What Happened at The Gandhi Foundation Multifaith Celebration 2012

The Gandhi Foundation Multifaith Celebration Review

at St Ethelburga’s on 30th January 2012

By Mark Hoda, Chair & Trustee of The Gandhi Foundation

Mark Hoda addressing The Gandhi Foundation Multifaith Celebration 2012

It was really heartening to see such a large audience gather at St Ethelberga’s on a cold January evening. They heard  though provoking reflections on the environment and sustainability from a range of faith perspectives as well as on Gandhi’s influence on the green movement today, which continues to draw inspiration from his philosophy and satyagraha strategies.

Anglican Priest Father Ivor opened proceedings with a quote often attributed to Gandhi that “There is enough in the world for everyone’s need buy not anyone’s greed”. He also quoted from Tagore and the Upanishads before offering the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi, who he said had much in common with Gandhi.

Gandhi Foundation Trustee, Graham Davey, set out how the Quaker Testimonies of simplicity, truth, equality and peace relate to care for the environment by espousing the values of moderation, sustainability and non violence and concern for the depletion of non renewable resources. The Quaker Book of Discipline calls for us to rejoice in God’s world but to appreciate that we are not its owners but its custodians.

Gandhi Foundation and Environmental Law foundation founder, Martin Polden, offered observations on the teachings of Judaism. He quoted the Old Testament’s injunction to “Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and everything that moves on the Earth”. He said this should be read in conjunction  with chapter 2 verses 7-8, where Adam first appears, and is expressed to be ‘planted’ in the Garden of Eden, with a duty to ‘cultivate and keep it’, i.e. serve it and conserve it. Throughout the Torah, there is the injunction to take account of cultivation and obey good husbandry, said Polden.

He explained how Gandhi was influenced by the Jewish community in South Africa and how the 12th century philosopher Maimonides influenced E.F. Schumacher’s ‘Guide for the Perplexed’. As a lawyer, Polden has worked with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian environmentalists “on issues that concern the region and where each marks the other with respect and recognition of each as human beings, with the key of living together, as distinct from stereotypes”.

Martin Polden also said that our prayers with GF President Lord Attenborough, who is unwell. Trustee John Rowley also collected messages from the audience to send to him.

Reverend Nagase from the London Peace Pagoda, said that in Buddhism, there are two paths open to attain  Buddhahood; creating the  pure land, and to lead the people to the teachings of Buddhism. “When people become peaceful and affectionate, the land in which they live is also bound to become peaceful and affectionate in accordance…It may seem as if the path is separated into two: the land and the people, yet originally both are the realisations of a single truth”.

Reflecting on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami last year, Rev Nagase said “If the minds of the people are impure, their land is also impure, but  if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure or impure, in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of people’s minds. It is the same with a Buddha and a common  mortal. While deluded, one is called a ‘common mortal’, but once  enlightened, is called a ‘Buddha’. Even a tarnished mirror will shine like a jewel if it is polished”.

Madhava Turumella from the Hindu Forum explained how he stayed at Gandhi’s Sevagram ashram after graduating from university. He said he found serenity there and appreciated the many faiths that influenced Gandhi. This religious pluralism in Turumella’s branch of Hinduism which believes in the universality of humanity and harmony with other belief systems. He echoed previous speakers when he said that the earth does not belong to anyone. He said all life is interconnected and we must not covet or steal its resources. He said that this is precisely what is happening today, however, and it is causing great damage to our world.

Gandhi Foundation Trustee, Omar Hayat, speaking about Islam, also echoed much of what previous speakers and highlighted the great commonality between faiths. Muslims are guided by the Koran and the teachings and conduct of the Prophet and Hayat gave examples of both to explain the faith’s environmental perspective. The Koran states that man is not at the centre of the world, but just one part of the environment. Islam emphasises the unity of creation and equality of all creation and the role of man as a trustee of the earth and its resources and calls for humility. The current environmental crisis reflects mankind’s spiritual crisis.

The teachings of the Prophet, emphasise that the earth must not be exploited or abused and flora, fauna and animals have equal rights to man as God’s dependants. Hayat concluded with a quote from Prophet Mohammed “Act in your life as though you are living forever and act for the Hereafter as if you are dying tomorrow”.

Green London Assembly Member, Darren Johnson, explained the impact that Gandhi has had on modern environmentalists. Johnson said Gandhi was one of the first public figures to warn of environmental damage, warning of the consequences of pollution of air water and grain, and he described him as “A patron saint of the green movement”.

He said that Gandhi’s contemporary influence was based on his emphasis on sustainability, social justice, democratic participation and non-violence.  Johnson felt that Gandhi would approve of modern London’s multi-ethnic society but not the massive gap between rich and poor. Gandhi would understand the reason behind the current Occupy movement in the capital.

Gandhi’s non-violent methods have inspired civil rights movements across the world and are fundamental to the green movement today. Johnson said that we have a long way to go to realise Gandhi’s vision but his philosophy is as relevant as ever.

