A new exhibition telling the story of the Quakers is touring the country and will be visiting Wigtown this weekend.
One thing most people know about Quakers is that they are pacifists. Pacifism takes many forms. The particular way the Quakers live their pacifism is by humanitarian service. This tells the story of centuries of relief work by the ordinary men and women of peace who called themselves ‘Friends’.
Quaker involvement in large scale relief work goes back to the Irish famine of 1846. They were providing help to civilians in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 while other organisations concentrated only on wounded soldiers.
A group of Quakers refused to take up arms and formed the Friends Ambulance Unit during the First World War. Hundreds of Quakers and other conscientious objectors risked their lives taking ambulances and aid to the front line. Many were killed. Some were taken prisoner of war.
Between the wars the Friends Relief Service were active in feeding some five million children in war ravaged Europe, and when war came again the Friends Ambulance Unit was reformed.
Quakers set up the China Convoy in 1941 to provide relief to those affected by the war with Japan, and were there to help during the Bengal Famine. They provided post-war relief in Europe and were with the British Army helping the survivors of the concentration camps.
In 1946 American and British Quakers were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work, which still continues, for the world has never since been free of war.
Today the Quaker United Nations Office mediates in areas of violent conflict, and fights for global economic justice.
The exhibition in Wigtown Quaker Meeting House will be open today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday) from 10am to 4pm.
Entry is free and there will be refreshments on offer.