Women in Black, a reflection

Some thoughts on the Arran Women in Black group, by Sue Weaver.

Arran Women in Black meet for an hour on the last Saturday of the month in Brodick, near the ferry terminal. From 1.00 till 2.00 we stand, often in silence, holding a banner that says we are standing for peace.

In the silence, I find myself wondering how our standing there can help bring peace. We hand out leaflets. It’s a gorgeous sunny day. Holiday makers and locals pass happily by and even take the leaflets. They usually look like very peaceful people already. What are we trying to say to them? In what way does our standing there achieve anything? And after all, what do we mean by peace?

Originally, in 1988, the first women in black stood in Jerusalem, Israeli and Palestinian women standing vigil together to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and protesting against the violence during the First Intifada. They wore black to indicate mourning for all the victims of the conflict. The movement has spread around the world, with varying meanings of peace, depending on local circumstances. It is a non-aligned network of women, supporting alternatives to war and violence, and increasing understanding of conflict resolution.

So, in our British circumstances, what does peace mean? Some women carry placards indicating opposition to nuclear weapons. I certainly agree with them, but is that my only reason for standing? My thoughts stretch out. Peace isn’t just peace between nations. I’m standing for peace in communities and in families, between women and men, between parents and children. This means I’m standing for a fairer society, where deprivation doesn’t push people beyond what they can bear. Of course, it all links up. If we weren’t paying for Trident, we might afford a more equal society. I’m also standing for peace between humans and trees, and bears, octopus and bees…… Most importantly, standing for peace is an action, a demonstration that takes each of us, whatever peace means to us individually, just one step beyond a generally worthy but unspoken desire for a different way, an end to war.

Each person who sees us ‘standing for peace’ will, in their turn, have their own reaction. Most seem supportive, some stop to chat and discuss the leaflets, or wave, or smile. Some turn leaflets away and stride off – it seems important to send peaceful thoughts in their direction. My hope is that for many, the idea that some women are outspoken enough to stand publicly ‘for peace’ will remind them of their own longings for a world in which peace is practised. So they know they are not alone.