John Dal Din, representing the Catholic faith, like Father Ivor, offered a Franciscan prayer – the Canticle of Creation. He talked of the deep links between St Francis and Gandhi.

Ajit Singh explained the influence of the Sikh faith on Gandhi. He posed the question what is the world and our place within it. Quoting Guru Nanak and Sikh morning prayers, he said that God creates and sustains the earth but mankind is responsible for it and all its life forms. All life is interconnected and any damage done to the earth is damage to me, said Singh.

David Fazey from Village Action India talked about a month-long Ekta Parishad (an indian grassroots movement) Satyagraha march in October in India in which 100,000 people will participate. It is inspired by Gandhi and is being staged to highlight the plight of Indian rural communities who are being denied rights to their land, water and forests. This march builds on the Janadesh march in 2007.

Fazey said that if the March is to be successful, it must be witnessed and he called on all those present to raise awareness of the event. A leaflet on the march was circulated and further details are available at www.marchforjustice2012.org

There were further impromptu contributions at the end of the event; Margaret Waterward highlighted a march of 450 slum children dressed in Khadi in Kolkata the previous day, calling for education and a future free of poverty; a from a representative of the Jain faith, Sagar Sumaria, highlighting the environmental damage created by our demand for consumer electronics, such as mobile phones. A peace petition was also circulated on behalf of Newham Mosque.

Mark Hoda concluded the event by thanking Omar Hayat and GF Friend Jane Sill for all their help in organising this year’s Multifaith Celebration.

Speech given by Martin Polden at the Multifaith Celebration 2012

Speech given by Madhava Turumella at the Multifaith Celebration 2012

Speech given by Omar Hayat at the Multifaith Celebration 2012


Doing Small Things With Great Love – by Bill Palethorpe

With as always (but particularly in our age of 24 hour news coverage) so many negative stories making the headlines is it any wonder that people increasingly feel powerless? Some decide not to get up in the morning whilst others turn to a hedonistic life. Well friends, as many Gandhi followers know, we all have the power and talents to act for the common good of other people, our non-human animal cousins and our beautiful ‘on loan’ planet. To quote Mother Teresa

“We can do no great things but we can do small things with great love”.

So with this in mind I would like to share with you three simple and inexpensive events that Eastbourne Quakers, vegetarians, military personnel, town councillors (including the mayor) and others, many of them complete strangers, have recently been successfully involved in.

i) During National Vegetarian Week last September local Quakers, vegetarians / vegans and friends ran two very successful simple outside vegetarian stalls. Organisations such as Viva!, Animal Aid, The Vegetarian Society, The Vegan Society, and Advocates for Animals, gave us lots of very interesting and colourful information and recipes plus posters and stall banners. Also friendly veggie companies were only too pleased to provide food samples as this is a very good form of marketing for them. We even persuaded a butcher delivering meat to local pubs to try several vegan dishes, he declared them all delicious and apologised for his day job! Buoyed up by our success we decided to repeat this event at a big pre-Christmas Eastbourne Street Party in December. Our local health food shop Sunny Foods offered us the use of part of their premises. The stall was extremely popular gaining us lots of contacts and converts with widespread local press publicity.

ii) Last Spring/Summer we had noticed foie gras on sale at the French Market that visits Eastbourne and many other towns throughout the Spring to Autumn months. Foie gras is produced from the diseased liver of a duck or goose that has been forced fed, causing the liver of the bird to swell up to ten times its normal size. A pipe is inserted down the throat of the bird and pulped maize pumped into their stomachs, frequently resulting in severe injury or death. We therefore decided to try and get the product banned from all council land and premises. It is illegal to produce it in the UK and an increasing number of other countries. Due to the free trade EU regulations however it can be imported from mainland Europe.

Duck Foie Gras

We approached Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) who advised us to write to them with several signatures. On reflection we decided to organise a petition. Within a few days friends, neighbours, sympathetic shop keepers etc. had signed and we presented this in person to EBC. After months of discussion and meetings including providing them with excellent information from animal welfare charities they agreed to debate it at a full Cabinet meeting at the Town Hall on 31st March 2010. Prior to this they had watched a graphic DVD.

Quaker friends attended the Meeting and were amazed at the welcome we received and at the supportive speeches made by council officials and town councillors. Imagine our joy when the vote was taken and the LibDem and Conservative councillors joined forces and voted unanimously for an immediate ban. One councillor regretted that EBC had not already banned it and has now offered to approach trade organisations to influence their members to stop stocking the product at hotels, restaurants and other outlets. We have received a great deal of positive publicity both locally and nationally including a feature in The Herald (2nd and 9th April 2010) the main widely circulated local paper and The Friend the weekly Quaker publication.

iii) Lastly but by no means least a similar group of us in conjunction with the animal welfare charity Animal Aid of Tonbridge agreed to mount a local campaign to enable us to lay a purple poppy wreath in memory of all the millions of innocent non-human animals that have served and died in wars and armed conflicts. Some of us had already visited the beautiful Animals War Memorial in Park Lane central London. This is a powerful and moving tribute to all those brave animals which was unveiled six years ago on the 90th anniversary of the start of WW1.

