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Updated: 21 hours 57 min ago
Throughout its history, Homewood Meeting in Baltimore, Md., has held a vigil against war and for peace in times of war. Since September 11, 2001, the meeting has held a vigil every Friday evening in front of the meetinghouse to protest the entry of the United States into Iraq and later to protest the use of drones and torture.
Holding vigils to protest the violence of war and torture continued until the unrest in Baltimore in April 2015 when the city rose up to protest the death of Freddie Gray in the custody of the police. At this time, the Peace and Justice Committee felt moved to address the issues of racial and economic inequality, injustice, and violence in our own community of Baltimore. The committee changed placards which focused on war in the Middle East to demonstrate solidarity with our neighbors of color in the city.
The new placards and banners initially read: “When Black Lives Matter / Then All Lives Matter.” There was concern by a member of the committee that our message didn’t address brown, Asian, and LGBTQ groups, but members of the committee decided to keep this message simple as blacks are the largest and most obviously discriminated against group in our city. At the outset, we grappled with the clarity of our concern, as some in the meeting and some passers-by urged “All lives matter,” and others remonstrated with us that saying “All lives matter” diminished the “Black lives matter” message. After a time, we changed some of the banners to read “Black Lives Matter / We Are All One People.” And most recently we also began to use the FCNL banner “Love Thy Neighbor, (No Exceptions).”
Our meetinghouse stands at the juncture of Charles Street and Art Museum Drive, a heavily trafficked location. We usually have 4–8 people an evening from Homewood and Stony Run Meetings, but have had as many as 25–30. Periodically students and teachers from Friends School of Baltimore attend. From the start of our local anti-violence focus, the vigil has received overwhelming support from motorists on their way home from work. As people in cars, buses, panel trucks, and bicyclers pass, they wave, honk and give a thumbs-up. Many call out, “Thank you” and black passersby often call, “All lives matter.” People take pictures of the vigil on their cell phones from their vehicles as they pass; others get out to ask permission, then stay to talk. More and more frequently people cross busy Charles Street to talk.
On rare occasions, some people, usually white men, will yell, “All lives matter,” “Blue lives matter,” or most recently “There’s a new sheriff in town.” We agree and ask people to look at the signs again. One man used to drive by in a large white pickup truck, blow his horn, which sounded like a train whistle, and yell, “White lives matter.” But these folks are rare.
We have had many rewarding conversations with people who park their cars to talk with us. Many blacks ask us why we are holding these signs. One woman who works at a nearby hospital came out one evening and said, “I see you people out here every week. Why are you doing this?” A mother came one night with her children, hugged each of us, and thanked us as did her children. The woman said she had just explained racism to her children. On another bitterly cold night a woman stopped, got out of her car, and brought each of the members of the vigil a cup of hot coffee, along with the words “Thanks for all that you do.” A young man recently said they have a Black Lives Matter group in Buffalo, N.Y., where he lives and that he would come to meeting on Sunday. Hopkins students come to enquire. Some stay to vigil.
Early on in this Baltimore-focused vigil, we prepared a brochure to present to people who came by to talk. When the Peace and Justice Committee asked meeting for business to approve the brochure, several people present raised questions and concerns. Our discernment over the wording of the brochure encouraged many people to consider their own white privilege, to attend to the structural racism in Baltimore, to observe the patterns of policing and the racially disproportionate arrests and incarceration of blacks in Baltimore. As a result of this early and discomforting discussion, the meeting decided to hold a threshing session on race.
Members of our meeting have asked why we hold this vigil in a very white area just south of Johns Hopkins University. Maybe we should consider moving it to another part of the city? Shouldn’t we hold placards for all groups? One 90-year-old African American member asked us to get out of our white enclave and get to know African Americans in the city. Others asked us to reconsider changing the vigil to another theme since we have been holding the Black Lives Matter concern for almost two years. Our vigil is important for both our black and white neighbors. Whites need to be reminded that they are part of a city with many problems and that they can be part of the solution. Blacks need to know that there are whites who see their plight and are willing to join in creating solutions. From this vigil we are branching out to work at other areas—court watch, bail reform in our state, and anti-violence study and program expansion as we seek a faithful grounding for our peacemaking efforts in Baltimore.
Members can download the full PDF or read any article online (see links below). Features: Cultivating Peace in Troubled Times by Shan Cretin; Facing Facism, McCarthyism, and the New Jim Crow in 2017 by Laura Magnani; The Courageous Many by Lucy Duncan; Henry Cadbury, AFSC, and Haverford College by David Harrington Watt and James Krippner; Interview with Joyce Ajlouny. Special Feature: Quaker Works. Poetry: Death of a Patient by Geoff Knowlton; Making My Bed🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
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One of the most well-known embodiments of Quaker witness in the world was founded 100 years ago this month. While those involved with Friends understand the complex web of meetings and organizations and associations and initiatives, the outside world often sees American Friends Service Committee as the spokes-organization for Quakers.
Yet relations with the rest of the Religious Society of Friends have been complicated from the beginning. In 1918, cofounder Henry Cadbury was pressured to leave his job at the Quaker Haverford College because he publicly advocated a merciful peace with Germany, a story told here by David Harrington Watt and James Krippner. What would seem to be a very Quakerly sentiment was controversial, even at a Friends school. Remarkably similar debates continue to take place with some frequency.
There are a number of creative tensions built into the DNA and culture of AFSC that have helped it adapt and evolve since its founding in the turmoil of the First World War. In our lead article, current general secretary Shan Cretin reports that AFSC was barely two years old when the Treaty of Versailles ended the fighting and created an existential crisis about whether its work should continue.
The group found that continued purpose in the 1920s, working in relief efforts, combating anti-immigrant sentiment, and working on “home service” efforts around interracial relationships. These are remarkably modern needs indeed and the Service Committee has continued to grow into advocacy work around a host of interrelated social justice issues. Bay Area Friend Laura Magnani gives an inspiring big-picture overview of much of AFSC’s work today. In recent years, AFSC has consciously reached out to Quakers through a Friends Relations program; its director, Lucy Duncan, is a familiar voice to Friends Journal readers, and here she shares the story of that deepening relationship.
I think Quakers form something of the institutional memory of AFSC, a grounding presence that challenges both groups in useful ways. Just before we sent the issue to press, I talked with Joyce Ajlouni, who will become the next AFSC general secretary in September. She grew up as a third-generation graduate of the Friends school in Ramallah, Palestine. I was struck with the genuine joy in her voice as she talked about her love of engaging in difficult conversations—with fellow Quakers, with Zionists, with so-called “alt-right” thinkers. Deep listening and bold conversations are needed now more than ever. I’m confident American Friends Service Committee will continue to be in good hands as it enters its second century.
Friends Journal and its predecessor magazines, The Friend and Friends Intelligencer, have been covering AFSC since its founding. Our archives are full of fascinating real-time coverage of many of the stories in this issue. This issue includes Quaker Works, our twice-annual compendium of news from dozens of Quaker organizations around the world. We are thrilled and honored to welcome a new volunteer news editor, Sally Wiedenbeck, who has helped put it together. Hailing from Minneapolis, Minn., she is a convinced Friend who works as an instructional designer for professional education. Her FJ duties also include editing our regular news columns. We are humbled by the many applicants who applied for this position and for the ongoing work of the volunteer editors who help us communicate Quaker experience to you, our readers.
Upcoming Issues Power up your laptops and sharpen your pencils! The next Friends Journal themes are posted to our website. Extended descriptions, deadlines, and general writing guidelines can be found at Friendsjournal.org/submissions. October 2017: Conscience November 2017: Quaker Libraries December 2017: Conflict and Controversy January 2018: Quaker Lifestyles February 2018: No theme March 2018: Quakers and the Holy Land April 2018: Healing May 2018: What Are Quaker Values Anyway? June/July 2018: Creativity and the Arts August 2018: Going Viral with Quakerism September 2018:🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
Not an FJ member? To read this piece, please join us today! For $28, you'll get:
Not an FJ member? To read this piece, please join us today! For $28, you'll get:
- A year of Friends Journal delivered to your mailbox (11 issues) and email
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- Membership in a community that believes in the power of Quaker experience
The divisive, antagonistic, violent climate of our times can be challenging and discouraging for Friends. Not only in the United States but around the world, populist political movements have capitalized on fears of “violent extremism,” growing income inequality, and economic stagnation by closing doors to immigrants and refugees. They also have adopted nationalistic, isolationist stands on trade and foreign policy. How do we act on our commitment to speak to that of God in everyone and to live lives that promote peace and justice for all? Can Quakers offer spiritually grounded leadership that unites our theologically diverse religious society?The Early Years of the Service Committee
AFSC was born in turbulent times. Minutes from the April 30, 1917 meeting at which AFSC was founded—just three weeks after the United States entered the First World War—document “requests continually coming in as to what Friends can do in this crisis.”
The prevailing narrative then, as now, was that democracy was threatened, and the only response was to use military force. Spurred by the vision of three young men in their 20s, theologically diverse Quaker yearly meetings came together, united by their commitment to the peace testimony, to do something that exceeded their individual capacities, something global. In a time when military service was promoted as the only way to make the world “safe for democracy,” Friends offered an alternative form of service for peace.
The immediate result of that April meeting was a centrally coordinated project that inspired the active participation of Friends from across the United States. One hundred young people trained at Haverford College in June 1917, and were working in France by September, addressing needs of those displaced by war.
Once the war ended with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, there was ongoing discussion of laying down the Service Committee. The conclusion was clear: “We should not go on unless we are sure that we have a vital mission to perform” (Rufus Jones, from the minutes of the September 25, 1924 meeting of the executive board).
Many of those returning from service in Europe were clear that a vital mission still called for a response from Friends. They wanted to do more than relief after war—they wanted to prevent war and to build a foundation for peace. AFSC workers in Germany after the armistice felt the seeds of future war in the injustice that was punishing German children for the sins of their fathers. The hope for peace and justice was not much better in the United States where the end of the Great War did not result in the democracy promised in the recruiting posters.
The United States in 1919 was in the grip of anti-immigrant (not just anti-German) fear fueled by acts of politicized violence, much as today. On May 1, 1919, newspaper headlines reported on a plot by anarchist followers of Italian Luigi Galleani who had sent letter bombs to 36 U.S. leaders. Following a call to “close the gate” on “undesirable” foreign immigrants, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer conducted raids, arresting and deporting many Slav and Italian immigrants labeled as anarchists, communists, and radical leftists.
In 1921, Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act, which severely restricted immigration until lawmakers could agree on a “permanent solution.” The Immigration Act of 1924 (Johnson–Reed Act) was passed and reluctantly signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge. Even more restrictive than the Emergency Quota Act, the 1924 law put an outright ban on Arab and Asian immigrants.
The First Red Scare included brutal responses to union efforts to improve working conditions. In West Virginia, for example, striking coal miners were locked out by mine owners until they and their families faced starvation.
African Americans continued to be, in the words of Langston Hughes, “The rock on which Freedom / Stumped its toe.” As he so poignantly wrote:
There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”
Instead there were race riots, lynchings, and the rise of the second Ku Klux Klan—and not only in the Jim Crow South.
Given the climate of the times, it is no wonder that in 1924 Friends embraced the need to engage in “home service,” while continuing “the message side of our work” and relief efforts in post-war Europe and Russia. “America has not learned the lesson of the war, nor has our own Society learned it. We are still thin and superficial in these deepest issues of life.” One of the lessons yet to be learned was “interracial relationship, a new spirit of understanding and fellowship between different racial groups, particularly, of course, Negroes, Japanese and Italians” (letter from J. Edgar Rhoads to Rufus Jones, 9/30/1924).Putting Quaker Faith into Action over 100 Years
AFSC’s mission and vision today arise from the same spirit articulated in the 1920s. Then, as now, the Service Committee saw itself as reflecting the peace and social justice concerns of Friends and offering support, focus, and inspiration to the ongoing witness of Friends meetings and churches.
AFSC works to build a firm foundation for lasting peace by partnering with diverse communities, by healing and restoring broken relationships, and by transforming unjust systems. The Service Committee is unusual as an international faith-based organization in that it does not proselytize—a legacy of the diversity of the founding yearly meetings who would not have been able to agree on the branch of Quakerism to which new disciples should be brought. Instead, from the outset, AFSC sought to share our Quaker faith by letting our work and our lives speak.
AFSC had neither the aspiration nor the resources to replace the important local witness for peace and social concerns that should be part of every Quaker meeting and church. Rather, the Service Committee offered a global perspective, weaving together issues and experiences encountered in places across the United States and around the world. Friends work on many individual peace and justice issues, and we do our best work when we remember the connections among them. As abolitionist John Woolman observed in his work to end slavery, “the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions.” Two centuries later, Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us again that living our faith requires a moral revolution that will conquer the “giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism.”
Over many decades AFSC’s work on Middle East peace has evolved, exposing its ties to work on racial justice in the United States and South Africa. Making these uncomfortable connections can help us confront our own racism, colonialism, and privilege. Living up to the Light that we are given at a moment in history requires that we faithfully persist, with the courage to stumble and the humility to learn.
Allan Austin reviewed the rocky road of AFSC’s work on racism from its earliest days in Quaker Brotherhood: Interracial Activism and the American Friends Service Committee, 1917–1950. From the Institute of Race Relations started at Swarthmore College in 1933 through the 1959 sponsorship of Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to India to connect with Gandhi’s disciples through the publication of Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail in 1963 to today’s vibrant work with Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, AFSC struggles with its limitations as an historically white, Eurocentric religious organization with structures and practices that create barriers for people of color. Yet we persist, and in our persistence, we can celebrate our individual and organizational progress.
Working in the Middle East has also been a difficult journey, beginning in 1948 when the United Nations asked AFSC to begin administering relief to refugees in Gaza. Naïvely expecting the refugees to return to their homes within a year, AFSC has since come to a much deeper understanding of the tangled history of Palestine and Israel, of the role of European colonial powers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the history of anti-Semitism (aimed at both Arabs and Jews), and the ongoing role of American foreign policy and corporate interests.
The treatment of Palestinians by occupying Israel Defense Forces at checkpoints evokes the “stop and frisk” experiences in Black and Latino communities in the United States by police and justice agencies who have no accountability to the people they are supposed to serve. Empathy works in both directions: Palestinian youth in the throes of the September 2014 war in Gaza found time to offer their support for Black Lives Matter on social media. Today the Movement for Black Lives platform supports Palestinian rights. As Quakers surely understand, we are all connected, deserving children of God. None of us is secure until all of us are secure. Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.
The ongoing impasse on the future of Palestine and Israel had already contributed to anti-Muslim and anti-Arab propaganda in the United States. Today’s prevailing narrative in media and entertainment reinforces the premise that we are “good guys” under attack from evil terrorists who can only be subdued by force. As Friends, we know from our faith and our experience that there is another, truer story to be told, and we are called to tell that story through our lives and our work.Finding a Witness for Our Times
Faced with worldly challenges to our core values, we can choose to become the embodiment of an approach Martin Luther King Jr. called “creative maladjustment.” Dr. King understood that a lifelong commitment to nonviolence is not a sweet and gentle thing. “We all want to live the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic personalities,” he said in 1963:
but there are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted, and to which I call all people of good will to be maladjusted until the good society is realized. I must confess that I will never adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I will never become adjusted to religious bigotry. I will never adjust myself to economic conditions that take necessities from the many and give luxuries to the few….I never intend to adjust to the madness of militarism.
American Friends Service Committee has been creatively maladjusted for 100 years. Staff, community partners, Quaker allies, volunteers, committee members, and donors—we are passionately engaged in the world as it is—here and now, warts and all—without accepting the warts or adjusting to the all. We refuse to adjust to violence and injustice. We are energized by the power of working in partnership with Friends meetings and churches to spread creative nonviolent approaches to seemingly intractable problems.
