Marking the Nobel Peace Prize anniversary
This week marks the 70th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Friends Service Council and American Friends Service Committee, representing British and Americans Quakers.
In 1947 in his presentation speech Gunnar Jahn, who chaired the Peace Prize Committee, spoke about the work of Quakers in public campaigns for peace over the centuries. And he explained:
“Yet it is not this side of their activities – the active political side – which places the Quakers in a unique position. It is through silent assistance from the nameless to the nameless that they have worked to promote the fraternity between nations citied in the will of Alfred Nobel….
“The Quakers have shown us that it is possible to translate into action what lies deep in the hearts of many: compassion for others and the desire to help them – that rich expression of the sympathy between all, regardless of nationality or race, which, transformed into deeds, must form the basis for lasting peace.
It is through silent assistance from the nameless to the nameless that they have worked to promote the fraternity between nations.- Gunnar Jahn, Nobel Peace Prize Committee
“For this reason alone the Quakers deserve to receive the Nobel Peace Prize today. But they have given us something more: they have shown us the strength to be derived from faith in the victory of the spirit over force. And this brings to mind two verses from one of Amulf Overland's poems which helped so many of us during the war. I know of no better salute: 'The unarmed only can draw on sources eternal. The spirit alone gives victory'."
Simple plain men and women, if they devote themselves to resolute insistence on goodwill in place of force, even in the face of great disaster past or threatened, can do something to build a better, peaceful world."- Henry Cadbury, Oslo, 1947
At the presentation ceremony in Oslo on 10 December 1947, Quakers made two acceptance speeches. Margaret Backhouse said this recognition of endeavour must stir Quakers to greater effort.
In Henry Cadbury's acceptance speech, he spoke about individuals building a better world. “If any should question the appropriateness of bestowing the peace prize upon a group rather than upon an outstanding individual we may say this: The common people of all nations want peace. In the presence of great impersonal forces they feel individually helpless to promote it. You are saying to them here today that common folk, not statesmen, nor generals nor great men of affairs, but just simple plain men and women, like the few thousand Quakers and their friends, if they devote themselves to resolute insistence on goodwill in place of force, even in the face of great disaster past or threatened, can do something to build a better,peaceful world."
- Quakers have sent warm congratulations to this year's recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is a coalition that includes Quaker Peace & Social Witness. ICAN's achievement of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will ban nuclear weapons. Quakers are urging the UK government to ratify it.