Our format was broadly similar to our foie gras campaign. EBC agreed in principal to our request to take part in the formal Remembrance Sunday Parade and to lay a purple poppy wreath. However the final decision rested with the Eastbourne Combined Ex-Services Association Wreath Laying Committee. Much to our surprise we started gathering support from many ex-service men and women as well as individual residents and local organisations. These included the local branches of Quaker Concern for Animals; Vegetarian and Vegan Societies; Viva! and Animal Aid plus East Sussex Wildlife Animal Rescue.

Again imagine our delight when in October the Wreath Laying Committee met for the final time before Remembrance Sunday and unanimously voted in favour of us permanently taking part in the official memorial parade with the laying of our purple poppy wreath at its conclusion. Some purists may say that we should not get involved with a military parade but as Quakers say “cooperation is better than conflict”. Once again our campaign produced a lot of good publicity both locally and wider afield. The town centre Sainsbury’s has now granted us the week prior to Remembrance Sunday for selling purple poppies and giving out relevant information.

No doubt many Gandhi friends are involved in similar enterprises to the three examples above. However do please contact myself or the organisations direct (just Google them!) if you care to join any of these particular peaceful campaigns. Good news as well as bad can travel fast nowadays.

You can reach Bill Palethorpe at hobdell@fastmail.fm

Cecil Evans (1925-2009)

Cecil Evans

Cecil Evans

Obituary of Cecil Evans, Quaker and co-founder of The Gandhi Foundation. Our thanks go to Douglas Butterfield and Jordans Quaker Meeting for permission to reproduce this remembrance of Cecil’s life.

Upbringing

Cecil Evans was born in 1925 in Liverpool of Welsh parentage.  He was not born a Quaker. He wanted to be English and disengage from his Welsh roots so he and his brother joined the Congregational Church which was nearer their home and more progressive than the Welsh Chapels with younger ministers.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 Cecil was a pupil at the Liverpool Institute High School, which was evacuated to Bangor. He went back to Liverpool during the “phoney war” but was evacuated again when the Liverpool Docks were bombed. Cecil took School Certificate in 1941 and Higher in 1943; leaving school in April 1944. His was a classical education. His classics master wrote “He has worked with vigour and determination. I am sure that his classical training will serve him well, and that his personal qualities and intellectual ability will carry him far in whatever field he eventually enters.” Cecil tried unsuccessfully to get a scholarship to Jesus College, Oxford, to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

Wartime service

So Cecil registered for military service and joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve on a scheme that was 50% military service and 50% university – with the government giving maintenance grants to ex-service men to go on to university after the war.  He volunteered to serve on minesweepers in the Channel. This experience of wartime naval service shaped his thinking about war. In later life he recalled his naval service with some pride in having cleared the coast of mines, looking back with some satisfaction when in the 1960’s and 1970’s his Quaker service was closely involved with disarmament efforts.

Oxford

Cecil went to Oxford University to read PPE after the war, where he met Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics, who interpreted the West and the East to each other, and wrote Recovery of Faith: the way to a religion of the Spirit, later becoming the second President of India (1962-1967). Cecil also attended a series of lectures in All Souls College stimulated by an American student Richard Hillman. These experiences shaped Cecil’s thinking about religion.

Cecil met a Friend at a lecture he attended – a Mr Sutton who was a professor at St Edmund Hall –  who told Cecil about the Religious Society of Friends.  Cecil did some research on Quakers using Whittaker’s Almanac. He received a brief personal letter in response to his enquiry from Edgar Dunstan, the predecessor of George Gorman, secretary to Quaker Home Service, giving him contact details for Wallasey and Birkenhead Friends Meetings.  He attended Birkenhead Meeting from 1949 and was accepted into membership in 1953.

In 1949 Cecil left Oxford and got a temporary job teaching Latin in a Quaker School at Wigton in the Lake District, moving on to teach at Wycliffe College in Gloucestershire.  He qualified as a teacher at Liverpool University.

12 years in North America; work in the Quaker United Nations Office, New York

Cecil emigrated to Canada in 1952, and spent 12 years in North America. After a period as a university lecturer in philosophy in Manitoba, he become General Secretary of the Canadian Friends Service Committee in Toronto from 1956 to 1960, and attended Toronto Meeting.  He was deputed to attend the UN General Assembly to represent Canadian Friends for a month in 1958.

Cecil then spent 3 years from 1960 in New York as a staff member, and latterly the Director, of the Quaker United Nations Office. Cecil wrote on the issues that the Quaker office was working on; disarmament and world order, conciliation in East-West relations, early cessation of nuclear testing, development of regional peace forces, concerns about the situation in Cuba, the “China Question”, Algeria, Israeli-Arab questions, abolition of capital punishment, and the abolition of slavery worldwide.