AFSC has never had the resources or intention to staff the social action of local meetings and churches. Instead, we support Quaker witness more broadly with resources at our website, the Acting in Faith blog, workshops at Friends General Conference, and networks like the Quaker Network to End Mass Incarceration or the Quaker Palestine Israel Network. Last year we piloted the Quaker Social Change Ministry to help meetings embrace social witness as an integral part of a larger spiritual journey. Friends’ oversight of and partnership with AFSC, in turn, remind us to pursue work from a Spirit-led center.
In recent months, Friends are embracing a new sanctuary movement, offering refuge to immigrants threatened with detention and deportation. This new movement follows in the spirit of the 1980s sanctuary movement that sheltered refugees from the Central American wars, with deep and broad support from Friends. In 2014, AFSC helped establish Colorado’s Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition and prepare its members to offer sanctuary. After discernment, Mountain View Meeting in Denver joined the coalition, and late last November welcomed a young Peruvian woman with an eight-year-old citizen son into sanctuary. In North Carolina, AFSC is sponsoring an initiative called Sanctuary Everywhere to create various safe spaces, allowing more people to support sanctuary at whatever level they feel ready to engage. Sanctuary Everywhere is not limited to immigrants and refugees, but also supports Muslim and Jewish communities, the Movement for Black Lives, and the LGBTQIA community.
As the American Friends Service Committee, we feel a special responsibility to help our country find new approaches to foreign and domestic policy that will serve global and domestic peace. The Shared Security framework developed jointly by AFSC and Friends Committee on National Legislation is proving to be a powerful basis for working with Friends and partners internationally. Shared Security also offers a way to understand—and bridge—the faultlines sharply dividing our own country. To build an inclusive and respectful society, we must live and work in ways that are inclusive and respectful by reaching out to all who have been denied the opportunities, agency, and respect that would allow them to feel secure.
Despite the challenges of the times, Friends draw hope from our lived experience that faithful, courageous, loving witness for peace can and will overcome fear and hate. Do Friends dare become leaders for peace and justice? Dare we be optimistic in dark times? How can we refuse?
On the Sunday following the 2016 election, I had been invited to preach at a United Church of Christ congregation north of San Francisco. The original assignment had to do with the “Good News” about prison-related issues, Good News being a reflection on the Bible passages for that day. I had to scrap most of the draft I had been working on. After all, the Good News has never been about triumphalism—certainly not about winning elections; it is about liberation.
For too long we have put our faith in political leaders, and this was never more strongly embodied than in this particular national election cycle. Every mainstream media outlet seemed all-consumed with candidate politics, and largely ignored issues. The United States’ obsession with personalities catapulted the most unlikely candidates to the forefront. A Quaker understanding of leadership and a refusal to embrace hierarchy left many of us out in the cold. How can the country’s hopes and dreams be wrapped up in a single person, whether he is the first African American president, the first woman president, or a billionaire TV reality show star? Yet this constant diet of electoral junk food left us intellectually depleted, and hyper on hatred and demonization.
So when the post-election reality hit, people were grieving, listless, disoriented, and largely immobilized. Neither party garnered the public’s trust. Although the term “populism” was bandied about, neither candidate recognized the dominant theme for most voters: the widening gap between the rich and the poor.
Voter turnout was the lowest in 20 years at around 55 percent of eligible voters. We know that in many states formerly incarcerated people are kept from the polls, and that in many states concerted efforts were made to drop people of color from the rolls. The number of polling stations was drastically reduced in some locations. The sheer complexity of ballots in many states overwhelmed many potential new voters, and, in the end, the popular vote was discarded in favor of the antiquated electoral college. Democracy, if it has ever truly been in play, is hanging by a thread.
Dustin Washington, an AFSC staff person in the Seattle, Washington, office blogged about the situation:
No matter who has been president, from George Washington to Barack Obama, the material conditions and racialized oppression of people of color and the poor has not changed. The U.S. presidency is not a position to create liberation for the oppressed but a position to maintain the current economic rule of the one percent. History and this election proves that the ruling class will always use racism to ensure that the rule of the elite stays in place.
It is hard to tell whether what we are seeing in the unfolding new administration is some kind of caricature with person after person nominated to fill positions for which they have no qualifications (for instance, placing a respected surgeon in charge of housing rather than in a health position or as surgeon general) or whether what is unfolding is actually apocalyptic.
It is fair to say that many people voted for the “end times”: the end of government, the end of joblessness, or the end of congressional deadlock. But to see this as caricature is to trivialize it in ways that will not serve us. Given the desperate problems facing the planet and the desperate problems of vulnerable communities and all people of color, we must confront this new reality with utmost seriousness. Are we looking at a very frightening new world order or at the last gasp of white supremacy?
There’s little doubt that the mainstay of the junk food diet of this election—the sweetened beverage, if you will—was racism. It was served up on a daily basis whether in the form of Islamophobia, immigrant bashing, bringing back the discredited stop-and-frisk policies of New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, the nostalgia for “law and order,” or the drumbeat for building a wall along the southern border with Mexico. This is only a partial list, and much of it is coded language for more Jim Crow policies and permission to express violence, hatred, and overt racism.
Of equal concern is extreme right wing movements being voted in by countries all over the world. Whether in Syria, the Philippines, the Brexit vote in Britain, Greece, Turkey, Venezuela and other Latin American countries, or many parts of Africa, the trend repeats itself. And it is consistently accompanied by fear of refugees who are flooding Europe in search of hope and safety. Some people have responded with radical hospitality and generosity; other have heaped hatred onto the strangers seeking shelter. The United States hasn’t even considered opening its doors or its budgets to assist.
It is both the times we are in and the times we have been in throughout the history of the United States, a country founded on genocide of indigenous peoples and cultures, powered up by relocated enslaved labor, and enriched by stolen land from Mexico and First Nations; it is a daunting legacy to overcome. Adding the impact of jobs lost or downgraded, a shrinking middle class, and housing disappearing to all but the wealthiest, the race to find people to blame kicks into high gear. We know all too well from the punishment culture that easy blame takes over and turns toward people of color, poor people, and anyone afraid of being at the bottom. Why is it that people always want to identify with the very wealthy rather than to think about the kind of world that could make them safe and healthy?Signs and Wonders
In spite of these dire circumstances, there are places where creative acts are having powerful impact. They draw leaders from those directly affected by oppressive conditions; demonstrate exciting, new forms of unity decision making; and show ways to build the beloved community.Standing Rock
From September 23 to September 27, 2016, American Friends Service Committee sent a delegation to visit the prayer camps that had been constructed along the Cannonball River adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation and within unceded treaty territory. On each of the four days, they visited the camps and met with people who provided both leadership and service to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). They found the camps to be places of resilience and healing, dedicated to building and maintaining a decolonized society grounded in Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota culture and ceremony.
The actions at Standing Rock to stop the pipeline have much to teach about what is possible in building a better world, guided by Spirit; following leadership from people directly affected by a situation; and practicing decolonized methods of analyzing problems and finding solutions. Their report and findings can be found at afsc.org, where the complete report is available (search for the report title, “We Are Our Own Medicine”).
Another delegation to Standing Rock numbered 4,000 veterans who arrived in early December, as law enforcement threatened to shut down the camps. They came from all over the country and had many different political perspectives; they intended to protect (not protest) the “water protectors.” In the end, the Army Corps of Engineers decided to withdraw the permit for the company to drill in that sacred area and endanger the water and the earth. It was extraordinary that veterans were seen in a different light: trying to be of service in a desperate situation, experimenting with nonviolence, and following indigenous leadership. Could there be a new relationship between peace movements and soldiers, who have been demonized as war makers, and a new way of building community across differences?Black Lives Matter
Although it has taken countless tragedies of African American men and women killed by police to galvanize people across the country to say “enough” and to declare that “black lives matter,” this national grassroots movement is now growing and deepening. AFSC has endorsed The Movement for Black Lives platform, which includes six demands: policy.m4bl.org/platform. AFSC is encouraging Friends meetings to consider endorsing this platform and formulating actions based on it.
As with the process unfolding at Standing Rock, this Movement for Black Lives is highly decentralized with leadership coming from the grassroots. As cofounder Patrisse Cullors describes it, “It is not leaderless but leader-full.” It has already changed the narrative around race in this country and, like the Black Panther movement of the 1960s, is pushing for serious systemic change that will change all our lives, focusing on underlying economic causes.Undocumented and Unafraid
With youth at the helm, we have entered a new era for U.S. residents who are undocumented. Up until now, many assumed that fear would keep people in the shadows and leave the door open for unbridled exploitation. Yet in program after program, AFSC-connected youth with their spoken word messages and re-envisioned stories are teaching their elders how to come out of the closet, and are changing not only the narrative about immigration but policies as well. No human being is illegal, and each one has a dream.Hunger Strikes and the Fight Against Solitary Confinement
AFSC has been working to shut down supermax prisons since they began in 1972. They are a special kind of prison used exclusively for long-term isolation and sensory deprivation. However not until prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, Calif., went on hunger strike—three times—to call attention to the conditions they faced did real change begin to occur around the country. As of this writing, 2,500 people in California have been transferred to general population and out of solitary confinement.A Legacy to Lean On
We now face an historic time that requires all of us to step up; find our voices; and resist efforts to rape the earth, further desecrate sacred lands, demonize whole communities, and squander the public treasury. AFSC is uniquely situated to rise to the occasion in which we find ourselves. Indeed, we have been at the forefront of movements for 100 years, which has yielded important experience, as well as commitment and constituents to answer the call.Human Migration and Mobility
Sanctuary Everywhere has become the clarion call of our immigration and refugee programs around the world. The lessons learned in our work with imprisoned Japanese citizens and noncitizens after the bombing of Pearl Harbor can be applied to situations requiring Muslims to register or those from Muslim countries who are blocked from entering the United States. Quakers have dealt with religious discrimination and the incarceration of “the other” to create an illusion of safety. AFSC’s alternative actions are already underway:
- Through the “Local Peace Networks” methodology, community leaders use conflict analysis and participatory planning and dialogue to address the root causes of conflict, including economic exclusion, gender-based violence, bullying, street violence, and natural disasters.
- AFSC’s Newark, New Jersey, office provides legal services to undocumented peoples, and organizes communities to resist harmful policies. They ask, “Will New Jersey’s undocumented students be punished for following the rules?” (NJ Spotlight newsletter article, December 19, 2016).
- Along the same lines, an increasing number of Friends meetings are providing sanctuary to people in danger of deportation. Go to afsc.org/sanctuaryeverywhere.
After many decades of working against the penal system in the United States, in all its punitive and violent forms, AFSC has been experimenting boldly with restorative justice methods that can replace the existing carceral system. Examples include the following:
- a Truth and Reconciliation process with Wabanaki chiefs in Maine, to examine the atrocities committed in boarding schools
- an analysis by youth in AFSC-sponsored Freedom Schools around the country of systems that perpetuate violence and injustice, in which they learn about social change movements
- a development of leadership for change by Youth Undoing Institutional Racism
Transformation in history doesn’t come from comfort and contentment; it comes when all else has failed. This includes the signature revelation of Friends founder, George Fox, when recounted in his Journal:
And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I tell what to do, then, oh, then, I heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition”; and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy. . . . and this I knew experimentally.
Whether or not these revelations come to us today in Christian terms or in other forms, the way forward will have to be bold, creative, and experimental, and the answers will not come from politicians or any of the usual sources. It is time to reach across many of the old barriers and make common cause with our fellow humans before the earth is destroyed, before more people are rounded up and deported, before even more are incarcerated.
The times we find ourselves in are extremely serious; they look like fascism, McCarthyism, capitalism on steroids, or even all of these. And we must not be mesmerized by the daily drama or the myth that it is mostly happening in Washington, D.C. The stakes are too high for tinkering or reform. Radical transformation from the ground up is required of us.
It will require working at every level, from the personal to the systemic, and asking the biggest possible questions about what kind of world we want. AFSC is stepping up to do its own soul searching of what it has meant to be a mostly white organization in “the nonprofit industrial complex,” and how our vision and structures need to change to remain on the cutting edge.
Bill Ayers, in his new book Demand the Impossible!, says:
It’s up to each and all of us to arise every day with our minds set on freedom, and to commit to movement building as a regular and required part of what we do.
This is a wake-up call for all of us, and it is truly an all-hands-on-deck time. It won’t be a peace movement, as we’ve known it, or the Civil Rights Movement either. It will be many new things, led from the bottom: experimental, dynamic, and energizing. Participatory democracy isn’t a one-time inoculation; it is work that must be done by each of us every day. And further, it is work that cannot flow simply from anger or reaction; it must reach to the deepest places of love and compassion. We can’t practice radical activism, without also tapping into our sense of joy and beauty.
The post Facing Fascism, McCarthyism, and the New Jim Crow in 2017 appeared first on Friends Journal.
Quakers and AFSC Work Together for Peace with Justice
I began my work as Friends Liaison with American Friends Service Committee in August 2011. In September the Occupy Wall Street movement erupted, and a large encampment was created here in Philadelphia at City Hall. I had planned to spend the first three or four months in my new position listening to staff and to Quakers about their vision for a collaborative partnership between AFSC and Friends. It was clear the distance between the two groups had become a habit, and avenues for working together had become scant.
As the Occupy encampment emerged on Dilworth Plaza at City Hall, there began a way to experiment with a different type of relationship with Friends, at least local Philadelphia Friends. AFSC bought a large tent—almost embarrassingly spacious—and provided some leadership in scheduling activities in what would become the Interfaith Tent at Occupy Philadelphia. We arranged events inside the tent, hosted a revolutionary nonviolence series in collaboration with Philadelphia Yearly Meeting at Friends Center, and supported all those who showed up to cook meals for participants at Central Philadelphia Meeting’s large kitchen. We participated in town hall meetings in the tent and hosted Jesse Jackson when he came to town. Until the end, when the bulldozers came to shut down the encampment, Quakers were there.
I had just begun the Acting in Faith blog, and for months, Quakers and AFSC staff wrote about the movement. Noah Baker Merrill’s post “We are All Moses” received over 1,000 page views, which for us was a large readership at the time. We helped to connect and support Friends across the country who were supporting the emerging movement. I recognize and share the critique that followed, particularly around race issues. This was, however, an experiment in relating to Friends, and it helped set the direction for years to come.
When I asked Quakers what they wanted in terms of an enlivened partnership with AFSC, they said, “Please ask us to get involved in ways other than giving you money.” They cited the way Quaker meetings were draft counseling centers during the Vietnam War, and expressed a longing for this kind of collective witness.
When I asked AFSC staff what they envisioned, they said, “We are smaller now. Can Quaker meetings help us to move forward on the issues we work on? Can Quaker meetings be like small social justice centers helping us further our work?”
Those early experiments with the Occupy movement and those interviews formed the basis for all the ways we’ve tried since then to connect Friends and AFSC, to stoke the fire of powerful, Spirit-led activism. Workcamps were mentioned often as powerful, transformative spaces. Although AFSC was clear that hosting privileged people to work with impacted communities was not going to be our approach, hearing people’s desire for transforming experience has informed the vision we have been working to enact since then.
Another goal of this work has been to encourage and support Quaker meetings in reclaiming collective social change and peace work. While many Quakers are engaged, most of the activity in the past decades has come from individuals or from meetings’ minutes of exercise, rather than a collective witness of Quakers working together for change. In some ways, Quakers subcontracted prophetic witness to AFSC. Instead of working for social change as working for Quakers, a core part of the Service Committee’s aim became the emboldening and supporting of Quakers to walk on their own terms with AFSC and social justice movements, to reclaim social change witness as a spiritual commitment.
So, what have we built? We have built spaces for that relationship: spaces in which AFSC staff can teach and learn from Quakers, and Quakers can teach and learn from AFSC staff. We have built ways to engage with one another, ways to support movement building and taking action together for social change.
