Founded in 1981, Friends For a Non-Violent World (FNVW) is an anti-war organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota whose mission is “to end the occasion for violence”; to “provide tools, training and opportunities for people to take leadership in creating a non-violent society”; and to “draw from Quaker traditions and affirm the dignity and self-determination of each person, promoting non-violence as a powerful means to accomplish all just ends.” In FNVW’s view, violence is never, under any circumstances, a justifiable means of dealing with foreign enemies. Rather, the organization places its faith entirely in what it deems “the goodness in all people.”
Consistent with this position, Friends For a Non-Violent World bitterly opposed the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in March 2003. During the summer of 2002, FNVW Executive Director Phil Stager launched a campaign against the looming war, and referred to U.S. sanctions against Iraq as that country’s principal source of suffering at the time.
FNVW maintains close ties to the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and sent representatives to the latter’s 2003 national convention, where the Guild called for the impeachment of President Bush, accusing him of leading the U.S. into aggressive war action against Afghanistan and Iraq in violation of the Nuremberg Charter and other treaties. FNVW also financed World Peace Billboard, a group espousing the idea that the 9/11 attacks occurred “partly” because of “the Taliban’s reaction to American foreign policy around the world.”
FNVW co-sponsored “Cry Justice,” a “civil liberties” rally that was held October 24 to 26, 2003, in protest against America’s detainment of terror suspects and against its enforcement of the Patriot Act. Other sponsors included Freedom Ride, Nukewatch and the Lynnhurst Neighbors for Peace.
Friends for a Non-Violent World administers four major programs:
Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP): Initiated in 1975, this national and international initiative facilitates hundreds of nonviolence workshops each year in the prisons, communities and schools of 44 states and more than 30 foreign countries. It is the program to which FNVW devotes most of its time and focus. Relying upon hundreds of volunteer hours each month, AVP holds workshops in the St. Paul community and in the Faribault, Hennepin County, and Stillwater prisons. The AVP vision is: “Today, we are a violent society. … Prisons, viewed as a solution to violence, in turn spawn violence of their own. … Our goal is to reduce the level of violence by reducing the need that people feel to resort to violence as a solution. Our process uses the life experience of participants as a learning resource, drawing on that experience to deal constructively with the violence in themselves and in their lives.” Founded on a “spiritual base,” AVP’s “fundamental belief” is that “there is a power for peace in everyone, and that this power has the ability to transform violence.”
People Camp: “Founded by Quakers and welcoming all,” People Camp is “an experience of cooperation, community living, and exploration of ideas and issues.” Says FNVW, “People Camp is a time to relax in the beautiful rural setting of woods and lake, to be close to Mother Earth and all her creative forces, to share with other people and families, to rediscover ourselves, to refresh our spirits, or to just ‘be.’” Each camp session runs for six days, from Sunday afternoon through Saturday afternoon. Open to all people aged 13 and older, People Camp has no formal staff; its structure is determined entirely by the collaborative efforts of the participating “campers,” many of whom will, according to FNVW, become “citizen-leaders” of “grassroots peace and justice groups.” Reasoning from the premise that the U.S. is an inherently inequitable society in need of radical transformation, People Camp’s chief objective is to sow seeds of “social change.” Its current focus is on ending the war in Iraq; “promoting reconciliation, justice, and disarmament”; and “supporting nonviolent transformation in prisons and progressive change in corrections policy.”
Iraq Peace Plan: “Real democracy is based on respect for human dignity and self-determination and can only be accomplished by the will of the people, not by brute force,” says FNVW. “Iraqis can accomplish their democratic transition, but for them to do so at minimum cost in Iraqi civilian and US troops’ lives, the Administration must correct its policies that violate Iraqi dignity and self-determination and delay the day of Iraq’s reconstruction and U.S. troops’ return home. … Establishing democracy in Iraq is a mission the Administration came to after its original justifications for invading Iraq, which faced stiff and widespread opposition in the U.S. and around the world, were publicly revealed to be baseless. When U.S. weapons inspectors in Iraq found no WMD’s after the invasion, and when the 9-11 Commission found no meaningful connection between Iraq and Al Qaida, the American people realized that the cloak of ‘just cause’ the Administration said it was wearing was spun out of thin air.”
Peace in the Precincts: This program is intended to raise popular support for political candidates running on an anti-war platform. “Our leadership is betraying us,” says FNVW. “We must show party leaders that weak positions are not a winning strategy, and [that] a strong advocacy for an Iraq exit is critical to being endorsed and elected. … Endorse only those candidates who adhere to a peace standard — voting against funding for further military action in Iraq, voting for full veterans benefits, and voting for Iraqi reconstruction that’s under UN administration and Iraqi direction.”