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What We're Reading on Yemen

On the eve on President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia, voices opposed to US complicity in the Saudi war in Yemen are multiplying. Sens. Todd Young and Chris Murphy spoke out on the House floor, Rep. Pocan spoke up in the pages of the Washington Post, and numerous experts published articles opposing the Saudi arms deals.

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Trump may be helping to create a famine in Yemen. Congress could stop him.

Representative Mark Pocan writes that U.S. arms sales to and military collaboration with Saudi Arabia are giving Saudi Arabia the green light to continue bombing and starving the Yemeni people. Rep. Pocan assures that "members of Congress will act swiftly, using every tool at our disposal — from blocking weapons shipments to forcing a debate and vote on U.S. military involvement in Yemen — to end this incomprehensible tragedy."

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FCNL Opposes New "SAFE" Act

The House Judiciary Committee is marking up a newly revised version of a 2013 bill that would expand detention and immigration enforcement, undermining community safety and protections for vulnerable communities. Even with revisions, FCNL's concerns remain the same.

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Love in action: A brief history of AFSC’s work in the past 100 years

This piece was written collaboratively by Willie Colon, Tony Heriza, Tonya Histand, and me with many other contributors. Nathaniel Doubleday curated the images shared here. This piece was shared on the opening day of the Centennial summit on April 20th, 2017. Take a look at the Centennial video “Love in Action” as well.  – Lucy

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, a military draft was immediately introduced. Prison would be the new home for those who refused to fight. Young pacifists -- Quakers and others -- needed a way to serve their country nonviolently. Out of this need, the American Friends Service Committee was born. 

During WWI, Service Committee volunteers drove ambulances in combat zones and rebuilt homes and roads. After the war, as hunger and malnutrition swept through Europe, AFSC began feeding millions of children-- in Austria, Germany and Poland -- with U.S. government funds arranged by Herbert Hoover. By the 1920s, a temporary Quaker “response” had become an enduring and highly regarded relief organization.

Back home, one of the earliest domestic issues AFSC addressed was racism. The “Interracial Section” was created in 1925 to challenge racial prejudice and violence in the United States. African American staffer Crystal Bird travelled across the country and spoke with thousands of white Americans about race and racism. Her efforts were followed by decades of work to combat lynching, expand employment and housing opportunities, and integrate public schools.

AFSC looked at its own practices, too, integrating work camps and Peace Caravans in the 1930s to help young people overcome the rigid segregation of the wider society.

The Great Depression brought a new focus on economic justice. A slump in the demand for coal left thousands of Appalachian miners unemployed, hungry and desperate. AFSC provided relief and supported economic alternatives, such as training in local crafts like furniture making – and the development of a model community where residents participated in a shared economy.

During the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, AFSC joined British Quakers in feeding displaced women and children on both sides of the conflict. After Franco’s victory, the relief moved to the south of France, where Spanish refugees were soon joined by many others fleeing the Nazis. AFSC staff worked to assist people in these refugee camps and to secretly transport children to safety. Numerous “hostels” were created -- across Europe, in the U.S., and in Cuba -- to provide safe haven for tens of thousands of Jews.

In 1947, AFSC and the British Friends Service Council accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Quakers everywhere for their work worldwide to heal rifts and oppose war. According to the Nobel committee, “The end of World War II brought a burst of AFSC effort, with Quakers engaged in relief and reconstruction in many of the countries of Europe, as well as in India, China, and Japan.”

Henry Cadbury, who accepted the prize on behalf of AFSC, didn’t have a long-tailed coat. Luckily, AFSC was collecting used formal wear for the Budapest Symphony Orchestra at the time and a suitable coat was found among the donations. Henry borrowed it and wore it to the ceremonies in Oslo.

Following the 1954 Supreme Court decision that ordered the desegregation of public schools, AFSCs Southern Program helped Black families enroll their children in formerly white schools. In Prince Edward County, Virginia, where the school board closed their schools rather than integrate, we helped dozens of Black high school students find placement in northern homes and schools so they could continue their education.

From 1965-70, AFSC helped build the antiwar coalitions that challenged U.S policy in Vietnam. Bridging the divide between liberal faith groups and more radical antiwar resisters, we argued for a broad peace movement that included a wide range of groups. At the same time, we offered draft counseling to thousands of young men in the U.S. and provided medical aid and assistance to civilians on all sides of the conflict in Vietnam.

But opposing and developing strategies to address conventional war was only one strand of the search of peace. Since Hiroshima, AFSC has been engaged in efforts to halt nuclear weapons testing, the acceleration of the arms race, and the spread of nuclear technology.

