Reflection on “Quakers Praying for Peace” at Textron

Whether it’s a cold windy or a hot sunny day, once a month on Sundays, Quakers hold a meeting for worship on the sidewalk in front of Textron Defense Systems in Wilmington. We pray for ourselves, for the workers at Textron, and for our world.

We sit in silent witness without proselytizing or accusing. Our next meeting for worship at Textron will be Oct 19 at 11:15 and we invite you to join us.

Last time I prayed at Textron, my thoughts strayed from my vision of peace in this world. I thought of strangers who have bombed and murdered US citizens. I thought of how many countries the US has bombed in the last 5 years: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and now Syria. I wondered how many of Textron’s cluster bombs were being used in these bombing campaigns.

As I sat in worship, the wind stirred the trees. Motorcycles and cars whizzed by. I imagined myself living in Syria or Iraq. I remembered that 12 years ago the US dropped cluster bombs on populated Afghani towns. Since 2002, the US has dropped thousands of cluster bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq, many of them anti-personnel weapons that have killed and injured numerous civilians. Like land mines, unexploded “bomblets” can burst months later, killing children, farmers and shepherds. Each cluster bomb contains 202 individual “bomblets.” The bomblets from each cluster bomb spread over an area roughly 100 meters. Sixty-nine percent of those killed or injured by these weapons in Afghanistan were children. (Statistics found in Human Rights Watch report Fatally Flawed, 2002).

I sat in silent prayer trying to calm my pain. I, too, am a parent and I’ve too watched anxiously as my teenagers have been hospitalized. I know that parents in Afghan, were afraid to leave their homes after an air-strike, when yellow cans the size of a soda were dropped near villages. What if my son were the one to step on a bomblet? What if my niece had picked up a can, thinking it was a sweet drink? How would I feel if someone I loved was killed by such an innocuous-looking bomb? Many would be outraged, and so am I. Many would distract themselves from the truth, and so do I. Many fight to stop the madness of war, and so do I. But in worship I feel overwhelming pain for these families across the seas.

I don’t know where Textron is selling their products. I know that recently the US has sold cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea and Taiwan. How can selling armaments be healthy for us?

There is some hope. Over a hundred countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, prohibiting the use, transfer or production of these weapons. But not my country. Many countries are reducing arms and violence. Not my country. Many countries are diminishing military resources and transferring funds into health and education. Not my country.

For this I am in distress. I ask forgiveness. As the wind ruffles my hair and the meeting ends with a shake of hands, I dry my tears. For the Holy Spirit is at work and healing is possible. I will not fear, but will roll up my sleeves to help bring about a Peaceful Future. It is possible to live without bombing, and I hope to offer that to all of our children.

Minga Claggett-Borne
member at Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Quakers)