A Quaker presence at Occupy London

Almost 100 Quakers attended a Meeting for Worship on the steps of saint Paul’s cathedral in London on Sunday afternoon. The Meeting for Worship took place in support of the Occupy London movement that is camped outside the cathedral.

The Occupy London movement is standing together with similar occupations around the world and is a peaceful non-hierarchical forum. According to their website, Occupy London participants are ‘in agreement that the current system is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; you are invited to join us in debate and developing them; to create a better future for everyone.

The Meeting for Worship took place against a backdrop of bell-ringing from both the cathedral and a nearby church. However, Friends present spoke of a strong gathered presence and the symbolism that Friends were worshipping outside on the steps rather than inside the cathedral.

A statement of Christian solidarity with the Occupy London movement has been signed by several groups including Ekklesia, Fellowship of Reconciliation (Europe), London Catholic Workers, Society of Sacramental Socialists, Speak network and Third Way. Stevenage Quaker Meeting has signed up to the statement. The statement reads:

‘Christian solidarity with the ‘Occupy London’ movement 

As Christians, we stand alongside people of all religions and none who are resisting economic injustice with active nonviolence. We offer our greetings to people engaged in occupations of financial centres throughout the world.

We seek to witness to the love and justice of God, proclaimed by Jesus Christ. Jesus said that he had come to “set free the oppressed”. His gospel is good news for all people. It is a challenge to all structures, systems, practices and attitudes that lead people to exploit and oppress their fellow human beings.

The global economic system divides people one from another and separates humanity from creation. It perpetuates the wealth of the few at the expense of the many. It fuels violence and environmental destruction. It is based on idolatrous subservience to markets. We cannot worship both God and money.

We are inspired by Jesus, who protested against exploitative traders and moneychangers in the Jerusalem Temple. Christianity began as a grassroots protest movement. Nonviolent direct action can play an important and ethical role in resisting injustice and achieving change.

We stand in solidarity with the ‘Occupy London’ movement and regret that they have not been able to make their protest closer to the London Stock Exchange. We applaud their commitment to co-operating with St Paul’s Cathedral and to ensuring that their camp is safe for everyone in the vicinity. We were pleased by the cathedral’s initial welcome to the camp and hope that difficulties between the occupiers and the cathedral can be speedily resolved, keeping the focus on the need to challenge the financial injustices perpetuated by the City of London.’

The drafters of the statement included Quaker Symon Hill who has written of the statement:  “As one of the drafters of the statement, I want to make clear that we want to act in solidarity with people of other religions and of none, not impose our religion on them or claim to be a more important part of the movement than they are. This point is made in the opening line of the statement.

“If there is a multifaith or non-religious statement of support, I hope that all the Christian groups who sign this statement would be happy to sign it. I’d be delighted if Muslim, Jewish, Pagan, Humanist, Atheist or other groups produce their own statements of support. There is a media narrative suggesting that the protest camp is opposed to St Paul’s, or to churches, or to Christianity, and it’s good to challenge that. But, more than that, it’s good to urge Christian groups to back the protest, alongside those of other religions and of none.”

Edit: 31/10/11 17:43 to add that Stevenage Quakers signed the Christian Solidarity statement.


Quaker worship on the steps of saint Paul's cathedral. Photo: Martin Kunz.

Quaker worship on the steps of saint Paul's cathedral. Photo: Martin Kunz.

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