Peace matters

Christopher Goscha

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American Quakers with North Vietnamese soldiers shortly after the war ended in 1975; Quinn-Judge, far right. Photograph: Claudia Krich

Sophie Quinn-Judge landed in central Vietnam in 1973 as a member of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). She served in the AFSC-run Rehabilitation Centre in Quang Ngai province until the end of the war in 1975, providing prosthetics and relief help to war-injured civilians coming from all sides of the conflict ripping Vietnam apart. Quinn-Judge grew up in Quaker country in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Although she was not initially a member of this breakaway Protestant faith, she took part in their youth camps as a youngster and felt at home working in the AFSC in France and Vietnam.

The Quakers established the AFSC upon the United States’ entry into the First World War in 1917. The Quakers refused to take part in war as an article of faith. So instead of sending their sons into the trenches of the Western Front, the AFSC mobilised their young people to help civilians hurt and displaced by the conflagration. The AFSC did more than provide humanitarian aid, however. Drawing on centuries of Quaker pacifism, the organisation actively promoted “lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action”. Educational programs, youth camps and exchanges helped nurture “the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social relations and systems”. In 1947, the AFSC received the Nobel Prize for Peace for its humanitarian relief efforts during and after the Second World War and its promotion of world peace. The Quakers continued their work during the Cold War, dispatching people to work in war-torn areas of the Afro-Asian world, including Vietnam.[1]

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