Quakers have always refused to have more than one standard for truth. Swearing an oath is tantamount to saying that unless the oath is sworn the truth of what is said is of a lower standard and cannot be trusted. Speaking what is untrue runs counter to living faithfully. Therefore truth and integrity are important elements of a faithful life. Another aspect of this testimony is about ‘speaking truth to power’.
Speaking what is untrue runs counter to living faithfully. Therefore truth and integrity are important elements of a faithful life. Quakers have always refused to have more than one standard for truth. This has led to serious problems on being required to swear an oath when attesting (such as in a court of law). To Quakers, swearing an oath is tantamount to saying that unless the oath is sworn the truth of what is said is of a lower standard and cannot be trusted. It is this testimony that led to Quakers being trusted in commerce, and in particular the setting up of banks to look after people’s money.
Another aspect of this testimony is also about ‘speaking truth to power’, that is, being honest and direct when communicating with powerful people, which takes courage and conviction. There are Quaker offices in Brussels, where not only the Commission of the European Union is based, but also where NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) has its European headquarters; in Geneva, where the United Nations administration is based; and in Moscow (there is a long history of Quaker involvement with Russia: during the Empire, and the time of the Soviet Union, and now in post-Soviet times). American Quakers have an office in New York City where the United Nations General Assembly meets.
In contrast to the early days when Quakers were viewed with considerable suspicion by the authorities, the Religious Society of Friends has long played a small but trusted role in the relationships between warring countries and conflicting factions. This may, in part, be due to Quakers having been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1946 in relation to its efforts during the Second World War. Certainly during the Cold War era, Quakers in London were facilitating meetings between diplomats from countries on either side of the ‘iron curtain’. In South Africa, Quaker efforts helped to prepare the way for the momentous changes that took place with the end of apartheid. In Sri Lanka, Quakers were active in attempting to bring reconciliation between the Sinhalese government and the Tamil separatists.