Who Are the Quakers?
The Religious Society of Friends or Quakers is a religious movement founded in England by George Fox (1624-1691) where they were persecuted for opposing Oliver Cromwell’s Puritanism.
They found a space of religious freedom in the United States, in Rhode Island, where religious tolerance had been decreed. William Penn (1644-1718), who was a Quaker, founded the colony of Pennsylvania with money in payment for debts to his family.
There he brought his religious ideas in government.
The Quakers were characterized by a silent religious service, without a sermon, without music or spiritual guidance, religious or ritual creed. Their convictions dictate that each person possesses a dose of holy spirit, through an inner light, and has a direct relationship with it, without the need for intermediaries. Where each person is a bearer of the spirit of Christ. For them, the figure of Jesus is an example of the revelation of God’s will to humanity. During the religious service, any member of the group could feel the inspiration to speak, read the sacred scriptures, say a poem of inspiration or sing a hymn.
The followers of Fox refused to pay tithes to the state church, they did not swear before the court, they did not take their hats off to the powerful and they did not fight in wars. Instead, they fought for the end of slavery, the humane treatment of criminals, the attention to the weak and the poor.
On one occasion Fox was brought before a judge and there he told the magistrate that the word of God would make him tremble. The judge mockingly called him “trembling” (quacker) name with which they were associated.
In United States
In the United States, Quakers were not favorably received by Christians, who considered them heretics and persecuted them until they were executed on charges of witchcraft; but they earned respect for their modesty and simple lifestyle.
During the American Revolution, they refused to pay taxes or fight. They advocated the abolition of slavery, humane treatment of criminals and against mistreatment of American Indians.
They were instrumental in creating the underground railroad for the liberation of slaves.
In modern times, they opposed the Vietnam War and many became involved in the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr.
From the 18th century they were divided into four different groups:
Hicksitas – Dedicated to social reform, in the eastern United States.
Gurneyitas – Focused on the preaching of the Gospel, with pastors for services. Led by Joseph Gurney.
Wilburitas – Followers of John Wilbur, they maintained the traditional customs.
Orthodox – Focused on the figure of Christ, with annual rallies in Philadelphia. They are currently a large community in parts of Latin America and in Kenya.