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22 December 2006updated 27 Sep 2015 2:33am

Christmas, commitment and Faslane

The courage and commitment of a 94-year-old Quaker

By Sally Brooks

We are just days away from Christmas now and, like many others, I am getting ready to go home and spend the festive season with my family. I’m looking forward to eating and drinking and sharing with them.

I have been thinking a little about the Christmas story. It is easy to get bound up in the present buying, card writing and working out whether it will be too foggy to drive down the A1(M). But Christmas is of course the story of a baby being born.

Whoever we believe Jesus to be – and Quaker opinion on this, as with much else, is not set in stone – he was in need. Or, more specifically, his mother was in need. Mary was a poor woman, having travelled a long way, tired and in a strange place with her husband, Joseph. She would have been cold, afraid, weary. She was also probably in the early stages of labour and in pain. But there was no room for her to stay anywhere.

The person in this story I would love to know more about is the inn keeper who, the story tells us, gave Mary and Joseph shelter. It was not the most salubrious of locations, but it was somewhere warm. Perhaps the inn keeper was touched by her plight, was moved to help.

Perhaps, in spite of his inn being full and being very busy, he could still see the importance of this marginalised, disadvantaged family – to put it in modern terms. On paper, he had no responsibility for them. But he helped nonetheless.

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Responsibility and integrity is at the heart of Quaker life. It is why a 94-year-old woman from my Meeting House in Leicester, Alice Beer, and several other more mature Friends spent last weekend protesting at the Faslane naval base on the River Clyde in Scotland. They form a group called Golden Oldies Against Trident.

Alice has been politically active for most of her life – involved in opposing fascism in Austria as a teenager. One might expect her to think that she has done her bit and it is time for others to take over. But no. She is utterly dedicated to the anti-nuclear campaign. She spent the weekend, wrapped up warm, protesting with many others, and as many will continue to do throughout next year as part of the Faslane 365 campaign. More information here: Faslane campaign

I have tremendous respect for Alice and her colleagues. They believe they still have a role to play in making the world a better place. And they do. Their integrity and courage is to be admired. I only hope that I can live my life with the same belief, passion and faith.

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