We, the Montana Gathering of Friends, are heartbroken over the lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last week and the 33,000 people who lose their lives to guns each year through suicide, spousal abuse, accidents, and mass shootings. We are heartened by young people across the country finding their voice on the issue of gun violence with clarity about how it impacts their safety, security, well-being and hope for the future. We empathize with the pain and fear they feel going to school every day with the knowledge that the students and teachers they value in their own schools and in schools across the country face this threat.
Though we recognize the current need for defense procedures in schools, we hold the belief that establishing lasting safety is more important than solely ensuring physical defense. The idea of bringing guns into schools to protect from shooters – who often are students themselves – is a violence that is just as scary as the threat it’s reacting to. Our schools are not war zones.
Our children demand that our government, school systems and the adults in their lives take this problem seriously and take steps to face the root causes of violence in our society. A sense of safety needs to be established for everyone in our schools, including and especially those students who could potentially be violent towards themselves or others. We support our youth in sharing their hopes and concerns. We join in their vision of a world without a ubiquitous background of violence where people learn how to express feelings of anger and pain constructively. We have been numb to this need for too long. An issue this important should not be polarizing and it should not be postponed. We should look towards peace through compromise and engagement. This is an issue for us to unite around in protection of the children and people we love.
To all people of faith:
We live in a time of fear. Americans fear for their personal and economic security. We fear terrorism, external enemies, and environmental collapse. Others in the world fear Americans. We call on all people to recognize that true security lies within and among us - in our mutual participation in our common lives as creatures on this planet. Only thus can we honor the birthright of respect for all, regardless of their circumstances and fortunes.
Seventeenth century George Fox said, “I live in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion for all war.” When our actions are motivated by the wisdom of this spirit, we cease creating pre-conditions for war and enter into the service and nurturance of all creation. When our actions are motivated by fear and self-protectiveness, we sow the seeds of division and war.
We must commit to changing public policies to build a just and sustainable economic future.
We invite others to consider the following queries with us:
To paraphrase the Friends Committee on National Legislation (www.fcnl.org), a Quaker lobbying group: Imagine what our nation’s foreign policies would look like if love and respect for humans dignity were our guiding principles instead of fear.
When MGOF finds itself called as a body to witness, a Minute of that testimony is recorded and distributed.