Acting in Faith (afsc.org/friends)
We have published over 300 Acting in Faith posts by Friends, activists, and staff, and we have received nearly 346,000 unique page views since we started the blog, 161,000 in the past year. As it was the first part of AFSC’s website to provide the opportunity for commenting, it has been a place for conversation, critique, dialogue, and exchange. One post, Vonn New’s “Note to self: White people taking part in #BlackLivesMatter protests,” has received on its own over 90,000 unique page views, the most read page ever on AFSC’s website.
Calls for Spirited Action (afsc.org/spiritedaction)
For nine months each year, we host monthly calls focused on key issues and ways to become involved in faith-based activism. These calls have been informal times for exchange and conversation. In December 2016 we hosted a call with AFSC’s Jamie Bissonette Lewey on Standing Rock and had 52 people participating; in January we hosted a call on the topic Sanctuary Everywhere, in which we discussed a new framework for activism. More than 70 people participated. These calls offer expertise and connection with Quakers across the country working together for change.
Acting in Faith with AFSC at the FGC Gathering (afsc.org/fgc)
An idea for a meeting between AFSC and Quakers came from a member of our Friends Relation Committee: a Common Ground meeting where AFSC and Quakers would learn about an issue and build power and skill together. This has been a core strategy vision in the last few years and is most vividly manifested at a mini conference within the Friends General Conference Gathering. We offer a four- or five-day, 15-hour workshop on topics ranging from “Living into Racial Justice” to “Immigrant Testimony and Action Tools” to “Economic Activism for Peace and Justice.” We run a full events schedule in the afternoon featuring AFSC’s and Quakers’ work for justice. We always host a panel on racism among Friends, have had George Lakey present on his latest book, and Paula Palmer on her research on Quaker involvement with Indian boarding schools. We offer two or three interest groups, and this coming year we are offering a plenary address titled “You Just Have to be Human: Following the Leadings of Spirit toward Liberation.” This space offers time to engage with one another deeply and to come together to prepare for action. One participant said, “These [AFSC events] are so hope-giving. To be able to see AFSC’s relevance to Quaker values before our eyes, and to be brought up to date on issues/work they’ve given careful discernment to that I haven’t even noticed yet—priceless!”
Travel among Friends (afsc.org/inviteafsc)
When I started my work in 2011, AFSC had a reputation for having staff show up at yearly meetings to make presentations and then leave. So it was a priority to encourage connections between AFSC staff and Quakers at yearly meetings. To that end, I run a yearly meeting visitors program that encourages staff to stay for the full sessions and build relationships as well as offer AFSC resources. Through this program, I’ve seen relationships deepen and lay the ground for powerful partnerships. For example, Lis-Marie Alvarado visited Southeastern Yearly Meeting, and now Miami Friends are ready to lead Sanctuary efforts in the area. I also coordinate staff visitation to monthly meetings during the year and have found those events powerful occasions for relationship building, mobilization, and connection.
Undoing racism among Friends
Because discrimination and racism are key causes of war and violence, and because this is a rising concern among Friends, we have prioritized a goal to awaken to the impacts and work to end racism since the first days of our Friends Relations work. We’ve written about racism and white supremacy extensively, led workshops, made presentations, created a curriculum (“Denormalizing Whiteness for Racial Justice”), and offered the art installation “39 Questions for White People” by Naima Lowe as a resource for fostering conversations and insight. One meeting said of the exhibit, “The discussion was spontaneous. The questions triggered memories and events from participants . . . the PR and buzz this installation created brought new people into our meeting.” For me, this work is a primary spiritual commitment, deeply connected to our journey toward spiritual wholeness.
Partnerships with other Quaker organizations
A core strategy from the beginning of our work has been to be in community with Friends where they are: from yearly meetings to Quaker Facebook groups to the FGC Gathering to Friends World Committee for Consultation events to Quaker journals. To further this effort, we have collaborated with other Quaker organizations on mutually beneficial work: one joint effort has been four QuakerSpeak videos with Friends Journal, which have received over 36,000 views. We’ve regularly sent articles for publication to Quaker journals (especially Friends Journal, as for this centennial issue). We’ve cosponsored two conferences with Pendle Hill, one on the U.S. prison system (Ending Mass Incarceration) and one on restorative justice practices (Beyond Crime and Punishment). We’ve partnered with Quaker Voluntary Service in hosting alumni Fellows the past two years. Supporting one another’s missions and stoking the fire for Spirit-led activism works best when we work together.
Quaker Social Change Ministry (afsc.org/qscm)
When we started to provide resources and offer trainings around core issues to Friends, we did so with a sense that Quakers were equipped for community organizing and moving the issue forward. While there are some amazing Quaker organizers around, many of them work outside their meetings. True collective social justice work within meetings was far rarer than I anticipated. We started to look for ways to foster such activism and were led to a model based on Parker Palmer’s Circles of Trust that was developed by Unitarian ministers in Denver: Spirit-based, small group social change work based on accompaniment. This past year we piloted the model with five meetings and built out the resources for support.
A Quaker Social Change Ministry group is a place to worship, build trust, take risks, make mistakes, learn together, and deepen the connection between social change and spiritual growth. The QSCM group becomes a home base from which Friends engage with the world and return for reflection, discussion, and renewal. QSCM connects Friends to that which is larger than ourselves and calls us into right relationship as we walk beside our partners and endeavor to co-create the beloved community. Participants in the pilot found that the program deepened their connections and their work. Quaker Social Change Ministry has filled a need in Quaker meetings for Spirit-led ministry and for a desire for a deeper relationship with AFSC.
These are some of the mechanisms and spaces we’ve created to foster a deeper, transforming relationship with Friends. There are more ways to engage with us, you can find them all at afsc.org/friendsengage.
At this moment we stand eager to support Friends who seem ready for a deeper level of engagement in the current political context. We are excited to support the courageous many who are ready to step into what Parker Palmer calls the “tragic gap, the gap between the hard realities around us and what we know is possible.”
What we can create together if we are courageous and support one another is no less than deep transformation of ourselves and of society. What we are called to is what Noah Baker Merrill wrote six years ago about being called to be faithful together:
Something I know from experience is that we can’t truly “answer that of God in every one” in the abstract, in some vague distant world of analysis and political ideology that hovers aloof above the fray, as if Quakers are somehow too good at nonviolent social change to actually get involved. I think we have fallen into this too often. Margaret Fell might call this “having the form of godliness, but not the power.” It can look pretty good, but it’s hollow where it matters.
We can answer that of God in this moment so pregnant with expectation by being willing to know and work with our neighbors, all those people who for whatever reason are feeling the call to be part of this emerging newness, amidst so much apathy and despair. We can do it by being willing to enter into relationship, to participate in the messy, confusing, turbulent way that movements happen. . . . We have to participate if we are to be changed.
The Perils of Pacifist Dissent During World War I
On April 28, 1917, the Senate and the House of Representatives both approved bills that instituted a military draft. The two bills were reconciled on May 16 and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson two days later. The law Wilson signed—the Selective Service Act—did not explicitly bar the United States government from drafting members of the peace churches into the military. Instead, it left open the possibility of their being drafted into the military and assigned noncombatant duties. What did and did not count as noncombatant duties was left to the discretion of the President.
On April 30, 15 Quakers met in Philadelphia and created what was first called National Friends Service Committee. (The name was changed to American Friends Service Committee that May.) The committee adopted a minute that said the following:
We are united in expressing our love for our country and our desire to serve her loyally. We offer our services to the government of the United States in any constructive work in which we can conscientiously serve our country.
The idea, of course, was to suggest that the nation ought to be able to find ways of having Quakers serve their country that did not involve serving in the military.
The meeting was convened by a 33-year-old Quaker named Henry J. Cadbury. Cadbury was an associate professor of biblical literature and Greek at Haverford College. He had recently married an outspoken young Quaker, Lydia Caroline Brown. Two months after AFSC was created, Lydia gave birth to a daughter and named her Elizabeth. Both Lydia and Henry came from well-known Quaker families. Henry was related to the branch of the Cadbury family who had made a fortune manufacturing and selling chocolate in England. His immediate family in the United States was also fairly prosperous. He had been educated at William Penn Charter School, Haverford College, and Harvard University, and was highly regarded as a scholar of the New Testament with particular expertise in the books of Luke and Acts. In 1918, there were few if any Quakers living in the United States whose scholarly credentials were stronger than Cadbury’s.
It seems entirely fitting that Cadbury convened the first meeting of what soon became American Friends Service Committee. Cadbury (together with his brother-in-law Rufus Jones) played a huge role in shaping the early history of AFSC, chairing the committee from 1928 to 1934 and from 1944 to 1960. When Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, it was Cadbury who traveled to Oslo to accept the award on behalf of AFSC. (It is also significant to note the historic role that Haverford College faculty played in founding AFSC, which is celebrating its hundredth anniversary this month.)
The year after he helped to create AFSC, Henry Cadbury spoke out advocating for peace, and thus became embroiled in a controversy that led to his being forced to resign from the faculty of Haverford College. It was occasioned by peace overtures that the leaders of Germany sent to the Allies in the autumn of 1918. Many Americans viewed these efforts with deep suspicion. The war was going well for the Allies, and they sensed a decisive victory might be close at hand. And in the autumn of 1918, many Americans were filled with a deep hatred of the German nation.
Consider, for example, an editorial that was published in one of Philadelphia’s leading newspapers—the Public Ledger—on October 7. It praised the many Americans who were demanding “a short, sharp, and plain” rejection of the German peace feelers. It asserted that the peace that the Kaiser was offering was nothing more than a “Judas peace.” “The Hun tribes” had, the editorial said, wreaked havoc wherever they fought. Their cruelty had to be punished harshly.
Five days later, the Public Ledger published a letter from Cadbury strenuously denouncing Americans’ reluctance to look for ways to bring the war to a halt:
Sir—As a Christian and patriotic American may I raise one cry of protest in your columns against the orgy of hate in which the American press and public indulges on the receipt of peace overtures from the enemy. Whatever the immediate result of the present German request for an armistice, the spirit of implacable hatred and revenge exhibited by many persons in this country indicates that it is our nation which is the greatest obstacle to a clean peace and the least worthy of it. Never in the period of his greatest arrogance and success did the German Kaiser and Junkers utter more heathen and bloodthirsty sentiments than appear throughout our newspapers today. Intoxicated with the first taste of blood and flushed with victory, the American public hastens to condemn in advance the soberly phrased pleas of a conciliatory foe. While the English press wisely refrains from comment until an official answer can be given, Americans with insatiable lust for vengeance cry, “More, more!” Every concession on the part of the enemy is counted a mark of weakness and is made an excuse for more humiliating and unreasonable demands. While the war-weary people of Europe long for peace, we conceited newcomers into the fight prefer to sacrifice their youth and ours by the millions more in order that we may dictate a peace to suit our insane hysteria. Surely it behooves us at this hour, when not relation for the past but the assurance of a safer and saner international fellowship is the world’s need, distinguishing justice and mercy from blind revenge, to keep ourselves in the mood of moderation and fair play. A peace on other terms or in any other spirit will be no peace at all, but the curse of the future.
Cadbury’s letter caused an immediate uproar. A government official met with him to investigate the possibility that writing the letter constituted an act of sedition. (The official concluded that the letter was not seditious.) The minister of a prominent Presbyterian church asserted that Cadbury was quite wrong to think that he had any right to think of himself as either a patriot or a Christian. A Baptist layperson said that Cadbury was wrong to say that Americans’ hostility toward the Germans was irrational. That hostility was, the Baptist said, a perfectly reasonable response to the atrocious way that Germans had conducted themselves during the war.
In 1918, most of Haverford’s faculty were Quakers. The president of the college at the time, William Wistar Comfort, was also a member of the Religious Society of Friends. So were all of the members of the Board of Managers that oversaw the work of the college. Some of the members of the board came from families that had contributed money to AFSC. The board, whose chair was a Quaker businessman named Asa S. Wing, had allowed AFSC to set up a camp where young Quakers could be trained for non-military forms of service. The board had refused to allow its campus to be used as a site for military training. Nevertheless, despite the institutional prominence of Quakers at Haverford College in this era, significant support for militarism existed on campus and throughout the country. The college tried to reconcile its Quaker origins and ideals with views of the larger community of which it was a part.
Even at this relatively early date, many Haverford College students and alumni were not Friends. Some of them were already in the military; others were in the process of joining it. And some of the college’s students and alumni were shocked by the letter that Cadbury had written to the Public Ledger. Twenty-seven of the college’s alumni, all of whom had graduated from Haverford between 1880 and 1908, wrote the board a note expressing their displeasure. Those men said that they believed that peace was good, but that the kind of peace they wanted to achieve was one that was “just and righteous.” They said that in light of the “bestial” actions of the Germans, the views Cadbury expressed in his letter amounted to “treason.” Cadbury was, in their opinion, “unworthy” to be a member of the college’s faculty. They advised the board to ask for Cadbury’s immediate resignation from the faculty. One of the other letters referred to Cadbury as a “canker.” Another argued that if the college supported Cadbury, then it would alienate many of its most important alumni. Alienating those men was not, the letter writer warned, something that the college could afford to do.
Cadbury seems to have been taken aback by the furor his letter created. He seemed not to have contemplated the possibility that the letter would cause such consternation and so many calls for him to leave the college. Within days, however, Cadbury’s position at the college had become completely untenable. On October 21, he wrote a letter to the college’s board in which he offered to resign from the faculty. In the letter he praised the board for their deep devotion to the religious traditions on which Haverford was founded and expressed his profound regret for having caused the college so much public embarrassment.
The next day, the board began discussing what they referred to as the “grave situation resulting from the reception of Professor’s Cadbury’s letter.” President Comfort told the members of the board that Cadbury possessed “certain personal characteristics and combative tendencies which lessened his usefulness as a member of the faculty.” He also told them that Cadbury was a hard worker, a fine scholar, and a man of integrity.
The board members’ response to the situation was anything but straightforward. Several voiced a commitment to academic freedom and said that they did not want it to look as if Haverford was subject to the sway of “excited public opinion.” But members of the board strongly disapproved of the letter Cadbury had written, and they suspected that accepting his resignation might well be in the best interest of the college. They believed that “the habit of temperate judgment and consideration for the feelings of others with whom one has associated one’s self should always characterize the utterances of a scholar.”
So in the autumn of 1918, the members of the board could not agree on whether or not Cadbury’s letter of resignation should be accepted. The board stopped short of firing Cadbury but suspended him from teaching with pay, and appointed a committee of respected board members to investigate the matter more thoroughly.
In March 1919, Cadbury wrote a second letter of resignation in which he said that he was resigning because he wanted to teach at another school. Haverford’s board accepted the second letter of resignation and also adopted a minute which expressed its admiration for the way that Cadbury had responded to the controversy his letter had sparked.
Shortly after resigning from Haverford’s faculty, Cadbury informed the leaders of AFSC that he was moving away from Philadelphia and was thus obliged to resign his position as a member of the board of AFSC. In June of 1919, AFSC accepted his letter of resignation with “deep regret.” The end of the war was still months away, but the efforts of AFSC to ameliorate civilian suffering in Europe had already begun. The possibility of Quakers performing wartime service without being inducted into the military had been widely recognized, a victory for all conscientious objectors in the United States.
After his departure from Haverford College, Cadbury landed on his feet. He taught at Andover Theological Seminary from 1919 until 1925 and at Bryn Mawr College from 1926 until 1934. In 1935 Cadbury joined the faculty of Harvard Divinity School and taught there until 1954. At Harvard, Cadbury continued to do important work on the New Testament and also launched a series of thorough investigations into Quaker history.