We co-founded SANE (the Committee for SANE Nuclear Policy) and during the anti-nuclear movements of the 1970s and 80s, AFSC played a key role in teaching nonviolent resistance to the Clamshell Alliance in New Hampshire and to the Abalone Alliance in California. These movements brought the nuclear power industry to a near standstill.

The issues AFSC addressed continued to expand, and in 1975 the Service Committee’s institutional response to Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual concerns began when four staff and committee people sent out an open letter in which they acknowledged their homosexuality or bisexuality. They invited others to join them and over 200 people signed a “statement of support and solidarity.” 

Later Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans initiatives in Philadelphia, Seattle and Hawai’i paved the way for AFSC’s Bridges Project, the first national information clearinghouse for and about LGBTQ youth. From the beginning, AFSC brought a unique intersectional approach to queer issues, highlighting how expressions of discrimination and oppression overlap in our society and amplifying the least heard LGBTQ voices: those of youth, people of color, the poor, the incarcerated, and the disabled.

AFSC also was an early leader in the long struggle to end apartheid. Our work included sending staffer Bill Sutherland to Africa to connect with liberation movements to help inform U.S. work on Southern Africa. Through Bill’s work, AFSC focused on how the U.S. government and businesses were supporting South Africa, and called for sanctions and divestment to force an end to apartheid. As the anti-apartheid movement grew, our Atlanta office led a successful nationwide boycott of the Coca-Cola Company. Ultimately, public opinion shifted and the divestment campaign contributed significantly to the fall of apartheid.

In the same period, AFSC staff member Daniel Ntoni-Nzinga used quiet diplomacy and all his program funds to build the religious coalition, COEIPA, into a powerful force that helped end the Angolan Civil War.

While most of our work is unheralded and behind-the-scenes, we have had moments in the limelight. In 1986, we walked the red carpet in Los Angeles. The Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject that year was awarded to “Witness to War,” a film produced by AFSC. The film told the story of Dr. Charlie Clements, who, after being discharged from the U.S. Air Force for reasons of conscience, went on to work as a physician amid El Salvador’s civil war.

In the late 1990s, AFSC began to support local peace-building efforts in Colombia. We worked with “peace communities” on the Pacific Coast, primarily Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities in southwest Putumayo that were resisting coercion by both the guerillas and the paramilitaries. We offered training in peaceful resistance and community building and provided material aid and human rights assistance to those who were displaced.

An ocean away, AFSC fed thousands of children and rebuilt destroyed homes and hospitals during the Korean War. We returned to Korea in the early 1980s with people to people exchanges with the DPRK (or North Korea). Then, during a famine in the late 1990s, AFSC responded with emergency relief. By 1998, we had established an ongoing agricultural assistance program with cooperative farms. As one of the few American organizations working continuously in North Korea for more than three decades, AFSC has made significant contributions to the country’s food security while creating opportunities for meaningful exchange.

For Quakers – and AFSC - justice has always been a central concern and inextricably linked to the search for long-term, sustainable peace. We’ve challenged police brutality, rallied faith groups to resist the death penalty, and exposed the evils of solitary confinement. Recently when 30,000 prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest solitary confinement at Pelican Bay Prison, AFSC’s Laura Magnani represented the prisoners in negotiations that led to a landmark legal settlement limiting the use of solitary confinement in California. Today, ending mass incarceration and for-profit prisons are at the center of our peace with justice agenda.

We are also committed to supporting a new generation of activists. AFSC’s Tyree Scott Freedom School in Seattle, and the follow up program YUIR (Youth Undoing Institutional Racism), provide young people with an antiracist framework and prepare them to take action for social change in their schools and communities. 

In one recent victory, years of intense pressure by young anti-racist organizers in Seattle resulted in a dramatic downsizing of a proposed youth jail, a pledge of $600,000 by city council to develop alternatives to juvenile detention, and a city council resolution calling for an eventual end to the detention of youth. The AFSC Freedom School model has recently been expanded to St. Louis, St. Paul, and Pittsburgh.

Our decades of experience influence our work today, as we accompany migrant and immigrant movements and build alliances with others who share our vision.

Today, hundreds of congregations across the U.S. are part of a new sanctuary movement to protect immigrants and refugees in our communities. In Colorado, Jeannette Vizguerra, a longtime immigrant and labor leader, has been challenging her deportation for eight years with AFSC support. She recently entered sanctuary at the First Unitarian Society of Denver after being denied a stay of her deportation.

