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Love, by its very nature, is unworldly,
and it is for this reason rather than its rarity that it is not only apolitical but anti-political,
perhaps the most powerful of all anti-political human forces.

- Hannah Arendt



Love is...

Larry Otway

Love is the foundation of our faith as Quakers. A Quaker life is a journey on a road from love towards love. In my father's part of the world, we call a road builder, a navie. The word comes from the activity of navigating around, through and over the obstacles which would keep the road from going from its start to its destination. I am here, today, as a member of the Quaker Peace Committee of the 15th St. Friends Meeting, as one of the navies on the road to peace. Last month our road to peace confronted a terrible obstacle, the violent oppression of the Hindu population of Bangladesh.

In Ireland, while traveling over remote bogs, I learned to recognize grown over bog holes. These are deep lakes over which a thin layer of turf have grown. They are flat and green and inviting to walk on, but when you do, you see the ground ripple, and know, if you break through, you will drown, trapped under the turf. Sometimes when navigating the bog, you must avoid the easy path ahead, and take the rougher road, built on solid ground.

Evil is an enticement to take an easy road. Violence confronts us, and in our anger and pain and fear, the easy choice seems to be a violent response, kill or be killed. But a good navie will avoid that bog hole, that quicksand, and find the more difficult road, built on solid ground.

Our friend Bidyut Sarker has confronted us with, what in our Quaker tradition we would call a concern, but that word fails to convey, outside our community, the depth of terror his words conveyed. The Hindu community in Bangladesh faces the worst kind of fear and pain which humans can visit upon each other. What can we do to successfully navigate on this stretch of road?

Some of you know what we have done in the past. In the dark days of American slavery, we navies built an underground railroad, a hidden path where conductors helped our American family members held in bondage, to escape to Canada. But, that was not enough, we had to advertise the road's end, an America without slavery, and many of us became outspoken abolitionists. In that role, we confronted apathy, another evil which diverts the peace road. Great evil happens when the world looks away.

The government of the United States, more and more, responds to evil in the world by the use of the military. More and more, this takes the form of bombing from the air. Military thinking leads to strategic planning, global military planning, where huge violations of human rights in small or distant lands are ignored until they threaten the United States. Then we send in bombers to make peace. Each bomb that falls, kills some people and makes enemies of more people. These reactive military responses have never worked. Wars have gotten bigger and more destructive as war evolves. We navies for peace must call for proactive work towards peace, as the abolitionists called for an end to slavery, to call attention to the road towards love.

We pledge to keep our doors open to the Hindus of Bangladesh, to keep our hearts open to your pain, to open ourselves to solutions on the firm ground to peace.

We undertake to hold a light to the threat which you face - to speak out and remain navies and conductors, on the road to love.

The author is with the Peace Committee of the 15th Street Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends



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