Over the years, Haverford College has taken a number of steps to show that it holds Cadbury in high esteem. When Cadbury was still in midcareer, the college awarded him an honorary doctorate. After his retirement, Haverford asked Cadbury to return to its campus to teach courses on Quakerism. (Cadbury accepted that invitation.) Haverford also arranged to have a portrait of Cadbury prominently displayed in the college’s archives. But, as far as we know, Haverford has never issued a formal apology for—or even a detailed analysis of—the way Cadbury was treated during World War I.
Given how little we know about the inner workings of the board, it is tempting to let its actions recede quietly into the background and to focus more attention on what Cadbury said and did. But yielding to that temptation would get in the way of our understanding the nature of Quakerism in the early decades of the last century. Quakerism was then, as it is now, a complicated admixture of prophetic impulses and pragmatic proclivities. Little is gained and much is lost when we pretend otherwise.
Correction: When Cadbury left Haverford College, he began teaching at the Andover Theological Seminary, not Phillips Academy as stated in the original article.
The Ramallah Friends School has not only been part of my own personal life, but also that of my extended family. My grandmother, who is of Greek Orthodox faith, was convinced of Quakerism in the 1920s—when the Quaker missionaries were in Ramallah to help establish the school. My grandmother is a graduate of the school, along with my mother (my father attended but then left for the United States), my husband, my children, and my siblings.
I graduated from Ramallah Friends School in 1983. When I returned from my college university education in the United States, I briefly worked there as a teacher of computer science, until the start of the First Intifada, when the Israelis closed down all of schools, including the Ramallah Friends School. Later, in 2003, I became involved with the parent-teacher association, but was soon offered the position to become the school director. My family decided to relocate to the United States for personal reasons five years ago, and since then I’ve been managing Ramallah Friends School from abroad.What led you to apply for the general secretary position at AFSC?
Five years is a little bit too much of this commuting and managing from a distance. I thought I need to consider other options; when the general secretary position for American Friends Service Committee was made known to me, I was wowed with the possibility.
I took some time to discern whether I wanted to apply, knowing very well that it would be all-encompassing work. Before working with the Ramallah Friends School, I worked for various international development organizations. I worked for the United Nations and Oxfam Great Britain (I was the country director for Israel and Palestine), and was privileged to have contributed to the programming that empowered and transformed the lives of communities. My interest to and commitment for social justice programs is amplified with having lived through a horrific and continuing injustice in Palestine, and also after seeing the present social and political turmoil taking place in the United States.There are some surprising similarities between a Quaker school and AFSC. Both are very visible, public institutions largely staffed by and largely serving non-Quakers.
Both AFSC and Ramallah Friends School are grounded in a foundation of Quaker values and testimonies and have impressive histories. Without that foundation, the school may not have continued to exist for 148 years of war and regional turmoil. To be spiritually led is imperative when the aim is to transform lives. AFSC carries a similar history of transformation and has likewise succeeded through the power of love. I have already received several messages from well-wishers telling me that their years at AFSC were “the best years of their lives.”
The people who work for AFSC are some of the most passionate and self-inspired people I’ve ever met. If we follow the messages of Margaret Benefiel in her book Soul at Work, we know that passion is the one ingredient that will improve morale, increase productivity, and create harmony among all parts of the organization. AFSC struck me as a place that has made many strides in this regard, and I look forward to encouraging people to bring their souls into the workplace.
As someone who has lived through horrific injustice and violence myself, I am able to draw the parallels and appreciate the complexity and intersectionality of the social justice issues that are very important in AFSC’s work in the United States and internationally.What are some of the values that we have to share with the world?
Our values are universal, and we should not claim ownership to them. We have a responsibility to put our values to work; Friends do this exceptionally well. The continuous seeking of that of God in our surroundings prepares our minds to consider other truths. It commits us to Spirit-led service and action and solid convictions on issues and principles. I think that’s a great combination.
Our school in Palestine is known as a Quaker school. We articulate our values regularly. We talk about tolerance, service, equality, and simplicity, but I don’t think this is what matters the most. It is how we translate these words in our decision making and in our relationships. For example, Ramallah Friends School is the only inclusive education school in Palestine offering children with special needs an opportunity that is otherwise absent there. While this comes with a financial cost, we test our value of equality as we ensure that our program leaves no one behind.
The Arab world, for the most part, can be very hierarchical and authoritarian, where the leader is expected to independently make all decisions. We offer another model by saying, “No, it’s really by consultation and consensus that we reach conclusions.” We show Quaker values at work by modeling the way.
This is also very apparent in the work of AFSC. Last year AFSC commissioned an independent report to assess structural racism within AFSC. I thought that this presents a compelling case of AFSC practicing what it preaches. AFSC is not shying away from courageously addressing these matters; they are stating that they are not immune. This gives me a sense that this an organization that is genuine about putting Quaker values into practice.AFSC has been reinventing itself since its founding 100 years ago. What are some of the particular challenges of Quaker witness today?
To me, challenges are opportunities, always. Change and reinvention is inevitable for any organization. In both the United States and the world we’re seeing dramatic global shifts, whether it’s Brexit or a Trump victory or the emergence of ISIS—all disheartening, social, economic trends that are reminders of the emergence of a grave reality that requires our immediate attention. That to me is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity: How can we build on our exciting work and partnership, urgently and creatively, in a manner that can make a difference?
I think we’ve learned from this last U.S. election that we need to listen more. This can often be a challenge for people who are very passionate about the positions they take. Sometimes the passion is so overwhelming that it sort of overrides that willingness to listen to other narratives. This is something that we really need to work much harder on. Truth is always incomplete. We always have to look for other truths. We need to break through some of these boundaries that we’ve put around ourselves and seek a wider spectrum of perspectives.
We know that racial and political and economic divides are on the rise, but we also need to keep the hope alive. We read a lot about things that make us angry, but there are also stories that make us proud. Humanity is still alive and well. We need to make sure that people hear not only about the atrocities and the detrimental executive orders, but also about the communities which are coming together to make a difference and effect change that we all seek.How would you like to see Friends more involved with AFSC? How can we support its work?
I haven’t started in the position of course, but it’s been clear to me that AFSC puts significant effort into presenting opportunities for engagement, whether connecting with a campaign or hosting an event. The website has a “Get Involved” page that is immensely resourceful with many ideas, including a Quaker social change ministry and a “Let Your Life Speak” booklet. I’ve been impressed that AFSC has a director of Friends relations, Lucy Duncan, who is doing a terrific job forging these connections.
I know that there are divides and that not all Quakers and Friends will have the same views on social justice issues. Some Friends may not agree with a direction that an AFSC program is taking. Tensions will arise. This is not unique to Friends. As the director of Ramallah Friends School, I have enjoyed building partnerships with Quaker communities across the United States and increasing their social consciousness and commitment to social justice and awareness of the need for humanitarian support and political solidarity with Palestinians. I think my work may have helped to ameliorate some of the racism against Arabs found within some individuals in the United States.
I am hoping I can take that experience to Quaker communities and manage similar successes on issues of priority for AFSC. We can engage Friends in meaningful dialogue on social justice issues like Black Lives Matter or immigration reform or LGBTQ rights. These are conversations that I tremendously enjoy taking part in. I look forward to helping build bridges by delving into these conversations on behalf of AFSC.
I heard the news on a snowy day.
A heavy, wet snow that fell with
A smothering weight.
Tomorrow I will shovel the walk
And then pause to admire the beauty
Of the snow on the White Pine and the Elderberry.
A beauty you could not experience
And a weight you will never feel again.
Later there will be case reviews
And clinical judgements.
I will listen quietly
And remember the snow
As I offer a wordless prayer for you.
I unfolded the map of the pillowcase and fitted the four corners of the dream world in, leaving the next resident to trace their night journey with its cool, white folds. I unfurled the bottom sheet that knew the way soothing the mattress with a cotton caress. The partner top floated and had its say then waited patiently for the coverlet🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
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Have you ever gone to meeting for worship hoping to be embraced by God’s presence only to leave disappointed? I have. Over the years I’ve left meeting for worship in a state of discontent a number of times. And I’ve come to see that my lack of preparation for intimacy with God is often at the root of my experience. How can we prepare ourselves for intimacy with🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
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Controversy over Palestinian speaker at Friends’ Central School Sa’ed Atshan. Photo from Facebook. In early February, administrators at Philadelphia’s Friends’ Central School canceled a talk by invited scholar Dr. Sa’ed Atshan, a Palestinian Quaker and tenure-track professor of peace and conflict studies at the Quaker-affiliated Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa. Atshan had been invited to speak to the school’s Peace and Equality in Palestine club🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
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*Editors’ note: We invite all explicitly Quaker-founded and/or Quaker-run groups and organizations to submit to the Quaker Works column. Most, but not all, are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. The content is supplied by staff members of the organizations and edited to fit the style of Friends Journal. More details can be found on the Quaker Works submissions page.Advocacys Friends Committee on National Legislation fcnl.org
For nearly 75 years, FCNL has lobbied Congress on priorities set by Friends. FCNL’s 16 registered lobbyists advocate on Capitol Hill, and FCNL trains and supports people across the country in advocacy rooted in listening and relationship-building.
More than 300 people came to Washington, D.C., in mid-November to lobby for criminal justice reform. Hundreds followed up with in-district meetings during a Community Lobby Day in December. While Congress adjourned without passing legislation, these actions laid groundwork for further progress in 2017.
FCNL Advocacy Teams are thriving in 34 communities across the country, with 18 more teams forming in the first half of 2017. These groups support each other in building durable connections with their members of Congress. These efforts last year led 13 members to cosponsor focus legislation. FCNL has also launched an online training program for people preparing to lobby for the first time.
In November, FCNL’s governing General Committee established legislative priorities for work with the 115th Congress, with an overarching call to address institutional racism. The committee also approved a minute on institutional sexism.
Construction of the new Quaker Welcome Center on Capitol Hill has begun. The center will house participants in the Friend in Washington program, offer hospitality for visitors, and provide a space for dialogue and off-the-record conversations. The building will open in fall 2017.Quaker Council for European Affairs qcea.org
Following a review of activities in 2015–16, Quaker Council for European Affairs has restructured to focus on peace and human rights. QCEA has also incorporated “quiet diplomacy” into its policy work, providing a safe place for discussion for those who make or influence policy.
QCEA events encourage participants to see the value in all people, to rethink security, and to focus upon a particular policy agenda. The meetings also broaden the range of voices interacting with policymakers on peace and human rights issues, convening people that would not otherwise normally meet.
QCEA, together with the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN), has recently published a report on Friends’ efforts to respond to the influx of displaced persons in Europe. The report, “Quaker Faith in Action: Friends’ work in the area of forced migration,” builds on feedback from Quaker respondents across Europe, and explores the important work done by individuals, meetings, and organizations in response to this unprecedented humanitarian challenge.
Quaker House in Brussels, Belgium, where QCEA is based, is also increasingly acting as a community space. An asylum seeker-led project has worked with QCEA to host fundraisers in support of displaced persons. The QCEA offices also host the European Network Against Arms Trade and Nonviolent Peaceforce, providing valuable links with other peace organizations.Quaker Initiative to End Torture quit-torture-now.org
QUIT is the spiritual work of Friends to stop the worst that humans do to one another.
QUIT recognizes that the failure of the Obama-Biden administration to end all American torture, prosecute those responsible for American torture, close Guantanamo Bay prison, and release the Senate report on CIA torture means all the structures remain in place to be fully put to use for revival of torture under the new administration.
The initiative is positioning itself to publicly oppose all forms of torture as the Trump-Pence administration continues to threaten to use all former torture policies and practices, against Pentagon admonitions. No matter that veteran intelligence and military experts insist that torture is always immoral, illegal, and ineffective.
QUIT founder John Calvi says, “It appears that more American torture is on the horizon. We must not go backward to another torture regime.” The overt use of torture of the Bush-Cheney administration brought Friends together to form the Quaker Initiative to End Torture (QUIT) in June 2005.
QUIT is grateful for the support and participation of Friends over the past 12 years of work, and continues to provide education, awareness, and current news of opposing American torture. Friends stay updated through QUIT’s website, Facebook, publications, listserve, and conferences.Quaker United Nations Office quno.org
Since 1947, the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) has worked with diplomats, UN officials, and civil society actors to support a UN that prioritizes peace and prevents war. QUNO New York achieves its goals through its programming on peacebuilding and the prevention of violent conflict.
In 2016, QUNO, as a co-facilitator, launched the Civil Society-UN Prevention Platform, which aims to support the UN violent conflict prevention agenda through strengthening coordination and information sharing between civil society and the UN. This diverse platform offers an innovative approach for dialogue, supporting preventive efforts across the various UN departments and agencies most directly engaged in work related to prevention with civil society organizations in New York and around the world. The platform seeks to identify practical steps for preventive work by providing a space for sharing examples and best practices, identifying areas for collaboration, and supporting UN efforts for early warning and early action.
In an ongoing partnership with the UN’s Department of Political Affairs, the platform successfully convened regular strategy and thematic discussions during the fall of 2016. These meetings brought together civil society and UN actors to explore issues related to prevention, and identify ways to strengthen the UN’s preventive work. Outputs from these meetings were then used to identify targeted recommendations that were shared with and welcomed by incoming UN Secretary-General António Guterres.Consultation, Support, and Resources Friends General Conference fgcquaker.org
Friends General Conference’s governing board, Central Committee, met in late autumn 2016. Representing 15 yearly meetings and some independent meetings, committee members have the responsibility of gathering with other Friends from across the United States and Canada to discern how FGC can faithfully serve its member yearly and monthly meetings with vitality and spiritual depth. After two years of contraction to make FGC more financially sustainable, Central Committee turned its attention to strengthening ongoing programs, and to preparing for an institutional assessment focused on addressing systemic racism and fostering faithful inclusion. The highlights of the meeting can be found on FGC’s website.
FGC’s first Spiritual Deepening eRetreat launched with over 100 participants from across the globe signing up for the initial offering. This Spiritual Deepening experience is an eight-week online retreat led by a trained facilitator.
QuakerBooks of FGC has a new volunteer opportunity: the “Bookista.” A QuakerBooks Bookista is someone who loves books and helps get them to other people who love them. There are in-store and off-site opportunities for writing book blurbs, doing social media, and helping at author talks and events; some of the tasks can be done remotely. In exchange for working two three-hour shifts each month, Bookistas receive a QuakerBooks t-shirt and a 20-percent discount on QuakerBooks purchases.Friends United Meeting friendsunitedmeeting.org
Recently Friends United Meeting has been focusing on expanding ministry in Belize. In the Belizean educational work that FUM has sponsored since the 1990s, there is a desire for a worshipping body to ground the work of the Friends school in an awareness of God’s work and presence in the midst of the challenged Southside neighborhood of Belize City. With the purchase of a larger building in November, FUM has begun to put into place the pieces of a larger vision for work in Belize, including a greatly expanded school for both children and adults, a pastoral minister to develop a Friends community in the Southside neighborhood, and facilities in which to develop a neighborhood community center.
In the fall, FUM appointed Oscar Mmbali, of Kenya, as a pastoral minister in Belize. Mmbali is a graduate of Friends Theological College and St. Paul’s University, and has worked most recently in Thailand. The incarnational and relational ministry he is bringing to Belize is enthusiastically supported by Kenyan Friends; yearly meetings and local congregations have been offering both financial support and prayer support for his ministry in Belize.
FUM is also working toward its July Triennial in Wichita, Kans., which will be build around the themes of Thomas Kelly’s The Eternal Promise.Friends World Committee for Consultation (Asia–West Pacific Section) fwccawps.org
In a public statement shared on January 18, Quakers in Bohol in the Philippines expressed their deep concern regarding the spate of killings and the intent to reimpose the death penalty in their country. Written by members of Bohol Worship Group, the statement expressed support for efforts of the national government to reduce the use of illegal drugs, while calling for a move toward rehabilitation rather than criminalization.
