Book Review: An Unlikely Bunch of Anti-Apartheid Activists

The Black Sash: Women for Justice and Peace
by Burton, Mary Ingouville (2015),  Jacana, Johannesburg

Book review by Janneke Weidema, Pretoria Monthly Meeting

The Black Sash were an unlikely bunch of South African anti-apartheid activists. They were mostly English speaking white middle class women who came together in 1955 as the Women’s League in Defence of the Constitution.

They  organised a creative campaign to stop changes to the then South African constitution which would remove the already limited voting rights of black people.  They operated within the parameters of white South African politics, although on the left of that spectrum.  After a few years, as  the Nationalist government had pushed through the changes to the constitution, membership in the Black Sash declined.

However, they persisted, and developed advice offices for people who needed help with the infamous pass laws and other apartheid laws. They supported people threatened with forced removals. The Black Sash also  carried on with their silent pickets against oppressive laws. These protests were at first in small groups; after that was outlawed, they protested individually on street corners.

Mary Burton has written this  fascinating story of the Black Sash. She has written a truthful, and complete a history as possible of these white, mostly middle class women who attracted the ire of the apartheid government. This is a well written book. It is a captivating story of women who were determined to protest injustice, and to support black South African communities.

Posted in Activism, Book Review, History, Human Rights | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer issue of Quaker Concern examines physical punishment of kids

Other articles include:

  • Working for Peace in Burundi
  • What’s in a Typical Day at the UN?
  • Bridge of Hope
  • My Summer with CFSC

Click here to read them.

Posted in Modern living, Newsletters, Publications | Leave a comment

Welcoming families in meetings

How do we rejoice in the presence of children in our meetings and nurture their spiritual growth? Alistair Fuller shares in a Quakers in Britain blog how his meeting took small steps to welcome his family.

Some thoughts on our future Friends …

Posted in Children, Modern living, Quaker community | Leave a comment

There is no “both sides” to racist hate and violence

Statement from American Friends Service Committee on racist hate and violence in Virginia.

Click here to read it.

Posted in Activism, Ethics, Human Rights, Position Statements, World community, World issues | Leave a comment

Quakers in Britain: Peace delegation urges restraint in nuclear row

Quakers joined a peace delegation today seeking to defuse the growing international tension sparked by dangerous threats exchanged between the Presidents of the US and North Korea.

The US Embassy declined to accept a letter from the delegation of journalists, writers and peace activists.

The letter calls on the United States Government to do everything within its power to de-escalate the conflict with North Korea.

Helen Drewery, of Quakers in Britain was in the delegation. Afterwards she said, “Quaker opposition to all war is grounded in our faith. Every human being is a child of God. Even to contemplate killing and maiming them in vast numbers should be seen as an outrage.”

The full text of the letter is here:

Letter to the US Embassy


“We the undersigned are extremely concerned about the growing international tension and the dangerous threats that have been exchanged between the leaders of the US and North Korea. 

“We strongly urge President Trump and the US Government to employ the utmost restraint and to immediately engage in diplomatic talks with the aim of defusing the current situation. 


Every human being is a child of God. Even to contemplate killing and maiming them in vast numbers should be seen as an outrage.

– Helen Drewery, Quakers in Britain


“It is unthinkable that the threat of nuclear annihilation should be considered as acceptable. At this time people around the world are remembering the effects of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. We are reminded of the death, pain and suffering that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and are determined that people should not have to suffer like that again.

“Negotiation and talks to increase understanding between the US and North Korea and to ease the tension must be the way forward. May we humbly remind you that in 2010 a cross-party group of parliamentarians from Japan and South Korea proposed the negotiation of a North East Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone as a solution to the growing nuclear threat from North Korea. This remains a sensible and productive way forward, especially in light of the recent agreement by 120 nations in the United Nations to recognise that nuclear weapons, and threats of their use, are unacceptable and should be made illegal.

“People around the world are extremely anxious for their future and we request that you convey our plea for calm and peace between nations to President Trump. We trust that statements defusing the situation can be issued immediately and a diplomatic solution will be sought as soon as possible.”

The letter was handed in by Giles Fraser, journalist and priest; Victoria Brittain, writer and journalist; Bruce Kent, peace activist; Jan Wolf, playwright; Helen Drewery, Quakers in Britain; Carol Turner, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition; Murad Qureshi, Stop the War Coalition.

Northern Friends Peace Board recently issued a statement urging reason and restraint in the region.

Posted in Position Statements, Quaker community, World community, World issues | Leave a comment

How faith can shape politics

Catherine West MP gave the 110th Swarthmore Lecture on 31 July in which she encouraged Quakers to champion the cause of equality in their own communities. She gave the lecture in memory of friend and colleague, Jo Cox MP, murdered whilst doing her job in her constituency last year.

READ the lecture by clicking this link.

LISTEN to the lecture by clicking this link.

VIEW the lecture by clicking this link.

Posted in Activism, Human Rights, Lectures, Swarthmore Lecture | Leave a comment

Campaigning for change: In it for the long haul

Paul Parker is Recording Clerk of Quakers in Britain, the closest the 13,000-strong Quaker community gets to a chief executive. Based at Friends House in Euston, he is responsible for Quakers’ work on peace, social justice and sustainability, and for supporting nearly 500 Quaker meetings across Britain. In the NPC Blog of 4 August he shares what centuries of activism has taught the organisation, and how they’re working to increase their impact.

Read the article by clicking here.

Posted in Activism, Ethics, Human Rights, Modern living, Quaker history, World issues | Leave a comment

Philly-based Quaker group marks 100 years of refugee relief and peace work

Refugees and responses to refugees are headline news at present. The 100 years of work by the AFSC is thus of significant interest.

Report on the founding and work of the AFSC, in America.

Posted in Activism, History, Human Rights, Quaker history, Reports, World community, World issues | Leave a comment

Are Quakers guilty of the sin of pride?

A thoughtful article by an American Quaker, shared by Nancy Fee. Click the link below to read it.

Are Quakers Guilty of the Sin of Pride?

Posted in Modern living, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Nuclear weapons ban treaty adopted

A treaty to rid the world of nuclear weapons was formally adopted today at the United Nations.

Quaker observers hailed the historic treaty as a huge step, saying such weapons of mass destruction should be illegal and unacceptable.

Read the full story.

This item was followed a week later by an item on the Inter Press Service News Agency site:

Nuclear Ban Approved, Now What?

Posted in Activism, Environment, Modern living, World community | Leave a comment