Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

A Guide to Grassroots Peace Groups II

Continuing to help you keep your New Year’s resolution to become more active for peace and justice.

I.  Faith-Based Groups

    B. Interfaith and Other-Faith Groups

  • Buddhist Peace Fellowship.  Most people know that Siddartha Guatama the Buddha taught and practiced nonviolence–a form of nonviolence that even included vegetarianism.  But some forms of Buddhism became corrupted by politics into justifying war (much as with other religions, including Christianity) and other strands of Buddhism became apolitical–the practice of nonviolence was reserved monks.  In the midst of the Vietnam War, “socially engaged Buddhism” reemerged, led by folks like exiled Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh (whom Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize).  The BPF is a major expression of such “socially engaged Buddhism.”  It is part of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists.
  • Center on Conscience and War (CCW).  This is an interfaith that advocates for the rights of conscience, opposes military conscription, and serves all conscientious objectors to war.  Back when the CCW was known by the tongue-twisting name of “National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors (NISBCO), they supplied–free of charge–the attorney that helped me get discharged from the military as a conscientious objector.  So, every time I have a few extra dollars, I send them some. You should, too.  Many nations do not recognize any right to conscientious objection, whether or not based on religious conviction.  The U.S. recognizes the rights of COs to all war, but not selective conscientious objection to particular wars–despite the fact that this is the corollary to “Just War Theory”–the dominant Western moral philosophy regarding war.
  • Faithful Security is the national religious partnership on the nuclear weapons danger.   Faithful Security organizes religious groups to oppose the spread of nuclear weapons and work for the elimination of nuclear weapons in the nations which already possess them. 
  • Fellowship of Reconciliation is the oldest faith-based grassroots pacifist organization in the world.  Founded by ecumenical Christians in Britain during WWI (1914) and quickly forming a U.S. branch (1915) and an International Network (IFOR–1917), the FOR has been a major player in most of the struggles for peace and justice throughout the 20th C. until today.  The FOR struggled to protect the rights of conscientious objectors during WWI (and helped to spin off the American Civil Liberties Union as a result), worked on prison reform, and post-War rebuilding, protected Japanese-American homes during their WWII imprisonment, learned from Gandhi and helped play key roles in the Civil Rights movement, the movement to resist the Vietnam War, the anti-nuclear movement and much else.  It was nonviolence trainers from the FOR who set the stage for the nonviolent overthrow of the Philippine dictatorship in 1986 and FOR trainers played similar roles in many other nonviolent conflicts.  The FOR’s impact has always far outweighed its numbers–which is why it has been under surveillance by the governmennt in George W. Bush’s America! Some branches of IFOR, such as the UK branch, remain specifically Christian organizations. But IFOR, the U.S. FOR and other branches are specifically interfaith–and consider interfaith dialogue (e.g. between Christians and Muslims or between Jews and Muslims) as a vital part of their peacework.
  • M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence is an interfaith center dedicated to the nonviolent struggle for peace and justice. Founded byArun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the institute was originally housed at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, TN but, in 2007, moved to the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY.  See also the Mahatma Gandhi Canadian Foundation for World Peace which grew out of 1988 celebrations of Gandhi’s birth. 
  • Jewish Peace Fellowship stands for nonviolence and the Jewish tradition of struggle for peace with justice.  Becauuse of the strong links with Israel, JPF has a very strong focus on peace in the Middle East, but it also works on other projects around the globe.  Founded in 1941, JPF is the only U.S. based Jewish peace group to pre-date the formation of the nation of Israel.
  • Jewish Voice for Peace is a younger group than JPF and focused almost exclusively on a just peace with Israel and Palestine and not other issues such as conscientious objection or pacifism.
  • Muslim Peace Fellowship (Ansar-as Salaam) founded in 1994 as the first Islamic organization specifically focused on the theory and practice of Islamic nonviolence.  The MPF knows that violent Islamic terrorists dominate the news–their website begins with the tagline, “Whatever act of violence has just taken place, we deplore it!” The founders see their work as correcting global misperceptions of Islam, but also as taking back their faith from the violent extremists–which is very similar to the way I view the work of Every Church a Peace Church vis-a-vis Christianity!
  • National Religious Campaign to Abolish Torture is a broad coalition of faith groups organized to oppose all forms of cruel, degrading, or inhumane treatment–especially that promoted by the U.S. government in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Recently, NRCAT has called on the Obama administration to elimiinate all forms of torture by executive torture,  but also desires congressional legislation to make such permanent. NRCAT also supports the closing of the “detention center” at Guantanemo Bay, Cuba, “rendition” (shipping suspects to other countries who will torture for us), and criminal investigation into all charges of official torture or other inhumane treatment by the previous administration.
  • The Network of Spiritual Progressives, founded by Rabbi Michael Lerner, seeks to promote a broad vision of peace and justice and the common good that is rooted in the deepest values of compassion found in most, if not all, of the world’s great religions.  The NSP promotes a “Global Marshall Plan” to eliminate hunger by harnassing a small % of each wealthy nation’s Gross Domestic Product for hunger relief and sustainable development and the elimination of preventable diseases.  It seeks the conversion of the economy from warmmaking to peacemaking. The NSP believes that progressives fail when they do not engage the deep hunger for meaning needed by most people. 
  • Olive Branch Interfaith Peace Partnership is an interfaith network mostly focused on ending the Iraq war.
  • The Shalom Centre is an interfaith peace center rooted in Judaism and founded by Rabbi Arthur Waskow.
  • Unitarian-Universalist Peace Fellowship.  No website. Contact Rev. Dennis Davidson, president, at uupeace@uua.org .
  • The Unitarian-Universalist Service CommitteeThis is the UUs answer the Quakers’ American Friends Service Committee, profiled in the first post of these links.  Founded in 1940 to assist those fleeing Nazi persecution.

The next installment of this guide will profile grassroots peace groups that are organized according to non-religious categories.  Happy new year, peacemakers.


January 1, 2009 - Posted by | peacemaking

1 Comment

  1. […] second post lists ecumenical […]

    Pingback by Looking for a way to work for peace? « John Meunier’s Blog | January 3, 2009

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