The statement also condemned the reinstitution of the death penalty, stating “Study after study proves that if you are poor, minority, or mentally disabled, you are at higher risk regardless of guilt or innocence. The right to life—broadly understood as a right to be free from deadly violence, maiming, torture, and starvation—is paramount.”Friends World Committee for Consultation (Section of the Americas) fwccamericas.org
FWCC Section of the Americas launched its new website featuring an updated design on October 1, 2016.
World Quaker Day was celebrated on October 2, 2016, with special prayers, potlucks, sunrise meetings for worship, and other commemorations. Pictures of the many creative ways meetings across the Section marked the day are available at worldquakerday.org.
Many meetings shared the QuakerSpeak videos made in partnership with FWCC Section of the Americas. FWCC produced five videos between September and January, and Quaker Religious Education Collaborative prepared materials to accompany each one. The videos and religious ed guides can be found on the FWCC Section of the Americas news webpage.
In January the Section announced the first cohort of the Traveling Ministry Corps program. The South American members are Agustina Callejas, Estefany Vargas, and Hector Castro (National Evangelical Friends Church INELA Bolivia). The North American members are Debbie Humphries (New England YM), Emily Provance (New York YM), Chuck Schobert (Northern YM), and Julie Peyton (Northwest YM). Over the next two years, the Friends who serve in the Traveling Ministry Corps will visit Friends meetings and churches in yearly meetings other than their own to offer workshops, ministry, and facilitation of worship share sessions. Meetings can request a visit via the FWCC Section of the Americas website under “Visitation.”Development Quaker Bolivia Link qbl.org
Quaker Bolivia Link continues to organize Bolivia Study Tours for Friends from all areas of the world. The trips include time at the QBL offices in La Paz and visits to Aymara villages to see completed projects in the Altiplano, such as new clean water systems, food security through quinoa production, and llama husbandry. These tours provide a hands-on experience of small-scale development in action, with shared meals in the villages with the indigenous population and a chance to see remote areas of Bolivia that are truly beautiful.
The issue of water security (and thus food security) has become critical in Bolivia due to climate change. There are now permanent water restrictions in La Paz due to the city’s reliance on shrinking glaciers to provide water for its 300,000 inhabitants. This is likely to be the worst drought in 25 years and is predicted to last until 2018. QBL water systems, which rely upon local spring-fed sources in the Altiplano, are more important than ever in ensuring a secure water supply for the indigenous Aymara people. QBL is in Bolivia because it is the poorest nation in South America and there is great need there.Quaker Service Australia qsa.org.au
QSA’s development work focuses on food and water security and poverty alleviation for communities in Cambodia, Tamil Nadu in South India, and Uganda, and also works with indigenous communities in Australia. During the past year QSA has also been addressing its own governance structure, and has rewritten its constitution to change from an association to a company structure.
On a recent monitoring visit to Cambodia, the monitor was able to see the extensive home food gardens people had created, using the equipment, seeds, and seedlings provided by the project. This is subsistence farming, not cash cropping, giving them a range of nutritious foods to feed the family and also enabling any surplus to be sold in the markets. With the addition of several secure wells in the area, it is possible for people to achieve year-round food security, one of the project’s goals. Climate change is altering the timing of the rains, the amount of surface water, and the depth of the water table, so additional training to make the communities more resilient has been included. Each village has devised a safe place for people and their animals in times of flood (a naturally occurring annual event), and the use of mobile phones ensures everyone in the community is aware of the timing of significant flooding. All of this makes for sustainable communities and families.Right Sharing of World Resources rswr.org
Right Sharing of World Resources is an independent Quaker not-for-profit organization pursuing the abundance of God’s love through wealth redistribution. RSWR funds micro-enterprise projects for marginalized women in Kenya, India, and Sierra Leone.
In January, RSWR general secretary Jackie Stillwell traveled to Sierra Leone with current and former board members. She traveled with field representative Sallian Sankoh to visit projects Right Sharing is funding in the region. Right Sharing reaches the most marginalized and under-served women in Sierra Leone, providing resources and educational and economic opportunities.
2017 is the fiftieth anniversary of Right Sharing. RSWR began in 1967 as a ministry of Friends World Committee for Consultation after the Fourth World Conference of Friends in Guilford, N.C. RSWR is looking forward to the next 50 years and beyond of building relationships and sharing resources to create greater equity and wellness within the world.
To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary, RSWR is hosting several gatherings across the country to connect and reflect. More details are available on the website.Education Bolivian Quaker Education Fund bqef.org
BQEF continues its steady work empowering education, service, and connection between Friends in Bolivia and Friends in the Western world.
Twelve Bolivian Quaker university students graduated in 2016, with degrees in accounting, computer sciences, dentistry, engineering, language, law, and social work, bringing the total number of graduates to over 160. BQE-Bolivia is reviewing applications and renewals for a total of 45 scholarship seats for the 2017 academic year. BQEF increased scholarship stipends for 2017, for the first time in their 15-year history.
Student Danisa Rodriguez Yujra is applying her child development studies in internships. Danisa is particularly concerned with helping parents in poverty provide intellectual stimulation for their children.
Student Juan Carlos Huallpa Mamani is studying information sciences and practicing his skills. For one course he designed a sample website for BQEF. Juan participated in a church concert and CD production, raising money for a new church building.
Graduate Magaly Quispe Yujra, instrumental in spreading AVP in Bolivia, has a new project. She and her brother are building a childcare center in sprawling El Alto, Bolivia. They are just finishing construction and expect to open very soon.
Students at the Student Residence (“Internado”) in Sorata are beginning an electronic pen-pal effort with the advanced Spanish students at George School. Norwegian Mission Alliance staff will visit the BQEF Student Residence for observation and training.Earlham School of Religion esr.earlham.edu
In the fall, ESR welcomed a new professor of Christian spirituality, Michael Birkel, who received his MA from ESR in 1978, and has served as professor of religion at Earlham College since 1986. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as a Friend with years of classroom instruction, as well as gifts in the areas of spiritual direction and as a leader of workshops and retreats.
ESR launched a student exchange program with Hanshin University Graduate School in Korea. ESR student Christopher Duff spent the fall 2016 semester in Korea, and this spring ESR hosts two of their students, Beom-heon Kim and Eun Hye Song.
Earlham School of Religion is once again part of Seminaries that Change the World, chosen by the Center for Faith and Service. ESR also announced that the school will be covering registration and lodging expenses for annual events for any student or volunteer in a program eligible for the school’s Leadership and Service Scholarship.
And finally, ESR recently launched a podcast, ESR Talks. Director of admissions Matt Hisrich and associate dean Tim Seid have interviewed several members of the faculty so far. Episodes can be access at esrtalks.esr.earlham.edu.Friends Council on Education friendscouncil.org
Friends Council on Education and its 78 member schools are reaffirming the Quaker nature and spirit of Friends schools in these challenging times.
Through statements in the media, including the Philadelphia Inquirer and the National Association of Independent Schools online blog, executive director Drew Smith continues to reaffirm what Quaker schools stand for, including reflection, respectful listening, civil dialogue, nonviolent conflict resolution and social action, and living into Quaker testimonies.
Friends Council promotes dialogue among educators as they teach in the current climate. FCE hosted “Media Literacy in the Era of Fake News” as well as a virtual peer network entitled “Navigating the Waters of Current Events in Our Classrooms, Hallways, and Meeting Rooms.”
FCE and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s Committee on Friends Education cosponsored the “Friends Meeting–Friends School Care Relationship” workshop. Forty-eight attendees from 16 Friends schools gathered, bringing together Friends school trustees, school heads, and meeting clerks for dialogue and understanding about their connected work. Friends schools and Friends meetings share a mission to support learning immersed in Quaker testimonies and facilitated by Friends’ processes.
Noteworthy growth in Friends Council on Education’s National Endowment for Quaker Children (NEQC) Pilot Program includes increased tuition aid grant distribution and twice as many schools participating in 2016–2017. A matching challenge for the NEQC endowment is underway.Quaker Religious Education Collaborative quakers4re.org
(Eds: The print version of QREC’s update incorrectly states the location of Quaker Hill Conference Center as Richmond, Va. The center is located in Richmond, Ind. We regret the error and have corrected it below.)
The work of Quaker Religious Education Collaborative currently focuses on sharing new resources, developing an online platform, and planning the annual gathering of the collaborative to take place in August at Quaker Hill Conference Center in Richmond, Ind. The gathering brings together Friends from across traditions and branches, making space for sharing and collaborating.
QREC has republished two versions of Quaker Meeting and Me (original by Britain Yearly Meeting in 2010), a little book meetings and churches can use to welcome young children into their Friends community. Two bilingual (English and Spanish) editions, one for unprogrammed and one for programmed traditions, with updated art by Rebecca Price to include more diverse images of children, are available through yearly meetings at no cost. The project is funded through the Thomas H. and Mary Williams Shoemaker Fund, the generous gifts of Friends, and hours of in-kind donations from others of time and skills. To see a preview of the new art, go to quakers4re.org/qmandm.
The fall newsletter, Connections, announced new religious education resources and opportunities for collaboration among Friends. On the QREC website, readers can find links to the full FWCC-QuakerSpeak curriculum, written to accompany the QuakerSpeak video series, and a listing of Quaker camps for children and youth.Sierra Friends Center woolman.org
Sierra Friends Center, which has operated the Woolman Semester and Camp Woolman, is currently in a discernment period after suspending the Woolman Semester in August 2016. Camp Woolman continues to thrive, and Sierra Friends Center will be welcoming back campers, counselors, and counselors-in-training this summer. Camp Woolman is also welcoming a new camp director, Keenan Lorenzato.
Moving forward in discernment, SFC is looking at an outdoor school model to build upon 50+ years as a Quaker educational center. A local nonprofit, Sierra Streams Institute, is interested in working with SFC to form the Woolman Outdoor School. SFC is also seeking ways to further work with youth in the areas of restorative justice and peace.
In December 2016, the board of directors worked with Irene McHenry to set benchmarks and goals as Sierra Friends Center works to strengthen as a Quaker institution.
Sierra Friends Center is grateful for the support of so many Friends as it continues to seek ways to fulfill its mission: to steward diverse learning communities and educational programs that weave together spirituality, peace, sustainability, and social action.Environmental and Ecojustice Earth Quaker Action Team eqat.org
Earth Quaker Action Team believes action campaigns must unite Americans around a vision for justice while delivering locally felt wins. EQAT’s Power Local Green Jobs campaign continues to challenge PECO, Pennsylvania’s largest utility, to be a leader in solar energy and economic justice.
Although solar jobs are booming nationally, those jobs haven’t come to local high-unemployment areas. So EQAT is planning to walk throughout PECO’s service area during two weeks in May, from fossil infrastructure to green jobs sites, taking action with communities along the way.
After 100 runners, walkers, and wheelers did circles around the PECO building last October, PECO has responded with taking steps on small-scale solar programs, but not addressing its core energy sources. Since January, EQAT has increased the pressure on CEO Craig Adams to confront what the utility needs to undertake for climate and economic benefit to the region. EQAT has begun drawing attention to Mr. Adams at public events, encouraging him to move toward utilization of 20 percent local solar by 2025.
Considering how to lend strength to broader movements, Earth Quaker Action Team just completed a four-month series of mass nonviolent direct action trainings, organized with Training for Change and POWER. With all of this new energy, EQAT is taking on two new hires, doubling its staff size.Quaker Earthcare Witness quakerearthcare.org
QEW is grappling with how to build a sustainable and life-enhancing future. QEW grew out of a strong leading among Friends that our future depends on a spiritual transformation in our relationships with each other and the natural world. This year QEW is marking its thirtieth anniversary. QEW has a solid network of Friends throughout North America; publishes relevant and thought-provoking articles in its newsletter, Befriending Creation, and on its website; and continues to speak out as a Quaker voice to inspire bold, Spirit-led action.
QEW believes that in times of such turmoil, there is the likelihood of radical change—for better or for worse—and asks, what is the world we want to see and live in? QEW is calling on Friends meetings and organizations to unite in a common vision and to engage in mutually supportive actions.
In 2017 Quaker Earthcare Witness is prioritizing indigenous rights, climate justice, and youth leadership. QEW is revising its Earthcare curricula, and funding hands-on sustainability projects with its mini-grants program.
QEW’s newsletter and website highlighted these stories recently: eco-spirituality across the Quaker spectrum, water protectors at Standing Rock and other indigenous struggles to regain sovereignty and sustainability, radical witness for sustainability, and the growth of solar and other renewable energy sources.Investment Management Friends Fiduciary Corporation friendsfiduciary.org
Friends Fiduciary believes that with ownership comes a responsibility to address specific and systemic issues with the companies it owns, reflecting Quaker values in the process. This proxy season FFC has expanded its shareholder advocacy, entering into engagements with 40 companies. Friends Fiduciary dialogues with companies across multiple sectors on various issues, including drug pricing, deforestation, and greenhouse gas emission goals.
Friends Fiduciary has taken a greater leadership role in many of its engagements, often setting the strategy. FFC filed a resolution for the third time with Comcast Corporation on their lobbying and political spending disclosures, seeking greater transparency around money spent through backchannels to influence politics. FFC is also serving as lead coordinator in dialogue with three insurance companies, asking for comprehensive annual sustainability reports and urging them to look at climate risk in their invested assets.
Friends Fiduciary actively expresses a unique perspective as Quaker investors to policymakers. FFC signed onto letters from the business community urging President Trump to honor the Paris Agreement, and expressing support for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, among many others.Retreat, Conference, and Study Centers Friends Center friendscentercorp.org
Friends Center recently hosted two exhibitions that highlighted Quaker work for justice and peace that is still relevant today. In early February a banner exhibit for American Friends Service Committee’s centennial, #WagePeace100, was displayed in the main lobby.
In February and March, Friends Center hosted a photo exhibition, “Uprooted: Life in Japanese American Farm Labor Camps During World War II.” Teresa Maebori, a member of Germantown Meeting in Philadelphia, Pa., who was born in one of the internment camps, arranged for the exhibition to travel from the West Coast to Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story about Maebori and the exhibition headlined “History’s Hard Lesson.” The subhead explained why this is so timely today: “Born in an internment camp for Japanese Americans, she fears Muslims face a similar fate today.” AFSC was one of the few groups to support interned Japanese Americans.
Numerous rallies, workshops, and teach-ins have been held at Friends Center recently. Topics have included the New Sanctuary Movement for immigrants; community building and support for Syrian refugees in Philadelphia; recruiting volunteer attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity; town hall meetings of the Coalition for REAL Justice, the local outgrowth of the Black Lives Matter movement; and anti-racism trainings and mass meetings by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in collaboration with Showing Up for Racial Justice Philly.Pendle Hill pendlehill.org
In November 2016, dozens of clerks, co-clerks, and Quaker leaders from over eight different states joined Pendle Hill’s annual clerking workshop, designed and led by board member Arthur Larrabee. The participants learned the basics of serving their communities with joy and confidence, grounded in Quaker practice.
Pendle Hill hosted the Visioning and Creating a Moral Economy conference in December, co-sponsored by the New Economy Coalition, the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance, and Quaker Institute for the Future. Presenters included political economist Gar Alperovitz, social movement theorist George Lakey, and local alternative economy leaders including Caitlin Quigley of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance and Rahwa Ghirmatzion of People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo. Organizers John Meyer, Lina Blount, and Geoffrey Garver wove the program together and supported the 65 speakers and participants in a powerful weekend.
Annual New Year’s workshops rang in the New Year at Pendle Hill with a live band and candle-lit meeting for worship after enjoying a delicious salmon dinner orchestrated by chef Henrik Ringbom and the kitchen team.
