakers have no formal creed or statement of beliefs they recognise a spiritual dimension to be sought within themselves and in the conduct of their lives placing great reliance on conscience as a guide to morality. A shared belief is that "faith without works is dead." Quakers prefer to be identified by what they do and how they live.
Quakers are probably best known for their stand against violence in all its many forms. This has led Quakers to fight against injustice while helping the disadvantaged and oppressed. Examples include the century long campaign against the slave trade and slavery, prison reform, betterment of working practices, conscientious objection against military service but working (in war) as front line stretcher bearers and opposing apartheid. The Society is the only religious organisation to have received the Nobel Prize for Peace which was awarded in 1947.
The work against violence continues in many ways around the world.