In the face of growing harassment and hostility toward many groups, AFSC is also promoting a broader concept of “Sanctuary Everywhere,” encouraging active engagement in creating safe spaces for each other and challenging hateful speech and actions, wherever they occur.

We know that peace and safety are built on foundations of love and inclusion, not oppression and discrimination. As we partner with people across the country who are challenging fear and hate, we offer hope—hope that compassion will win out over fear, and that together we can create the open, welcoming communities we all deserve.

We are unshakable in our commitment to peace, justice, and equality. 

We will resist any attempt to sacrifice the rights of the marginalized.

We will question any efforts to add comfort to the privileged.

We will speak truth to power – as often as it takes to be heard. 

We will build bridges for dialogue and reconciliation.

And we will stand with groups fearing violence and persecution and support their movements to overcome injustice.

Support the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act

Preventing genocide and mass atrocities advances U.S. national security interests, saves taxpayer dollars, and saves lives. As Syria demonstrates, the outbreak of atrocities leads to significant consequences, feeding into the possibility for repeated cycles of violence. The outbreak of such violence also undermines American leadership, values, and economic interests.

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Organizational Statement of Support

The following is a statement of support for the Elie Wiesel Act from dozens of national and state-based nongovernmental organizations.

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Five Reasons the Senate Should Support the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017

Senators Ben Cardin, Todd Young, Thom Tillis, and several others introduced the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act. The bill establishes an interagency Mass Atrocities Task Force to focus the U.S. government on early prevention of atrocities as an essential part of our national security strategy.

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Bipartisan Senate Bill Prioritizes Tools to Prevent Violence and Genocide

Washington, D.C. – Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), today introduced the bipartisan Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act. The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) welcomes this important legislation.

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Summary: Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act

Senators Ben Cardin, Todd Young, Thom Tillis, and several others are planning to introduce the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act. The bill:

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Building Peace with Justice: AFSC celebrates its 100th year

“I think this is a time when we can be extremely optimistic precisely because of the political chaos of our time; that we can organize and create the communities we want right now. We just do it without asking permission. We just go ahead and do it.” --Erica Chenoweth

From April 20 - 23, approximately 600 Quakers, past and current staff, past and present program participants and many others came together to celebrate AFSC’s hundredth year at our Waging Peace summit. It was a chance for those gathered to consider and reflect on AFSC’s legacy of work for peace and social change and how we can continue to work together for justice and transformed communities in these times.

The summit opened on a Thursday night with storytelling and song. We shared milestones in our struggles for peace and justice, including Peace Works stories from past and present AFSC staff and supporters, and enjoyed some powerful songs of joy and struggle by Tribe One.

Friday featured a full day academic symposium that showcased AFSC’s history with presentations by researchers, archival materials, and panel discussions connecting struggles across time and place.

The day ended with Erica Chenoweth’s powerful keynote (watch it below), followed by an evening gathering where alumni – staff, volunteers, and program participants – could reconnect with one another and meet AFSC’s incoming General Secretary Joyce Ajlouny.

Saturday opened with programmed worship by Quaker Palestinian Sa’ed Atshan. Aura Kanegis, director of AFSC’s Office for Public Policy and Advocacy, offered powerful songs to support Sa’ed’s message, which focused on “Sanctuaries from violence.”

AFSC staff from around the world then presented 20 workshops to help participants build their skills on topics such as ending Islamophobia, Quaker social change ministry, conscientious objection, economic activism, shifting narratives for social change, dismantling the carceral state, and more. Each of the workshop presenters shared five ways to help further the work. Take a look.

We concluded the summit with some words from AFSC’s new General Secretary, Joyce Ajlouny, a keynote by Nobel laureate Oscar Arias, and a powerful Centennial video called Love in Action.

In addition, the AFSC Corporation met on Friday and Saturday mornings, appointed new Board and Corporation members, heard reports on the finances of the organization and the work of Friends Relations, and considered the relationship between AFSC’s work and the witness of the Religious Society of Friends.

From Erica Chenoweth’s keynote:

“Thomas Kuhn has this book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” where he talks about how paradigm shifts like from the Copernican universe to the Galilean universe happened not just because Copernicus “failed,” but because Galileo brought out a new alternative that worked. We are in a space now where these problems of economic injustice, racial injustice, patriarchy and the lack of fair and functional political systems, we need alternatives to these things. The stuff we have been doing hasn’t been working; that’s why we are where we are. And we can’t have the kind of sustained nonviolent future until we find and express alternatives that actually meet the critiques that have been put forward in a way that suits as many people as possible.”