Marcelle Martin began her second offering of the online course Exploring the Quaker Way in January, welcoming 20 participants from around the country, including several groups organized within meetings seeking to learn together.Powell House powellhouse.org
Following the beginning of the tenure of new co-executive directors Dennis Haag and Regina Baird Haag, Powell House has also hired a new full-time food service manager, Tony Barca, as well as a maintenance contractor, Joseph Olejak.
In January, the Powell House Committee approved undertaking a strategic planning process, in order to enable Powell House to meet the ongoing and future needs and desires of current, as well as potential, constituencies. This process will be ongoing throughout 2017, with a proposal completed for consideration by January 2018.
Several of Powell House’s recent program offerings have served to create, enable, and share the Light and Love that is abundantly present in the community. These include programs for youth and adults focusing on such topics as “Safety Pins and Other Symbols” for sixth through eighth graders; “Breathe; Just Breathe” for eleventh and twelfth graders and young adult Friends; and “Prophetic Listening” and “Prophetic Ministry” for adults.
Intergenerational programs included “Celebrate Friends and Family,” a Powell House New Year’s retreat that hosted over 80 energetic participants; “Winter Wonderland,” an unprogrammed event designed for families who want experience Powell House in all of its winter glory; and “Creativity and Spirituality,” offering experiences with everything from quilting, knitting, and clay sculpture, to music and beyond.Service and Peace Work American Friends Service Committee afsc.org
At the beginning of February, AFSC co-sponsored a rally and march in Philadelphia, Pa., on the theme of #SanctuaryEverywhere, the simple idea that everyday people can come together to keep each other safe. The crowd of over 5,000 people demonstrated this idea during the march by protectively encircling the Muslim participants who were observing mid-day prayers in front of Independence Hall.
With the support of the Colorado AFSC office, Mountain View Friends Meeting of Denver brought #SanctuaryEverywhere into their meeting. Since the end of November, they have been hosting an immigrant woman in their meetinghouse as she works to remain in the country with her two children, who are U.S. citizens.
Local AFSC offices have been providing anti-Islamophobia and Know Your Rights sessions to their communities, teaching and practicing skills to put #SanctuaryEverywhere into action. These trainings have been filled to capacity in recent months.
AFSC endorsed the Vision for Black Lives policy platform in December, following the organization’s commitment to struggling alongside impacted communities reaching for justice.
AFSC is also preparing to launch aid work with Syrian refugees in Jordan, continuing the Quaker legacy of humanitarian service to those in need. This on-the-ground support will supplement the policy advocacy work in the United States and abroad that AFSC is already engaged in.Canadian Friends Service Committee quakerservice.ca
Combining life sciences, computer science, and engineering, techniques called “synthetic biology” are taking off. They are already used in the production of food and fragrances, with applications expanding all the time. Many hope to use synthetic biology to create increasingly novel life forms. Canadian Friends Service Committee is the peace and social justice agency of Quakers in Canada. Grounded in the values of peace, integrity, equality, simplicity, and respect for all creation, CFSC is led to respond to the rapidly advancing field of synthetic biology.
Among the actions Canadian Yearly Meeting asked CFSC to take was to provide Friends with brief non-technical updates about synthetic biology. These are available on the CFSC website, and are intended to be understandable by those without a background in science. The most recent update outlines issues including the pros and cons of gene drives that aim to overcome evolution; editing of human and animal genetic material; allergies to genetically modified chemicals; bioweapons; and proposals to reshape entire ecosystems. The update asks, “What are the social, ecological, and spiritual implications of these developments?”Friendly Water for the World friendlywater.net
Friendly Water for the World is now taking on “the long walk to water.” In January, Friendly Water held a seven-country training in Gisenyi, Rwanda, to train people to fabricate rainwater catchment systems using ferrocement tanks. These tanks—from 1,000 to 25,000 liters—cost a fraction of plastic ones, last much longer, and can be tailored to the exact size needed. Smaller ones—called “water hives”—can be built in a single day and are useful in wetter climates where nonetheless rainwater must be captured, or for hygiene stations at schools. Sizes are tailored to carry a family through the dry season. Besides the country representatives, Friendly Water trained two teams of unemployed youth in Rwanda who will travel throughout east and central Africa to provide training assistance.
Combined with BioSand water filters, Friendly Water will now be able to provide the gold standard in both water access and quality, employing hundreds of people in the process. In two years, Friendly Water’s partner group in Rwanda, Hand in Hand for Development (formerly God in Us-Africa), has trained 49 groups of unemployed youth and widows (often with HIV), totaling more than 700 people, who have fabricated and sold 18,500 BioSand filters, providing clean water to a quarter million people.
The next North American BioSand Training will take place in August at Quaker Cove in Anacortes, Wash.Friends House Moscow friendshousemoscow.org
In May 2016, Amnesty International published the results of a survey on refugees: its un-astonishing conclusion—people are kinder than governments. Worldwide, more than 80 percent of 27,000 interviewed would welcome refugees into their countries. China, Germany, and the UK showed the highest numbers. Although Russia showed the lowest, there was still a clear majority: 61 percent of reputedly xenophobic Russians want their government to admit more refugees. Despite Russia’s involvement in Syria, there are very few Syrian refugees in Russia; it is the government’s position that Syria is a “safe” place. In the past, most of those seeking shelter in Moscow came from the Caucasus, particularly from Chechnya, but recently they are more likely to be fleeing war in Afghanistan or Congo. Russia has also taken in more than a million refugees from the war in eastern Ukraine.
In Russia, as in other countries, civil society provides refugees with practical help. With faithful support from German Friends, Friends House Moscow is helping a volunteer group provide education and adaptation services to 70 young people. One activity had students draw a map of Moscow and make the city their own, marking home, schools, music, good gathering places, and some dangerous ones where the skinheads hang out. The activities included a hundred ethnically Russian students, giving participants of all backgrounds a place at the table.Friends Peace Teams friendspeaceteams.org
Friends Peace Teams supports peace, healing, and reconciliation in communities in conflict around the world. FPT is a mostly volunteer organization with a few staff; it is governed by a council of Friends, many appointed by their yearly meetings. The work is carried out through three initiatives.
FPT’s Asia West Pacific initiative has expanded and strengthened trainings on creating nonviolent cultures to include community leadership, teachers, young adults, and parents, and has already seen positive ripple effects.
In fall of 2016 the African Great Lakes Initiative’s longtime coordinator David Zarembka stepped down and transitioned leadership to David Bucara. Bucara, from Rwanda, previously served as Central Africa coordinator. He is trained as a pastor and teacher, and is finishing his term as legal representative of Rwanda Yearly Meeting. AGLI’s work includes the Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities program, scholarships for orphans and vulnerable children, mediation, Children’s Peace Libraries, and the Alternatives to Violence Project in prisons.
Peacebuilding en las Américas also has a new coordinator, Monica Maher. Maher, who lives in Ecuador, has experience in human rights, solidarity work, and education with a PhD in Christian social ethics. PLA continues to make a difference in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, countries marked by some of the highest homicide rates in the world, as well as in Colombia’s historic peace process after 52 years of war.Quaker House quakerhouse.org
Calls to the Quaker House hotline have increased as volunteer armed forces continue fighting further wars. The callers often share difficulties that are indicative of moral injury, PTSD, TBI, domestic violence, and sexual assault. The GI Rights Hotline counselors work with a therapist to counsel people feeling suicidal. They also provide resources to help them prove to the military that they deserve a medical discharge rather than a less than honorable discharge. Frequently, a compassionate chaplain or fellow soldier refers these victims to Quaker House. That Quakers, who are pacifists, are providing such important help to service members and veterans has finally convinced the community and military that these Friends are truly here to support troops while opposing wars.
Quaker House hosts community dialogues that encourage conversations among diverse racial groups, and these are growing in attendance. Quaker House’s Alternatives to Violence Project training was attended by officials from two different Wounded Warrior organizations; this led to a greater understanding of the work Quaker House does for service members and veterans who need help reintegrating into society.
In October 2016, Quaker House published Conscientious Objection: Is This for You? a teacher’s resource guide. The guide provides lesson plans and discussion points for teachers to address Selective Service registration and conscientious objection in the classroom.Quaker Voluntary Service quakervoluntaryservice.org
In January, Quaker Voluntary Service launched a new website, to further connect QVS work with other Quaker partners and young adults interested in QVS. The website features new content each week, including interviews with older Friends in the “Quaker Service Testimonies” section, and blog posts by current Fellows.
QVS also recently wrapped up a busy recruiting season for the 2017–2018 service year. Accepted applicants will be matched with a city and a site placement by May, and the national orientation will take place in September.
Beginning in 2018, QVS will be adding a new location in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minn. The Twin Cities will be the fifth QVS location.William Penn House williampennhouse.org
Amid challenging times for Quaker witness, William Penn House has been blessed with many visitors and program participants who are committed to building a world of peace, justice, and inclusive community. In November 2016, WPH hosted a group of activists with Citizens’ Climate Lobby who had bicycled from Minnesota to lobby their congressional representatives for action on climate change.
In January, WPH was again full with participants in the Women’s March. In addition to overnight guests, WPH opened its doors to the public on the day of the march as a comfort station. All day, the house was filled with visitors seeking a bathroom, cup of coffee, or a place to rest. All told, an estimated more than 1,400 people came through the doors. The power of radical Quaker hospitality was evident; in the words of one visitor, WPH provided “a port in the storm” for marchers young and old.
William Penn House recently hosted several public events lifting up Quaker witness for peace and justice, including an interfaith discussion on Spirit-led peacebuilding, a dialogue with racial justice activist and author David Billings, a presentation on mental health issues for veterans, and a discussion on sanctuary and asylum. These events helped bring the community together and focus on efforts to promote Quaker social testimonies.Youth Service Opportunities Project ysop.org
YSOP is a Quaker organization, grounded in Quaker values, that engages students in hands-on service experiences working with homeless and hungry people in New York City and Washington, D.C.
The D.C. office welcomed 222 students who served over 60,000 individuals in need. Three of the eleven groups were brand new and had such a great time they are already excited to return. The Dartmouth Alumni Club celebrated their annual MLK Day lunch, bringing together volunteers and community members in need from diverse backgrounds. Local families who loved participating in the 2016 MLK Day lunch brought their friends and their children in the fall for a family workcamp, and entertained guests with creative cupcakes and fun games. A nearby Quaker school honored YSOP by putting on a talent show fundraiser and donating the proceeds. The same school sent a group of students to volunteer at the end of February.
In New York, fall started big with 142 participants from Massachusetts serving over 3,750 homeless and hungry New Yorkers during the weeklong program. Other highlights include two grant-funded service days for low-income public school students, and a group from Drake University who returned for their fifth year, incorporating a YSOP weeklong program into their course on urban poverty. Friends Academy, which has been coming to YSOP for over 20 years, returned for two fall programs.
A Weekend WorkcampRead also:
Remembering a transformative youth service experience.Friends Journal
I studied the list of volunteer projects offered by American Friends Service Committee for the summer of 1949, following my junior year of college. Workcamps were planned in communities with needs that could be met by the labor of young idealistic volunteers. Local residents were to provide materials and supervise the labor.
One intrigued me the most. Campers were to build a community center/health clinic in the village of Ozone, Tennessee, where there was no doctor, clinic, or hospital for many miles around. This venture seemed to fit well with my plans for a medical career. I submitted an application with the required deposit.
My parents strongly opposed my idea for a summer away from home, doing heavy physical work for no pay. They set out to convince me to change my mind. I imagine they prayed that my application would be rejected. Weeks passed. One morning I opened a letter from the AFSC and read it aloud at the breakfast table. I was accepted for the Quaker workcamp in Tennessee. My father spoke but two words: “Oh” followed by an expletive that was totally out of character for him, but left no doubt about how he felt about my plan. My parents enlisted my older brother to persuade me that a much wiser way to spend my summer would be to get serious about golf – take lessons, improve my game. In spite of previous lessons, I had remained inferior at the game and found it thoroughly frustrating. The pressure stayed on. A few days before I was to leave for Tennessee, I weakened and made a painful decision to drop out.
My girlfriend Ella, a fellow student at Penn, shared my idealism and knew all about the workcamp plans. When I told her I was going to drop out of the camp, she immediately responded, “George, you can’t drop out! You’ve got to stick with what you believe in!”
She was right. I would have been miserable all summer if I had backed out. I changed my mind again and a couple of days later I set out, at just 20 years of age, to drive alone from Philadelphia to a part of the country I had never before seen.
Ozone was easy to find. It straddled U.S. highway 70, in the Cumberland Plateau west of Knoxville. Its population was but a few hundred families. I found my way to a three-room white schoolhouse located up a dirt road about a half mile from the highway. This was the site for our camp. I was welcomed by the camp director Roy Darlington, a young science and math teacher from New Jersey, and his wife Libby and soon met the seven other young men and 11 young women with whom I was to spend the next eight weeks. Most of us were college students. One room of the school building would house the women. A second would serve as dining room, kitchen, and general meeting room. What remained of the third room, where school desks were stored, became our laundry room.
The immediate task for the men was to set up a large army tent in an open field close to the school. The tent was just the right size for eight army surplus cots and would be the men’s dormitory. Next to his cot each of us had an orange crate as a makeshift dresser. Around the tent’s perimeter we dug a trench to divert rainwater away from our tent. Well beyond our tent stood two large outhouses, one for men, one for women. It was the first time in my life that I ever saw the inside of an outhouse. Nevertheless, I felt that I could adapt with no difficulty.
The schoolhouse had no running water. Water had to be drawn from a well near the schoolhouse entrance. We lowered a long cylindrical container by rope and pulley into the well, pulled it back up, and emptied the water into buckets. This served all our needs for washing and laundry.
That evening all 23 of us, including the Darlingtons’s two small children, gathered around a long narrow table for dinner. One of the first Quaker traditions we established was a brief period of silence before each meal. I was happy about that. The main dish for the evening meal, however, was a cold tuna fish salad, one of the few foods I really detested. I simply couldn’t eat it. I said nothing, but was very unhappy.
Barbara Bowen, both a camper and a staff person, was the dietitian who planned our meals. Barbara’s budget allowed her to spend 23 cents per meal per person. I could hardly imagine surviving on such a meager sum. Each day a couple of campers were assigned in rotation to kitchen duty to assist with meal preparation and cleanup. Similarly, we would share in laundry duty for the camp on designated days.
That first night I felt very discouraged, almost desperate. So many new things were thrown at me at once. I had never before been to any type of camp for more than a weekend. Now I was at a camp with 22 complete strangers, in a village unlike any I had ever seen, using an outhouse, drawing water from a well, sleeping on a cot in a tent, and needing a flashlight to find my way around at night. Worst of all was the thought of meals like the dinner we had just had. What could be next? Brussels sprouts?
I wondered if I could last eight days, let alone eight weeks! I seriously considered giving up and leaving for home the next day. “I’ll give it one more day,” I said to myself.
The second day was not quite so bad. I felt a little less lonely and out of place. “I’ll give it another day,” I thought to myself again that night. And so it went for the first three days or so, during which I spent a fair amount of my spare time alone and said lots of prayers.
Gradually I became more at ease with the camp situation and found myself enjoying the work, learning camp songs, and happily participating in after-dinner discussions. We exchanged views on issues ranging from war, pacifism, poverty, and college campus life to the future of the world and what we could do about it.
As for the work itself, I became increasingly enthusiastic about it. We started early each morning with another Quaker tradition, a half-hour of silence. Although the large majority of us were not Quakers, everyone seemed familiar with Quaker practices and was comfortable with a time of contemplation at the beginning of each day.
The work of building the Adshead Health Center began from scratch. We cut down trees, dug trenches, and mixed the concrete by hand to pour the foundation. We went by truck to gather fieldstones in creek beds and bring them back to the building site. With guidance of a professional mason we chiseled large stones into shape to fit together and cemented them in place. Several experienced community members helped, especially on Saturdays, with large tasks such as putting up the rafters for the roof.
