The Quaker Friends - bravery beyond compare
Literate, well organized, and often well-to-do business people, the Friends organized in the 17th century in the turbulent period after the English Civil War. They refused to doff their hats to anyone, or to take oaths, and so were easily identifiable. They soon attracted the hostility of local and national authorities. They were stoned on their way to meeting, denied jobs, whipped, pilloried, and jailed. Thousands were incarcerated, and received sentence of praemunire, which meant that their house was forfeit to the crown.
The Friends defied these adversities. They believed that every person, man, woman, and child, could experience the inner light of God, that men and women were equals, and that freedom of conscience was essential to society. They went on to fight successfully for the abolition of slavery.
I caught the BBC's thoughtful programme on the Friends while driving. It was interesting, even inspiring, and can be heard again tonight at 9:30pm.
By the way, is there some reason why the BBC masthead for In Our Time programmes apparently features a mosque? It's the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which was once a Christian basilica. Frankly, I'm shocked. I can think of many good reasons why the mosque should not be on the masthead. Freedom of conscience, which is not tolerated in Muslim countries, would be number one.