AFSC’s work rises from the strategic use of nonviolence – whether by resisting deportations through congregational sanctuary in Denver, struggling against private prisons in Arizona, supporting trauma healing in Burundi, or engaging in economic activism for a just peace in Palestine.  The present time offers us plentiful opportunity for creating the nonviolent alternatives Erica Chenoweth was talking about. It’s up to each of us to bring our skills and energy to the next era of work and witness to create a transformed future.

A Quaker on a Commune

Friends Journal - Mon, 2017-05-15 09:00

By Rashaun via Wikipedia

I am living the good life. I am well rested, nourished by tasty food, and content to have found the sweet spot of living in right relationship. I am warm and cozy by the woodstove after a few hours of outdoor work in the crisp sunshine of a Virginia winter. My housemates and I talk of possible plans for the evening: playing a board game, building a bonfire, working a few more hours, or attending a practice session on communications skills.

We are enjoying the many resources of 450 acres of wooded and farmed land in central Virginia with 100 other people who call this place, Twin Oaks Community, their home. They are all living comfortably, but also very differently from almost everyone else in the United States. Together they have created one of the most egalitarian, communal, and stable intentional communities in this country.

I am at Twin Oaks as part of the community’s three-week visitor program. As a Quaker, I yearned to be surrounded by people who were living and breathing the testimonies of simplicity, nonviolence, community, and equality. Though not a religious community, Twin Oaks has been a leader in alternative living and values in action since 1967. I had to see for myself.

Alongside seven other visitors from around the country, I experienced being a part of this strong intentional community. As visitors, we committed to not spend more than the member’s monthly allowance of about $100 and to embrace simplicity and communality. Twin Oaks members commit to radical sharing. They freeze their assets from their previous endeavors and share housing, meals, and supplies.

The average American consumes five times what our planet can sustain. The average Twin Oaker consumes to support just one healthy planet. They organically grow much of their own food, but not everything. They have solar panels and shared cars. They balance a commitment to values with practicality. And “scarcity” is not a word I have heard since arriving. While members refer to budget restraints and frugality, there are ample resources. The community provides for all basic needs.

The community’s bedrock is a commitment to egalitarianism through a complicated but liberating labor system. Each member works 42 hours a week. This is broadly defined; it includes childcare, cleaning, and cooking, covers most of the needed elements to sustain its population. I joyfully haven’t washed a dish since I arrived. But I have planted in the garden, raked leaves, cooked dinner, bagged tempeh, and helped make a hammock. Twin Oaks has a few successful collectively owned businesses that financially support the community while creating opportunities to support their deepest values. A professor and high school graduate work side by side in the tofu factory. There is an assumption and a culture that everyone is going to do good work and contribute positively in diverse ways. The combination of equal responsibility and simplicity leads to a high quality of life, and one very different from the mainstream.

I am impressed by this and by the seeming ease with which this community provides for itself. So many of us around the country spend our lives “making a living” so we squeeze what we really care about into evenings and weekends, exhausted but determined to make a difference. Our faith is bookended by appointments and errands. We are in the car a lot. We are stressed. Here at Twin Oaks I find myself with ample free time. I linger over conversations and take walks. I read. The long-term members make art, spend time with their friends and children, and participate in “movement-building” by volunteering locally and traveling to relevant protests and demonstrations. They spend time figuring out how Twin Oaks can do better. I went to a lunchtime chat about the implications of having online movie streaming for their community, which has a “no TV” rule. The orientation pamphlet title is “Not Utopia Yet.”

Reminiscent of my experiences in Quaker communities, not everyone likes each other here. People gossip. While there is a growing interest in direct communication and conflict resolution, a culture of conflict-avoidance permeates here too. Also like a community of Friends, most members are invested in and committed to the community, and consider it worthy of their time and energy. And if they don’t, they can try to make changes or leave. In both communities, members share decision making.

Unlike Friends, there is no group worship at Twin Oaks. There is no guiding Spirit. Twin Oakers don’t hold hands before a meal or share a 400-year-old culture of alternative values and struggle. Still, in many ways, I see people here at Twin Oaks living our values more completely than most of us do as a Religious Society.

Friends, let’s find inspiration here!

One long-time member reflected that Twin Oaks, which will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary next year, is “no longer an experiment but a model.” They have figured out a lot. A serious commitment to values is possible when there is a supportive social structure that sits on a foundation of shared economies. I’d like us to learn together how we could do more of this as Friends, to find inspiration together for how to live creative, value-driven lives. Here is a peek into right livelihood—and it is joyous and possible. Not all of us are going to live in an intentional community, but we can take lessons from our peers and move forward as a Society toward lives of better sharing, simplicity and equality.