Women participated fully in all the work with the men. This must have impressed the reporter from the Nashville Tennessean for he made particular mention of it in the story he did for that paper’s magazine section, entitled “Hard Work, No Pay,” published September 11, 1949.
Three campers from abroad brought added interest to our daily routine and after-dinner discussions. Dieter Hartwick, from Berlin, acknowledged with a grin the irony of his coming from what was then one of the world’s most devastated cities to help erect a building in the United States. Bertram Headley from England was himself a Quaker who had been a conscientious objector during World War II. One insight he shared stuck with me. He contended that, while conscientious objectors could do various jobs within the military, such as driving an ambulance, the only ones who felt they had been totally true to their pacifist convictions were those who chose to go to jail. He reasoned that the ambulance driver was simply freeing up another man to carry a gun.
We had heard of the skepticism with which local people had viewed the arrival of a bunch of radical youths, perhaps even “trash,” some from the north, still others from foreign countries. As they got to know us, however, they saw that, rather than troublemakers, these campers were decent idealistic people who were ready to work hard on a construction project that was actually materializing before their eyes. Their skepticism evaporated. Our relationship with them became warm and friendly.
One evening a storm approached. We all gathered in the schoolhouse and watched it come closer. The rain developed into a downpour so hard that the trench around our tent was totally inadequate to handle it. The inside of the tent rapidly flooded. We ran out to try to rescue some of our belongings. We were soaked. Lightning flashed. Thunder rolled. Winds howled. The tent collapsed! We were distraught.
Unknown to us someone in the community anticipated our plight and made a few phone calls. Roy Darlington passed on the good news. Hosts had been found for all the young men to spend the night. “George, you take Paul Watson and drive over to Rockwood,” Roy directed. “There’s a family that has a spare room in an attic where the two of you are invited to spend the night.” A warm welcome and a comfortable bed awaited us! What started as a disaster ended in a good night’s sleep! We had not been left to fend for ourselves.
The next morning we set up our tent again. This time it survived until the end of the camp.
I wrote to my parents frequently to assure them that I was doing okay. I was happy when they wrote back with lighthearted news from home, but I still sensed that they were worried about me. I also corresponded frequently with Ella. I let her know my initial discouragement. She responded with encouragement.
Among the representatives of the AFSC who came by during the summer only one stayed overnight and joined us for breakfast and Friends Meeting in the morning. It was David Richie who had led the weekend workcamp I had gone to in Philadelphia three years previously. His was the only familiar face to visit and I was happy to see him. Friends meeting that day included inspiring words from David.
The camp was by no means all work. There were many times just for fun. In the afternoons when we finished at the work site, we often would pile into the three cars which campers had brought and head for a swimming hole at a nearby river or lake.
Our construction work was done Tuesdays through Saturdays. Mondays provided opportunities for educational side trips. One such trip took us to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. For Quakers this was a particularly problematic spot for it was the site of the headquarters of the U.S. wartime atomic energy program known as the Manhattan Project. And this was barely four years after the Hiroshima atomic explosion!
One day we needed to borrow a piece of heavy equipment from the road department. In exchange, we were asked to provide some needed labor to help a crew at a highway repair site. Another camper and I volunteered to be flagmen at either end of the site, stopping traffic first in one direction, then in the other. I thoroughly enjoyed that experience, but I never wrote about it to my parents. I think they would have been very disturbed—first, concerned for my safety and second, wondering if this is what they sent their son to college for.
By the time construction of the community center/health clinic drew to a close, I was fully enjoying every aspect of the workcamp, even kitchen and laundry duty. I realized how much I would miss Ozone and the people I had come to know there, campers and local residents alike. It was hard to imagine, even half way through the camp, that our project could actually be finished in the allotted time. But in the final week or so it all seemed to come together. Although some interior work remained to be done, by the end of our eight weeks in Tennessee the concrete floor, stone walls, doors, windows, and roof were in fact all completed. At one end of the building a band of concrete lined the exterior of the stones above the entrances. On it were inscribed the words “Adshead Health Center.”
I for one was thrilled with a sense of a job well done. A community center/health clinic had been built, and built solidly. And it would serve the people of that area for many years to come. I believe the experience unconsciously solidified my desire to make my life one of service.
All of us had grown through that summer’s experiences and left Ozone with a great sense of accomplishment. I was happy that I had stuck to it in spite of my discouragement at the beginning and grateful for the many things I had learned during the workcamp.
The American Friends Service Committee can be most vividly seen through the experiences and memories of the many people who have made up its ranks of participants, supporters, and staff over the last ten decades. The website Peace Works: Century of Action was created to gather and share stories from the past and present. Here is a small sampling of the more than 200 stories that have been contributed to date.
Please note that in some cases these stories have been abbreviated for display here. The full versions of these stories and many more can be found at peaceworks.afsc.org. You are also invited to share your own AFSC story on the site.Floyd Schmoe. Volunteer, 1910s
I remember when we got to Berlin, before daylight on Easter morning in 1919. We were parked at the side of a railroad yard only a few feet from a high woven wire fence. … A little girl came up to the fence and was hanging on the wire with her two hands looking up at me eating. I saw she was hungry and I looked around for something to eat. And I found the French Red Cross who had outfitted us had put a wooden pail of hard candy. So I got a handful of this and I passed it through the wire to the little girl and she did a little curtsy and a “danke shoen” and ran. In about 15 minutes she came back with a dozen other kids and we passed out the entire pail of candy that morning.
The interesting thing is that 70 years later, in Seattle, I was talking at a Fellowship for Reconciliation meeting and I told the story as I’ve told you. A young man got up, a student from the University of Hamburg, and said, “That girl was my grandmother! She was in Berlin at that time and she has told me that same story.” After 70 years! This is bread upon the water coming back, definitely.
From an AFSC oral history.Renate Justin. Supporter, 1930s
In 1934, in Germany, my tranquil childhood was invaded by fear. My teacher donned the Nazi uniform and stopped greeting me or calling on me in class. I was the target of stone throwing and name calling every day on the way to school. My mother and father wanted their nine-year old daughter to be safe and to receive an education. In 1936 they decided to send me to the Quaker School Eerde, on the train, alone, trusting that Friends would meet me once I arrived in Holland. I was absorbed into this remarkable community, which was grounded in the silent meeting.
At Eerde I met Peter and Dody Elkinton, students at the school and son and daughter of Howard and Catherine. Howard and Catherine were working as representatives for American Friends Service Committee in Germany, a dangerous and courageous undertaking. Their effort was directed at helping both persecuted Jews and non-Aryans to leave Germany. After Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938, and time in Buchenwald concentration camp, my father arrived in Holland: gaunt, his head shaved, but alive.
My parents, as many Jews, had bought tickets to the farthest point on the globe when they were in Germany and still had some money. These tickets, our escape route, were confiscated and canceled by the Nazis, and my parents had no money to buy new tickets. The American Friends Service Committee paid the Hamburg America Line for our canceled tickets, as well as for those of other refugees who faced the same dilemma. If it were not for this generous act, we never could have boarded the Rotterdam, a cargo ship overcrowded with refugees, in November of 1939. My family never would have been able to sail to the United States.Toshi Salzberg, 1940s, volunteer
The AFSC placed me with a family in Pennsylvania so that I could complete my nursing degree. They also offered me some of the most exciting experiences of my young life.
In 1948, once I had completed my training as a nurse, I volunteered with AFSC for a two year service position in Gaza. I was part of a team helping to resettle Palestinian Arab refugees in the Gaza Strip. The work was hard but I was young and could handle it. The Palestinians were planning on returning to their homes. They assumed that what they were going through was temporary. The people were so warm and so friendly. But it was not only the Palestinians who made an impression on me. I formed lasting friendships with the other volunteers. My friend Sirka Hilke was a nurse from northern Finland. We remained lifelong friends after our experience.
My time in Gaza was perhaps more meaningful to me because just a few years earlier I had been a prisoner in a camp myself—and now I found myself in another camp where people had been taken from their homes. I understood a little bit of their experience.Patricia Dunham Hunt. Staff member, 1940s – 1970s
I learned of AFSC through my sister’s husband who was a Philadelphia Quaker. He encouraged me to come east to Swarthmore College where I got involved in AFSC’s youth programs. I went on to the Columbia School of Social Work and volunteered with AFSC’s New Americans program for Jewish refugees, and as assistant director of a summer Mexican work camp.
In June 1947, I went to Finland to help build houses for war widows. Our work camp was located north of the Arctic Circle in an area which had been destroyed by the German army as it retreated. Of the 22 volunteers, half were Finnish and the rest from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, and three from the United States. Although only three of us were Quaker, we held quiet meetings for worship on Sundays and discussions about reconciliation and peace. Having respect for each other and making decisions by consensus were basic to Quaker practice. Before each meal, we joined hands to sing international folk songs.
At the end of 1949, I returned to Philadelphia to direct the international work camp program. There I met Frank Hunt and we were married in 1951 and I joined him in Israel. For the next three years we worked together in Israel and Korea. After years of working on issues of poverty and civil rights in my own neighborhood, I returned to AFSC in 1973 as coordinator of the Africa programs for fourteen years. Our goal was to enable people, especially women, to gain skills and resources to improve their lives. The international and peace divisions also sponsored a southern Africa education program about the liberation movements and the struggle for majority rule.
Looking back, I am humbled by the capacity, indeed the faith and compassion whatever one’s religion, that people have. Even under extreme stress, our humanity holds us together. I trust that Power which is striving toward good. I have been privileged to be part of AFSC’s century of service.Reverend Samuel Slie. Staff member, 1950s
I grew up in a neighborhood where racial identity meant nothing and it took me a long time to realize how important racial identity was to other people. After a semester in college I was drafted into the 92nd Infantry Division in World War II. In the army, I started to see the complexity of prejudice and discovered my attitude about different people was not typical. After serving in the U.S. infantry in Italy, I came back with many questions about the value of human life. “Why did some people have the power to not send their sons but send me instead? Why was I one of the easily draftable people?”
I went back to college where I met many people who had been conscientious objectors (COs), some of them Quakers. The COs and I spent many hours talking about the meaning of life, which influenced me to go to seminary. I finished seminary in 1952 and then returned to Italy to do post-war reconstruction work with AFSC. I spent a number of subsequent summers leading AFSC workcamps throughout Italy, rebuilding roads, sewers, schools, and bell towers.
What I loved about AFSC is we did not go in with a preconceived plan—which suited my personality just fine. Part of my job was to form, and then listen to, a local committee to see what it was that they were interested in doing.Anne Thomas Moore. Volunteer, 1950s
The American Friends Service Committee has provided me with so much learning from 1951 to the present. From my first door-to-door collection of used clothes when a college student to clerking board meetings, each taught me something. My only staff position was as co-director of the International Student House in Washington, D.C., from 1957-60.
What examples of exceptional, strong, down-to-earth women and men, were present for me in those years! It is a joy to think of them today. For me, having the Religious Society of Friends as our common denominator was what enabled the work to move forward. Admittedly, I was not conversant with world affairs, nor an avid reader, but I did read all the materials presented in preparation for meetings. I did not speak up during meetings, but admired those who did. I could see that information got to the people for whom it was intended and donating came naturally. When I moved to Northampton, Massachusetts, in 2013, it was a pleasant surprise to find the Western Massachusetts office of AFSC three blocks from where I live. So much has changed in the 30 years since I was actively involved with AFSC. I find several constants: the quality of the staff, the loyalty of donors and volunteers, and the inevitable tension between and interdependence of meetings/churches and the AFSC. It is a challenge to “try what love can do,” but with the devotion of so many people, expressed in well-based ways, it is one that is eagerly faced.Mae Bertha Carter. Participant, 1960s
My name is Mae Bertha Carter and I was born in Sunflower County, Mississippi. I had to pick cotton when I was about six years old. So I didn’t get an education. When my first little baby was born I looked at it and I said I want you to have an education. I don’t want you out in the hot sun at 103 degrees, picking cotton for 14 hours a day.
So the children was motivated when [the law said] they could go to any school they wanted to.
They wanted to go to the all-white school because they felt they could get a better education there. When I walked into the superintendent’s office and handed him the papers I noticed that he turned red. They weren’t expecting anyone to do this. A couple of nights after that, about 3:00 in the morning—and we live way back on a dusty, gravel road—my husband looked out the window and said, “What is all those cars doing coming in here?” About then the shots came into the house.
My husband had to go up the next day to ask for some credit. The man at the store said, “You withdraw your children out of the school and then you can have credit.” That was the way it was—all the credit was cut off. We didn’t know how we was going to live. About five or six days after that two ladies came to our house. They’d heard we had enrolled the kids. You need to have someone help you all along, and the next thing I knew I got a letter from the American Friends Service and they told me they had heard all about it so they sent some help. My family and AFSC worked together for ten years and we’re still in touch.Desire Louis Peterson. Participant, 2010s
My name is Desire Louis Peterson; I’ve been a Local Peace Network facilitator of SAKALA (Sant kominote Altenatif ak lape) since December 2013. My first participation in the meetings of AFSC Local Peace Networks was for me a miracle, because I used think that violence was something you could not avoid—considering that in my neighborhood if you want to survive you must seem hard, as a protection mechanism.
When I got involved with AFSC I learned that there are tools to transform conflicts and that it’s also important to understand the causes of conflict. During my participation I have realized that violence doesn’t make you a strong person. I have changed at a personal level. I have learned to be calmer and more respectful and now and I train other youth on mediation and conflict transformation. I want to thank AFSC for the implementation of this project in Cite Soleil, Haiti, and in other areas with a high intensity of violence. This project helps many young people in my neighborhood to improve their view of the future.Veneeta D. Participant, 2010s
Attending AFSC’s Freedom School was the first time I had ever been exposed to a space encompassed in such racial consciousness and empowerment. I learned a lot about what racism really means and why it’s important to speak out about it, even if you’re not always in an environment where it’s encouraged. Freedom School provided everyone the rare occasion of having the conversation society mostly avoids like the plague.
At my high school, the challenges that people of color face are countless microaggressions and the achievement gap. For instance, there are regular classes and there are honors classes, where the coursework is accelerated. Many of the kids of color stay in the regular classes, and we’re given the impression that “regular” is the most that we can handle. I did honors classes from sixth to eighth grade. But when I tried to go from regular to honors classes in the beginning of high school, my white counselor asked me repeatedly if I believed I could handle it and reminded me numerous times that the rigor would probably be too much for me, even though my grades didn’t indicate that I was struggling.
In Freedom School, after two days of learning where racism comes from and how deeply embedded it is in society, I came to the conclusion that even if racism will never be eradicated, oppressed people will never stop speaking up and having these conversations, and fighting to build from what racism has destroyed. For me, Freedom School fostered a sense of validation, comfort, knowledge, and resilience.Naomi Madaras. Intern, 2010s
It was my second time attending a city council meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina. As an intern in the Peace and Economic Justice task force, I was representing AFSC with my supervisor and coworker. I had never seen the council chambers this crowded. We were here to address the recent passing of House Bill 2, also known as Hate Bill 2, which requires that all people use the bathroom that coordinates with the sex they were assigned at birth.
When finally the time arose for people to deliver testimonies, many individuals, mainly LGBTQ people of color, spoke on how this bill would jeopardize their privacy, their safety, and, ultimately, their lives. After each testimony, cheering and applause filled the room, though the council and HB2 supporters attempted to quiet the noise. Security guards even forcefully escorted one brave woman out the door. Many of us silently held signs advocating to repeal HB2, and I was one of them. During one particularly moving testimony, I let out a shout of encouragement, after which a gentleman behind me leaned forward and whispered, “Shut up.” The tension of the room was turned way, way up.