Cecil wrote about the formal and informal interactions with delegates that staff of the Quaker UN Office enjoyed, and about holding Quaker House functions on such topics as the role of small nations in disarmaments, the work of the UN Housing Commission, China’s relationship to the UN, and developments in Latin America. All meetings were off-the-record and conducted in an informal atmosphere, where guests generally felt free to participate and found the experience relaxing and refreshing. Many delegates, as well as members of the UN Secretariat, were often glad to explore aspects of problems on which they were working with a group like Friends, a testimony to the confidence established by Friends over the years, especially through relief and educational work. The Quaker UN programme won the respect of Hugh Foot, then the British Ambassador to the UN, later to become Lord Caradon.

Cecil later described this as the high point of his working life, and it left him with the life-long conviction that Christians and the Church should be involved in the political process, not necessarily as politicians, but concerned with political issues; how people are treated, how they are rewarded, how they are housed and educated, as well as with the wider sphere of international relations, for peace and the conditions which make for peace.

Return to England; work for Quakers in London (Britain) Yearly Meeting

In 1964 Cecil returned to England, and worked in London jointly for the East-West Relations Committee and the American Friends Service Committee, with special reference to western relations with China.

Cecil then returned to teaching, obtaining a teaching post at Leighton Park, the Quaker School in Reading, where his friend Richard Coleman was head of Divinity & Classics.  He taught the History and Principles of Quakerism for four years. He completed a Master’s degree in International Politics at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Cecil was the first chairman, from 1966 to 1971, of the United Nations and Disarmament (UNAD) Working Group of Friends Peace and International Relations Committee (FPIRC), and built it up into an effective Group.

In 1971 Cecil was appointed the International Secretary and later General Secretary of the FPIRC. He actively promoted the campaign for the renewal of Britain’s acceptance of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the ratification of the two United Nations Human Rights Covenants. He encouraged Friends to write to MPs. He promoted the campaign to withdraw Britain from the Arms Trade. He wrote to The Times about the importance to the Church of having only ethical investments.

With restructuring in October 1978 he was appointed Assistant General Secretary of Quaker Peace and Service, the amalgamated body of Friends Service Council and the FPIRC, a post he held until his retirement (circa 1990).

Nicholas Sims, who was chairman of UNAD and its successor (the United Nations Committee of QPS), and a member of FPIRC and QPS, writes “During his time at Friends House he was very supportive of his committee members and his colleagues, just the kind of loyal servant our Society owed so much to in the heyday of Quaker international affairs work. He took infinite pains to enable Friends to carry the work forward and to get it right.” Cecil was also secretary of the Quaker group for diplomats in London.

Cecil managed the “One Percent Fund”, arising out of the concern endorsed by Yearly Meeting in 1968, to encourage (by practical example and advocacy) the Quaker concern that 1% of the GNP (the value of all goods and services produced) should go to overseas aid. This target had been recommended by the 2nd UN Trade and Development Conference for overseas aid programmes of wealthier countries by 1975, endorsed by the Pearson Report of the World Bank. Cecil supported the view that this was “the first stumbling step towards the ideal of an international welfare state”, and Cecil was advocating that Friends ought to be concerned about fair trade agreements with developing countries, as well as aid for development. Eventually the work of this Fund was taken forward by the Committee on the Sharing of World Resources.

Cecil is represented in Quaker Faith and Practice in an article he wrote in 1987, and it is a fine expression of Quaker conviction on the roots of world poverty and speaking truth to power;

“Our primary objective in speaking truth to power on social and economic issues, especially on the problem of world poverty, should be the interests of the poor. Our role is to remind the rich and privileged, including ourselves, of the challenge to surrender privilege.”

Cecil represented British Quakers for years on an annual consultation on Quaker work at the UN (QUNC) set up in the 1970s. He participated actively in the NGO Human Rights Network in London, acting as its secretary for a time.  He strongly supported the Quaker witness in Europe at Brussels, and the setting up of Quaker House in Brussels.

Cecil was active ecumenically. He was a member of the British Council of Churches Advisory Forum on Human Rights in the 1970’s. He was greatly valued by his counterparts in the other denominational headquarters and the BCC. He was influential in getting ecumenical support for the abolition of torture, and the abolition of the death penalty, as concerns to be taken forward by the British churches together and promoted on UN agendas.