The post A Quaker on a Commune appeared first on Friends Journal.

Three Things You Should Know About Peacebuilding Funding for 2017

On May 5, Congress passed the FY 2017 spending bill funding the government through September. Despite President Trump’s request to cut funding for the Department of State and the U.S. Agency of International Development by nearly 30%, Congress fully funded peacebuilding accounts. Below are three victories for peacebuilding within the 2017 spending bill.

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NGOs Express Concern Over Weapons Sale to Nigerian Government

A group of NGOs write to the leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee to convey their concerns regarding reports that the Trump administration is moving forward with plans to sell A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, with mounted machine guns and related parts and logistical support to the government of Nigeria.

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Profiting from war: Israel’s arms sales to the Sudan and around the world

Building peace

Last week 53 Israeli Human Rights activists submitted a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding a criminal investigation against Israeli arms dealers who sold arms to the Mathiang Anyoor militia in South Sudan. This sale, like all legal sales of arms from Israel, was authorized by the Israeli ministry of defense. The Israeli assault rifles sold to South Sudan were used by Mathiang Anyoor to kill dozens of people, mostly from the Nuer tribe, in December 2013 in what became the beginning of the bloody civil war in the country.

A few months earlier, in 2013, by-passing the governmental channels, the head of the South Sudanese national security service brokered an arms deal between Israeli manufacturers and the South Sudanese president, for Galil ACE assault rifles to be used by the Mathiang Anyoor militia – a governmental-run militia, that literally trained in the private farm of the president. This sale was done after the EU already declared an arms embargo on the country, and the US stopped selling arms there. It seemed that Israeli officials in the ministry of defense and foreign affairs didn’t agree with the clear statements of their European and American counter-parts and had no issue with authorizing this sale. More arms sales, more funds fueling Israel’s arms industry, more taxes for the government, and more political support from another young African country.

The guns are already there, have already taken lives, and will continue to do so – that is not something that 53 Israeli activists 2,600 miles away can change. But this is ongoing. Just two years ago a UN report revealed Israeli surveillance software was used by the South Sudanese government to fund, jail and at times kill local dissidents. And this is not just in South Sudan, but also true just across the border where Israeli surveillance equipment was reportedly used by the Ugandan government to spy on and arrest LGBTQ activists. It isn’t restricted to Africa either. Israeli arms can be seen used by oppressive regimes from Burma and the Philippines to Colombia. Israeli training of police forces is felt in St. Louis, as well as in the favelas of Rio De Janeiro.

Military export and training has become one of Israel’s main incomes, as well as diplomatic tools, and it is that constantly growing interest and dependency Israel is developing on exporting systems of oppression that these activists are trying to change. And to make that change there is a need for accountability. Accountability for the people executing and partaking in atrocities around the world, but also accountability for those making a profit out of them, and even those pushing papers behind the scenes that make all of this possible.

On June 6th-8th, Israel will hold its biggest arms fair – ISDEF – and will host representatives from over 90 counties buying and selling arms that will fuel conflicts around the globe. AFSC together with our partners at the Coalition of Women for Peace are organizing a shadow conference to this, aiming to show Israeli society what these weapons sold in the exhibit actually do around the world, and at home when they are used on Palestinians.

Comey Firing Raises Concerns

Both Republicans and Democrats are questioning President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey on May 9.

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FCNL's Yasmine Taeb Speaks at Rally Opposing Muslim Ban as Fourth Circuit Hears Arguments

As the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the suspension of President Trump's Muslim ban executive order, FCNL lobbyist Yasmine Taeb addressed a crowd in Richmond, VA, gathered in solidarity with Muslims, refugees, and immigrants.

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Natural Gas Waste Rule Upheld

This morning marked a big victory for cutting harmful methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas emission that costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in wasted resources.

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UPDATED: Effects of Health Care Repeal in Indian Country

Until last week, Congress was unable to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But the House decided to try again, with a modified version of the defeated proposal, the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628). The House passed the bill with a very slim margin (5 votes) on Friday, May 5.

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Native American Legislative Update - April 2017

Congress is most absorbed these days with budget issues and health care repeal and replacement -- both of which affect Indian Country deeply.

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UPDATED: Following the Money

More than 180 days late, Congress finally passed a spending bill for the current fiscal year – FY2017 – on May 5. Indian programs fared relatively well in this continuing resolution – better than many other domestic programs, but not as well as military programs.

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