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Quakerism Field Study Essay

1432 words - 6 pages

During the late 1500s and 1600s there was a lot of religious dissent in England, especially in the Lake District, where there was a heavy Danish influence. George Fox(1624-1691) grew up there and was just one of the multitude who were unsatisfied. Due to his discontentment, he began to have discussions with other people and from them, formed some basic ideas about what religion should be. He founded the Religious society of Friends in the early 1660s, which emphasizes equality, responsibility, and community. The religion was based on a few key concepts: the individual’s relation to God, with no intermediary, pacifism, and the desire to follow an inner light. Soon people began to identify themselves as members and spread the message. Many people were unreceptive and hostile and many members were thrown into prison. The term “Quaker” was originally used as a form of abuse and literally means one who quakes with the word of God, but today it has become synonymous with the name given by Fox, the Religious Society of Friends. To escape persecution, Quakers fled to the United States, led by the aristocrat William Penn(1644-1718). As King George V was indebted to him, Penn was able to found Pennsylvania as a Quaker community and Philadelphia as “a city of brotherly love.” Here Quakerism flourished and its members became influential in politics, leading the prison reform movement and the abolitionist movement. Today, though their numbers remain quite small, with three hundred thousand members, they remain powerful and active in a number of issues.
Before our field study to the meeting house, my impression was that Quakerism was firmly rooted in the past, but they are actually very modern, involved in a wide variety of initiatives. One major issue in which the Quakers are involved is sustainable development, with a commitment to carbon free living and not investing in fossil fuels. They actively campaign against Triton, a nuclear energy company, and have published numerous pamphlets to this effect. Other issues they are involved with include prolonging military recruitment until age eighteen, same-sex marriage, non-violence campaigns in Africa, and holding people accountable for human rights violations in Israel and Palestine. I found the program in Israel and Palestine very interesting as it involves listening to the locals, a unique concept in our Eurocentric society. It reminded me of a reading discussed in the course Canada and the “Third World” which discusses the benefits of participatory rural appraisal over rapid rural appraisal. Participatory rural appraisal places great importance on the involvement of the locals and the utilization of their skills in rural development. The program Marigold Bentley discussed, established by the Quakers in 2001, sends twenty individuals to Jerusalem for three months and then they return and report on what they have seen in the hopes of changing established discourses. Many of the programs...

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