Marriage

In 1982 Cecil married Isabel Copeland-Watts at Uxbridge Meeting House and they both became members of Jordans Monthly Meeting (now Chilterns Area Meeting) in 1983, worshipping firstly at Amersham Meeting, where he was an elder, and then at Jordans Local Meeting where he has served as clerk and in many other ways. Friends rejoice at the happiness that their marriage brought to both of them over 26 years. Cecil and Isabel are remembered for their guided walks in the area to trace out the early history of Jordans Meeting in the 17th century.  Cecil is also remembered for his ministry on the life and teaching of William Penn, who is buried at Jordans. He often ministered on the writing of William Penn:

“True Godliness does not turn us out of the world, but enables us to live better in it, and excites our endeavours to mend it”

Prisoners of Conscience Appeal Fund

From 1980 Cecil has been a Trustee, Chairman and, latterly, Patron of the Prisoners of Conscience Appeal Fund in London. Originally established in 1962 as the relief arm of Amnesty International, the Fund is now a separate charity and the only agency in the UK making grants specifically to prisoners of conscience – individuals who have been persecuted for their conscientiously-held beliefs, provided that they have not used or advocated violence.  The Fund aims to raise and distribute money to help prisoners of conscience and/or their families rehabilitate themselves during and after their ordeal.  Financial grants cover general hardship relief, furniture, medicines, travel costs, family reunion costs, education, counselling, requalification costs, resettlement costs and protective accompaniment.

As a trustee of the Prisoners of Conscience Appeal Fund, in 1992, Cecil introduced the Fund’s work to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFVT), based in Geneva.  Through Cecil’s initial recommendation, this UN Fund agreed to support the Appeal Fund’s beneficiaries who had suffered torture.  Cecil nurtured this relationship for several years as Chair and the support is still ongoing, 17 years later.  In total, £700,000 has been raised to support prisoners of conscience who have been subjected to torture, and  thousands of individuals and their families have benefited from this wonderful legacy. Rosamund Horwood-Smith, former chair of the Fund, has written;

“My memories of Cecil are of his gentle integrity, his sensitivity to the needs of others and his modesty.  He had a wonderful and ready smile, his voice was melodious and his words considered and he gave his time and wise counsel to us at Prisoners of Conscience Appeal Fund without stint.  We will remember him with great affection and gratitude.”

Tom Blumenau, former Director of the Fund, has written;

“I think the overwhelming quality, which Cecil had, was a complete fairness and the support he gave to his colleagues. He was very much supported in his activities — particularly his work with the Quakers – by his wife Isabel.  He was what one would call a really good man”

Cecil has written many articles on subjects related to peace, particularly for The Friend.  For example, he wrote about his belief in the power of letter writing in ‘speaking truth to power’, and another expressing his approval of the setting up of a Quaker Fellowship by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. He spoke extensively at Friends Meetings, and meetings of the UNA.

Conscientious Objection to paying tax for war purposes

Cecil became the clerk of a Meeting for Sufferings group on Conscientious Objection – the withholding of taxes for military purposes.  With the assistance of Meeting for Sufferings the independent Peace Tax Campaign was set up in 1980. Meeting for Sufferings agreed, on behalf of its own employees, including Cecil, that it could support the conscientious objection of staff members to paying for arms through PAYE, and was supported by Yearly Meeting in 1983. This led to the Clerk and Assistant Clerk of Meeting for Sufferings, Beryl Hibbs and Maisie Birmingham, appearing in court, and judgement was awarded to the Inland Revenue. The decision was appealed before the Master of the Rolls, the clerks spoke movingly in their own defence, but the judge found that the lack of the right to withhold tax did not infringe fundamental liberties. Meeting for Sufferings decided to pay all the withheld tax, on the grounds that the law had been tested as far as possible. In 1987 Yearly Meeting took on the concern afresh, and minuted that

“We are convinced by the Spirit of God to say without any hesitation whatsoever that we must support the right of conscientious objection to paying taxes for war purposes”

Meeting for Sufferings appointed a Working Group on Taxation for Military Purposes, of which Cecil was the clerk, and the group consulted widely with local meetings. In March 1989 Meeting for Sufferings decided in principle to support those employees who held a conscientious objection to paying taxes for military purposes, including Cecil. However, this decision caused considerable controversy locally, and no practicable way forward was found, and the staff request has not been considered further since that time. Meeting for Sufferings also considered a proposal that it should express a corporate objection to collecting tax for military purposes by ceasing to pay this proportion of tax to the Inland Revenue. However Meeting for Sufferings did not proceed with this proposal because of the unease of some staff. From December 1991 Meeting for Sufferings asked its clerk to write a letter to the Inland Revenue each month when the PAYE cheque was sent, explaining the concern of Friends and making it clear that payment was being made under protest.
Yearly Meeting in 1993 agreed to “accept the discipline of taking parliamentary action on payment of taxes for military purposes” which included the writing of letters to MPs.

Parliamentary action continued, and in January 1994 a 10 minute rule bill was introduced on behalf of the Peace Tax Campaign and an Early Day Motion on the subject by the close of the 1994 session of Parliament. A report on this was received by Yearly Meeting in 1995. In all of this, Cecil kept alive a vision of a peace-building fund created with funds diverted from tax revenue used for military purposes, which could be spent on helping to remove the causes of war, such as poverty, the plight of refugees, as well as peace keeping and peace research. Cecil quoted Robert Barclay in his Apology recognising that it may be right for an individual or group to take a position for which most people are not yet ready. Cecil felt that there should be some in the world who seek to present a standard of Christian perfection by going the whole way now, thus being able to indicate the objective to which all will eventually be drawn.