Had I not been an intern with AFSC, I likely would not have been at the city council meeting. I would not have known what it looks like when those in power use the rhetoric of “the safety of women and children” to marginalize the LGBTQ community. As a woman, I felt it was my duty to stand up to those in power and firmly declare: “You will not use my safety to hurt others. I refuse to be your political pawn. I do not need saving.”
Check out more stories on the AFSC Peace Works website: http://peaceworks.afsc.org/
A boy’s watercolor depicts a heartwarming scene created amid the misery and starvation of post-World War I Germany. The painting, part of a new exhibit entitled “Giving Voices to Ghosts,” shows three women busy preparing food. Steam and presumably pleasant aromas arise from large kettles. Small containers of salz (salt) and zucker (sugar) sit nearby. The lower half of the painting, an apparent self-portrait, is of the boy with neatly parted blond hair sitting at a desk drawing.
“I wonder what became of this talented artist,” asked Nichole Mathews, an Indianapolis-area high school German teacher who helped create the exhibit. “Did he survive the coming war?”
The question, like the exhibit, is haunting yet hopeful. “Giving Voices to Ghosts” is made up artwork and poems created in the 1920s by children (all over Germany including an orphanage in Kopenick, Germany, as well as schools in Trier) who were among the millions in Europe—primarily in Germany and Austria—fed by Quaker-led relief efforts after World War I. The children’s artwork was given to Friends more than 90 years ago as a show of gratitude for the food—sometimes just 600 calories a day—that kept them hopeful and alive in their time of need.
The exhibit debuted last year at Marian University in Indianapolis, Ind., and later was displayed at Indianapolis First Friends Meeting, where it originated. Now Mathews is hoping others will be interested in these generations-old drawings, poems, and documents. The goal is to examine how the love and gratitude of children can provide guidance and courage in today’s divided world.
“Sometimes we get stuck in a holding pattern with our faith or lives. This has helped shake me out of it and has made me a better Quaker,” Mathews said. “I got to learn about these amazing Friends and what they had to overcome to do what God had put them there to do: Facing public shame and censor for helping an enemy and putting themselves in harm’s way to help strangers. That is very powerful and a daunting legacy to fill to be the best Friend you can be in this day and age.”
The post-World War I relief effort was Quakerspeisung, or Quaker feeding, overseen by American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and its British counterpart. In 1919, Herbert Hoover asked AFSC to lead a massive feeding program in Germany. Within four years, the program was feeding about 500,000 children per day, ultimately impacting one million. History tells us devastation would soon come again with World War II, yet the bond of service and gratitude between the German children and the Quaker and non-Quaker relief workers was real.
The children sent materials as “thank-yous” to various Quaker meetings. Mathews said the portfolio came to Indianapolis First Friends with a group about 20 years ago that did a presentation about AFSC. The art portfolio was largely forgotten for years.
Mathews, a German teacher attending First Friends, was given the artwork more than a decade ago by Jennie Banker, wife of Stan Banker, then pastor of Indianapolis First Friends Meeting. Mathews was not raised a Quaker. She started church hopping after moving to Indianapolis from Ohio in 2002, eventually drawn to the Quakers because of the group’s history of strong female leaders and emphasis on seeing the Divine (the Inner Light) in all people.
Several years after receiving the artwork, Mathews attempted to photograph the roughly 70 drawings, poems, letters, telegrams, and other documents in the folder.
The assembling of the exhibit became a team effort as Mathews connected with those outside of her Quaker community who wanted to contribute to the project.
She met Jenny Ambroise, director of the Marian University art gallery through a mutual friend. Mathews felt a kinship between the peace testimony of Quakers and Marian’s Catholic Franciscan emphasis on peace and justice. Ambroise put her in touch with Bill Foley, a Pulitzer-prize winning photojournalism and assistant professor at Marian. His students took high-quality photographs of the collection. Mathews’s German students at Hamilton Southeastern High School near Indianapolis along with Marian students worked on the translations. A grant from the Talbot Street Art Fair in Indianapolis provided funds to frame 33 documents and drawings. Crystal Vicars-Pugh, assistant professor of art and gallery director at Marian, helped set up the final exhibit at the school’s art gallery.
That exhibit allows these once waif-like victims of war to speak their message to our generation—thus the title.
“‘Giving Voices to Ghosts’ was an educational experience for those involved in creating the exhibition and for those who visited the gallery to view the ‘thank you’ paintings and drawings created so many years ago,” Vicars-Pugh said. “The images are filled with kind words and visual acts of thankfulness for food.”
One drawing shows a pot boiling with nourishment. The translated poem below reads:
Quaker Food is still quite warm!!
In warmer love Offered
Received with warmer gratitude . . .
For our nation and world today, Mathews sees the translation as this: “There is hope even in the darkest places. We have the ability to make a difference far more than we ever can imagine. There is still hunger and a need for Friends to be a nonjudgmental bridge between groups and peoples.”
By Gregory A. Barnes. Friends Press, 2016. 498 pages. $24.95/paperback. Buy from QuakerBooks
At the Conference of Quaker Historians and Archivists in 1994, Quaker historian J. William Frost argued that the historical significance of Friends in the twentieth century lay primarily in social, political, and humanitarian activism. Of that activism, the best-known manifestation is unquestionably the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). It has been a source of at least mild dismay for many of us that, despite its massive archives, AFSC lacked a comprehensive published history. Now, to mark the centennial of AFSC’s founding in 1917, Gregory A. Barnes has provided one.
Barnes argues that the history of AFSC can be divided into three periods. In the first, from 1917 to 1950, AFSC was “ahead of its time” in its humanitarian interventions, focused largely on feeding programs. Between 1950 and 1990, Barnes notes, AFSC was “catching up with the times,” shifting work out of Europe and increasingly focused on problems of racism, poverty, and injustice in the United States. It was in this period that AFSC became increasingly assertive, and public, in its criticism of U.S. government policies. And it was also in these years, Barnes finds, that AFSC discovered the virtues of diversity. Finally, since 1990, he finds AFSC increasingly “data-driven” in its work, still grounded in Quaker practices and processes but focused as much on reconciliation and building effective communities as relief work.
AFSC was the product of war. When the United States adopted conscription after entering World War I in 1917, Quaker leader Rufus M. Jones of Haverford College proposed the creation of a service group for American Friends who could not conscientiously render military service, perhaps modeled on the Friends Ambulance Unit that British Friends had created. Representatives from Friends General Conference, the Five Years Meeting, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting agreed to oversee the creation of a “Reconstruction Unit” that would undertake rebuilding of homes and communities in France and relief work in Russia. After the war, the emphasis shifted increasingly toward feeding the hungry, especially in France, Russia, and, more controversially, Germany. In the 1930s, AFSC also developed domestic programs, winning the esteem of Eleanor Roosevelt for its attempts to create communities for displaced Appalachian coal miners. During the Spanish Civil War, relief work was the focus. While shut out of war zones during World War II, AFSC focused on aid to displaced people, including Japanese Americans. It also provided alternative service for conscientious objectors through Civilian Public Service, a subject that deserves more attention, I think, than Barnes gives it. Perhaps the high point of AFSC’s existence came in 1947 when it and the British Friends Service Council received the Nobel Prize for Peace on behalf of Friends everywhere.
After 1950, AFSC continued relief work, but increasingly focused on opposition to war and racial injustice. Perhaps the most provocative expressions of the former impulse came with a call for unilateral disarmament in 1955’s Speak Truth to Power and opposition to the Vietnam War that, in the minds of critics, verged on calls for a communist victory. AFSC adamantly supported civil rights, providing early support to Martin Luther King Jr. In the 1970s, a new emphasis on women’s and gay rights developed, and, in the 1980s, increased attention was given to immigrant rights.
It is impossible to summarize in a few hundred words everything that AFSC has attempted, and accomplished, or the criticisms that it has faced, often from Friends. They have ranged from charges that AFSC was insufficiently Christian in its aims, to worries over what was seen as a steadily declining Quaker presence within the organization. Today, less than one percent of its staff are Friends, and ties with many yearly meetings range from chilly to nonexistent.
Barnes is clearly an AFSC supporter, but he also acknowledges and addresses such criticisms. He has succeeded in providing a readable overview of the most important Quaker organization of the past century. He does, however, leave some important questions unanswered. For me, two are central. It is never clear where power resides within the organization, with the executive secretary, the staff, the board, or the corporation. Thus, when “the AFSC decided” to undertake some program, just what was the process?
The other question—since AFSC consciously decided to try to reflect the diversity of American society in its staff—is about the persistence of accusations of racism, sexism, and other oppressive behaviors. AFSC responses have usually conceded justice in the charges. As late as 2015, the organization was undertaking an examination of “structural and institutional racism.”
Even a work as long as this can provide only limited treatment of many important subjects. It is not the definitive history of AFSC. That will come only after other scholars have mined the archives to explore aspects of AFSC in greater depth. But this is a good start.
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Edited by Nancy Learned Haines. Pleasant Green Books, 2016. 412 pages. $19.95/paperback. Buy from QuakerBooks
In 1917 Mary Peabody and Leslie Hotson were students at Radcliffe and Harvard. They met through their shared interests in music and drama, poetry and philosophy, and quickly became soul mates as they discussed the war that had turned the campus into a military school.
Each was drawn to pacifism and service, though by different routes. Mary was the daughter of Sarah Peabody, the manager of a boarding house and a Unitarian suffragette raising two daughters on her own after her ex-husband spent most of her family money and left her in debt. Leslie grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Swedenborgian parents who had emigrated from Canada and were avowed pacifists in this war.
At Radcliffe, Mary was a day student, immersed in literary and musical clubs and street campaigns for suffrage, socialism, and workers’ rights. Leslie sang, acted, and studied English, wanting to be a writer. They both earned extra money tutoring fellow students in French.
Leslie’s brother Ronald had already declared his refusal to do alternative service and had been imprisoned along with other “absolutists,” men who absolutely refuse to serve the military in any way. At Fort Dix Ronald was beaten and starved. As Leslie watched his brother’s suffering from afar, he decided he had to respond to the horror of the war in a physical and positive way. He took a leave of absence from Harvard and headed for France to help the French Reconstruction Unit. Started by Quakers at Haverford College and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the FRU was the first initiative overseen by the new American Friends Service Committee.
Over the next year, Mary and Leslie wrote letters back and forth to each other, articulating their faith, their idealism that love would conquer evil in the world, their longing for each other’s companionship and cheer, and their plans for an activist future.
The French Reconstruction Unit helped rebuild villages destroyed in the war. It constructed homes from pre-fabricated materials, set up and managed medical clinics, organized stores to be run as co-ops, and taught in schools for refugee children. Leslie helped build houses, repair bombed water and sewage systems, and tutor children. He also wrote articles for Lewis Gannett’s newsletter, reporting on the work of pacifists so the disparate units working in France (and the world) could know the protocols and networks for responding to the war through alternative service.
In his letters, Leslie reported on his construction work, his views as he bicycled through the devastated countryside, the inspiration of his Friendly compatriots, the villagers who endured, and how he longed to be with Mary. He quoted the wisdom of Quaker leaders like Rufus Jones, who came to boost the morale of the Quaker service workers.
In her letters, Mary reported on her studies, helping her mother to run the boarding house, her work for the rights of women and laborers, and how much she missed Leslie. She, along with her mother and sister, came down with the Spanish flu, which would eventually kill 650,000 Americans, but which she and her family miraculously survived. She returned to school and activism, selling suffragette pamphlets on the streets of Cambridge, and supporting the factory strikes in Lowell and Lawrence, Mass., despite raids on dorm rooms looking for subversive materials.
The letters of their courtship offer a poignant study of young pacifists in war; even though WWI was thought to be the war to end all wars, the words of Leslie and Mary could have been the words of AFSC workers in WWII or Vietnam. Their words of sorrow at what they see, of determination to relieve individuals’ suffering, of belief in a true right and a corrupted wrong, and hope in a future no matter how grim the statistics of the present, are timeless.
In their letters, Leslie and Mary conversed about faith and pacifism and how, really, they were already, and should formally become, Quakers. When Leslie returned home after the war, despite Mary’s doubts about the institution of marriage, they wed and became an academic couple, Mary joining Leslie in his literary archival research. Eventually he became an English professor, teaching at Yale, NYU, and then Haverford College, where he lived next door to Rufus Jones and retired in 1942.
When Nancy Learned Haines found these letters, she knew they evoked a story larger than a young couple in love. An antiquarian bookseller specializing in Quaker historical books, Haines also knew these letters were of particular interest to Quaker historians. She transcribed and edited the letters so they move chronologically through the crucial year of 1918 in France. And she breaks them up into sections so, in introductions to each section, she can report on the family backstories for Mary and Leslie, the history of the war, the Religious Society of Friends’ organized responses, the treatment of conscientious objectors, and the formation of activist groups in Cambridge, Mass.; London; and Paris.
This April we celebrate the 100th birthday of American Friends Service Committee, and this book is an excellent tribute to the sacrifice, courage, inventiveness, and resourcefulness that has characterized every AFSC worker in every war or workcamp over the past century. It is Haines’ gift to essential Quaker history.
The post We Answered with Love: Pacifist Service in World War I appeared first on Friends Journal.
By Douglas Gwyn. Inner Light Books, 2016. 208 pages. $30/hardcover; $17.50/paperback. Buy from QuakerBooks
Doug Gwyn may have given more thought to the environment that incubated the earliest Friends than any other Quaker. In The Anti-War’s two interrelated essays, he digs down to the roots of our peace testimony and lays bare the ways in which it has evolved over the past 350 years. Each section is built on a section of scripture. The first essay, “Peace Finds the Purpose of a Peculiar People,” examines 1 Peter 2:4–17—one of the sources of early Friends’ claim to be a “peculiar people”—the second, “Militant Peacemaking in the Manner of Friends,” explores the significance of the Book of Revelation for the Children of Light. Don’t let yourself be put off by his use of the Bible; it illuminates the unique calling we have to model a society that is more than merely against war. Gwyn demonstrates that Friends are—or could be—the Anti-War.
First, a couple of definitions. In the King James Version, I Peter 2:9 is translated, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people . . .” In contemporary versions, instead of “a peculiar people” you will find “a people belonging to God.” The first Friends believed this verse referred to them. They belonged to God. They were called by God to fulfill a peculiar (i.e., God-chosen) role in this world—to live in peaceful relationships with each other and the rest of creation. This meant not merely forswearing violence; it was a life of total covenant faithfulness with Creator and all creatures—a model of interaction that is by its nature completely devoid of force and coercion. Violence does not have to be weeded out. It cannot grow in this soil.
Today, pacifism is frequently propounded as an ethical imperative—a superior philosophy that would yield practical benefits if only everyone would adopt it. This is very different from the situation of both the first Christians and the first Quakers. They embraced the consequences of covenant faithfulness. The surrounding cultures knew implicitly that this utterly rejected the bases of their civilization. Both peoples were rejected and persecuted, becoming internal exiles in their homes. “Their plea was no naïve plea to ‘give peace a chance.’ It was an apocalyptic unmasking of the machinations of worldly power, corruption, injustice, and violence . . . and advanced through revolutionary patience and suffering.”
The Anti-War is not something unseen to wish for. It is not practical or an effective plan to achieve a realizable goal. It is an alternative template for living in a society that is blind to alternatives. It will puzzle and offend others. It does not react to each new provocation with thoughtful and relevant answers. It dares us to stand still in the Inward Light until we can see clearly.
I read this book in September 2016 and again after the November elections. Seeing the reactions of my Friends to those elections made it clear the degree to which many Quakers identify building the kingdom of heaven with the platform of one American political party. This book can be an inoculation against that condition. It reveals the spiritual and religious bases of our testimony against war. It can help you find your purpose as one member of a peculiar people.
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