In 1996, Cecil wrote a booklet, The Claims of Conscience, Quakers and Conscientious Objection to taxation for military purposes, published by Quaker Home Service, London, which sets out with great clarity the ethics of conscientious objection, and the history of the concern amongst Friends, with a vision for the future.

The quality of Cecil’s service and the recognition that he had much to offer adult education in the field of international relations led to an invitation in 1994 to become  a Friend in Residence along with his wife, Isabel, in Woodbrooke, the Quaker Adult Education Centre in Birmingham.  Out of his experience he led sessions on the United Nations and rose to the challenge of engaging with diverse views on the role and effectiveness of the UN.

The Gandhi Foundation

In December 1982, Sir Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi won 8 Oscars.  At the time, Cecil was Assistant General Secretary of Quaker Peace and Service and had met Surur Hoda in his role as UK Secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation.  They discovered that they both had a deep admiration for the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi.

The astounding success of Gandhi in the UK months later prompted Surur to invite Cecil to go with Lord Ennals, Diana Schumacher, Martin Polden, Rex Ambler and himself to Sir Richard’s house with a view to setting up The Gandhi Foundation.  The trust deeds were duly completed later that year with Richard as President and David Ennals as Chairman.  Cecil contributed enormous energies to an already dynamic Committee which, from 1985, organised with increasing success three annual events and a quarterly newsletter.  The Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture is on Gandhi’s birthday [2nd October – now UN Day of Nonviolence] and has had five Nobel Peace Prize Laureates deliver the Lecture to date.  The Gandhi Multi-faith Service has been held every year since 1987 to mark Gandhi’s death on 30th January and a week long Summer School is held to elucidate a Gandhian response to contemporary issues.  The Gandhi Way newsletter has been edited since 1984 by George Paxton which means that the 100th issue will be published this Spring.  The Foundation has funded many other projects over the last quarter century, both here and in India, most benefiting from the tens of thousands of pounds that Cecil raised for The Foundation.

Cecil always offered wise counsel on the way forward.  He led discussions in Committee, in the Summer School, in Conferences and gave lectures about Gandhi whenever he was asked.  Many will happily recall how his diplomatic skills were used so gently but authoritatively, most publicly when he ‘refereed’ speakers at the Multi-faith services held in Kingsley Hall and in St James, Piccadilly:  some let their enthusiasm take them beyond their allotted time and so were shown first a yellow card and then a red card!

Cecil took over as Chairman of the Foundation when David Ennals died in 1995. He then presided over the Annual Lectures given by The Revd the Lord Soper, Mairead Maguire, Bruce Kent, Professor Adam Curle, Dr. Scilla Elworthy, John Hume MP and Simon Hughes MP.  He continued to come to the Lecture even though poorly until October 2008 when Rev Harold Good and Father Alec Reid, who jointly witnessed the decommissioning of IRA weapons, gave the Lecture and received the Peace Award in The House of Lords.

In 1999, Cecil and Surur conceived, planned and presented the first International Gandhi Peace Award.  This was received posthumously by Lady Eirwen Harbottle, the widow of Major-General Sir Michael Harbottle who had founded “Generals for Peace”.   In subsequent years, Cecil saw The Peace Award being given by the sub-Committee to his friends Nicholas Gillett, Peter Dent & Bill Peters, the latter two being the Founders of “Jubilee 2000”.  The Peace Award will continue to be presented in memory of Cecil and Surur Hoda for as long as it is given.

The grace of God in Cecil’s life

Since 1953, when he first joined the Religious Society of Friends, Cecil has worked tirelessly on behalf of others by promoting peace and non-violence.  Stuart Morton, staff member of Quaker Peace and Social Witness writes:

“Throughout all of his work, Cecil has touched and improved many thousands of lives around the world through his dedicated championing of peace, non-violence and reconciliation.  He continues to be an inspiration to all of those who have the pleasure of knowing or working with him. Cecil combined moral and intellectual clarity with a great respect for whoever it was that he was engaging with.  He was dedicated to the work of peace and in my experience worked very hard to be fully ready for any dialogue that would promote peace and justice. His tone of voice was always one of positive encouragement to those staff and committee members who worked alongside him. His generosity of spirit, outward calm, and sensitive veracity marked him out as a Quaker and a diplomat.”

Friends who knew Cecil have commented that he was “a kindler, not a snuffer”: He always wore the broken chain of the Jubilee Debt Campaign in his button hole. He worked constantly for peace; he loved people; he was always gracious. He had a gift for building people up with quiet words of appreciation. The Grace of God shone through him in all these ways. Cecil left us with a vision for the future. He hoped that in the coming century – sooner rather than later – we shall be able to abolish war, and the conditions that make for war. He wrote;

“it may sound far-fetched, but it could be possible, with God’s help, if we have a will to do it. One of the ways of achieving it will be through a strengthened United Nations. The UN has the machinery potentially through it preventative diplomacy and in other ways to help achieve it. It is the responsibility of member governments to enable the UN to fulfil its potential, and for its citizens like ourselves to see that governments do so”.

John Rowley of the Gandhi Foundation writes

“The lasting memory of any encounter with Cecil was his gentle humour, the grace of his manner and the thoughtfulness of his words.  All of us who knew him throughout his unstinting support for The Gandhi Foundation, or who heard or read his erudite and articulate advocacy of non-violence in all human activity, or who benefited from his vast practical experience in resolving conflicts will remember this man with love and a smile.  We were privileged to know him.”

In his garden Cecil was passionate about growing roses, and to the end of his life was the President of the Seer Green Horticultural Society. He found rose growing a therapeutic and restful change from the stresses of his working life. Cecil always carried the Tewkesbury Abbey blessing with him, and it expresses well how the grace of God shone through his life:

Go on your way in peace. Be of good courage. Hold fast that which is good; render no man evil for evil. Strengthen the faint hearted, support the weak, help and cheer the sick, honour all men, love and serve the Lord; and may the blessing of God be upon you and remain with you for ever.

In the last months of his life Cecil moved into a nursing home where he was cared for whilst suffering the early symptoms of dementia, and limited mobility. He was cheerful and positive to the end of his life, sharing worship with Friends who called to visit him in the last two days of his life. Asked how he was he replied, “All the better for seeing you!” He was a benign and kindly Friend who always left his friends feeling better for having met him and known him.  We are glad to have known him.

Nicholas Gillett (1915-2008)

Nicholas Gillett who died on 23 June was a worthy recipient of the International Gandhi Peace Award in 1999. In his acceptance speech he spoke about caterpillars, horse flies and bees to illustrate the need for fresh approaches to peace building. Had he been less self-effacing he might have spoken of his own background and achievements.

He was born into a Quaker family in 1915. His great grandfather on his mother’s side was the radical, anti-war MP, John Bright. His mother went to South Africa in the aftermath of the Boer War to teach Boer women, confined in concentration camps set up by the British, to spin and weave wool and generate a small income. Later on in 1931 his mother was introduced to Gandhi but as it was Gandhi’s day for not speaking, they communed in silence.

Nicholas’s father owned and ran a private bank. His uncle was Joseph Rowntree, founder of the charities from which many peace organisations have benefited. Both parents were active supporters of the League of Nations, set up after the First World War.

Nicholas went to the Quaker school, Leighton Park, and then to Oxford where he studied philosophy, politics and economics. One of his first friends there, Chandra Mal, had worked for Gandhi as a secretary and was a committed devotee. During the vacations, Nicholas went to a variety of work camps in this country and overseas. He helped Corder Catchpool in Berlin in his work for reconciliation and was appalled as he watched Hitler address a youth rally in Innsbruck.

At a work camp in Salford, Manchester, he met Ruth Cadbury and they were married in 1938. Ruth’s grandfather was George Cadbury who had established the Bournville chocolate factory and estate for the workers. Her parents, Henry and Lucy Cadbury, were wardens of the Quaker Study Centre, Woodbrooke, where Gandhi stayed in 1931.

After initial training to be a teacher of physical education, Nicholas grew increasingly interested in educational psychology. He, Ruth and their growing family of six children managed two farms during the Second World War and from 1945 onwards Nicholas lectured at Teacher Training Colleges at Saltley, Cheltenham and Dudley while studying for an MA in education at Birmingham University in his spare time. He helped to found the first Parent-Teacher Associations in the country and served UNESCO in the Philippines, Thailand and Iran. The family moved to Bristol in 1965 where Nicholas lectured at the University and gave generously of his time and money to various peace and development groups and especially the UNA.

During this time, Nicholas withheld the part of his tax payment which would have gone to the Ministry of Defence and he and Ruth had their more valuable furniture and other possessions seized by bailiffs to make up the deficit. Some of the property was bought at auction by members of the family and returned to them but it showed their commitment to the pacifist cause.

From 1975 to 1977 Nicholas and Ruth represented Quaker Peace and Service in Northern Ireland where they supported the Peace People led by Mairead Corrigan, Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeowen. Ruth took the lead in setting up the means by which disaffected paramilitary men from both sides could disengage from their units, adopt new identities and live peaceful and useful lives.

Three years after their return to Bristol from Belfast, Nicholas and Ruth went off to serve QPS again in the Quaker UN office in Geneva. Ruth died suddenly two months after she and Nicholas had celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in Bristol in 1988.

Nicholas practised farming in his early adult life and he spent his last years helping his second wife, Mehr Fardoonji, manage an organic market garden near Chester. Mehr is a Parsee and had walked with Vinoba Bhave in the Land-Gift Movement. Nicholas continued to write and speak about peace, development and education.

Nicholas’s parents had been close friends with Jan Christian Smuts who had been responsible for imprisoning Gandhi in South Africa. Each man had considerable respect for the other and while in prison, Gandhi made a pair of sandals as a present for Smuts. Later, Smuts gave them to Nicholas’s mother. Nicholas found them in a cupboard one day and continued to wear them until they were worn out. He, more than most people, walked in the footsteps of Gandhi.

Graham Davey

John Linton – a Gandhian memory

John Linton, MA (Oxon), is 97 years young and lives in Oxford. He is weaving a rich tapestry through his life with a varying career, prose & poetry writings, travels, marriages – and much else besides. He has lived in India and has a great love of the country. As a young man he abandoned an Anglican theological training when he could no longer accept the Creed, and much later in life found a spiritual home with the Quakers. He went on to found the Quaker Universalist Movement, embracing Quakers from a non-Christian background. I [Denise Moll] went to meet him in Oxford and admired his lively mind and keen intellect. When he started to talk about Gandhi I said “please stop! let me find paper and pencil . . .”:

In August 1942, when I was an officer in the Indian Army and attending a course at the Intelligence School, Karachi, I learnt that Sir Stafford Cripps, a leading member of the British war-time Government, had been sent to India with what was called the “Cripps Offer”. In a nutshell, the Offer asked India to cooperate with Britain in the war effort, and in return Britain would grant India independence on the cessation of hostilities. Gandhi was asked if he agreed with this Offer and said

“No – it was an offer on a post-dated cheque”.

The Cripps Offer was turned down. Gandhi then started the ‘Quit India’ Movement – a serious threat as it meant that all services were disrupted. The Army had to take suitable action and my Unit was posted to Bengal, where dissidents wanted to interfere with our activities, and our journey there from Karachi was badly held up and delayed.

In my view, Gandhi’s Quit India movement was unfortunate because by turning down the Cripps Offer, it meant that instead of India becoming independent after the War, there was a 2-year gap during which time the demand for Partition took place. There were others in India too who felt it was a mistake and that the tragedy of Partition between India and Pakistan could have been avoided.

My wife Erica and I served as Quaker International Affairs Representatives in Delhi from 1961-3 and 1971-5. We had an interesting time, organising meetings between all the international representatives, and became known to eminent foreign visitors who could talk about the Indian situation from an English viewpoint. Among those were Archbishop Coggan, Barbara Ward, Vera Brittain, etc. Also, Kingsley Martin, who as its Editor made The New Statesman essential reading for Labour Party members. Although I never met Gandhi, a Major friend of mine had the job of looking after him in jail and grew to admire him greatly. I did meet his son, Devadas, his wife and two children, and learned about his remarkable father.

As an Indian Army officer I could not take part in politics. But I studied everything to do with Mahatma Gandhi with the greatest interest. Following his launch of the Quit India movement in August 1942, Gandhi was immediately arrested by the British authorities and spent the rest of the war in jail. In the case of India, this meant till August 1945, with the surrender of the Japanese following the dropping of the atomic bombs on two Japanese cities.

In August 1947 India gained its independence, but with the loss of two Muslim majority areas to Pakistan. I have always regarded the partition of India as a most unfortunate decision. There are as many Muslims in India as there are in Pakistan, and they are all the same people.

When I was back in England, with a job in the old India Office, the news came on 30th January 1948, of the assassination of Gandhi by a Hindu fanatic. The only good thing that can be said about that is that many people became aware for the first time of his greatness. Pandit Nehru made a most moving speech to the nation, saying that

“a great light has gone out of our lives.”

In September 1948 I started my job as BBC Indian Programme Organiser, meaning that I was in charge of Indian language broadcasts. In my very first week in the job the news came of the death of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Though I was opposed to partition, I had a great respect for Mr Jinnah. In an early speech he had said that everyone in Pakistan would be treated as equal, whether they were Muslim or not. He had of course been a colleague of Gandhi.

When my wife Erica and I were appointed, by both British and American Friends, as Quaker International Representatives for South Asia, based in Delhi, we soon made contact with the Gandhi Peace Foundation, the equivalent in India of our Gandhi Foundation. We got to know well Gandhi’s political heir, Jaya Prakash Narayan, JP as he was affectionately known, and visited him and his wife at their home in Patna, Bihar. My wife got to know Gandhi’s spiritual heir, Vinoba Bhave, and thoroughly enjoyed her conversation with him, finding him likeable and amusing.

Quakers had always been popular in India, because they had supported the Indian independence movement. After the death of Charlie Andrews, Gandhi’s best English friends were Horace Alexander and Agatha Harrison, both Quakers. I myself never met Gandhi. It was not appropriate for an army officer to meet a jail-bird ! But I’m sure I would have fallen for him, as many British people did.

My thanks to John for editing this piece and for a most enjoyable visit.
His book: Athwart the Storm, Prose & Poems compiled by Eleanor Nesbitt.
(William Sessions Ltd, York – ISBN 1 85072 153 X)

Denise Moll

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