Peacemaking in Tough Times

As I write this, three months have passed since the attack on our country. In this period we have witnessed a moving sense of unity as Americans have temporarily laid aside their differences and affirmed all they cherish about our nation. We also have witnessed an ominous abrogation of civil rights, as wire tapping and surveillance have been authorized, more than 1,000 individuals with Middle Eastern lineage have been detained without charge, military tribunals have been set up that will circumvent our normal judicial process and protections, and students with foreign visas have experienced 5:30 a.m. raids and searches from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Our national leaders have chosen to pulverize an already-staggering Afghanistan with bombing and support of ground forces in an effort to destroy the Taliban and to eliminate al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. Because of the death and suffering consequently inflicted on innocent civilians in Afghanistan and the ethnic profiling and harassment of Muslim people here in the U.S., it is easy to grasp that these actions will lead to further alienation, resentment, and ultimately enraged assaults upon U.S. citizens, both here and abroad.

In the Forum of this issue (p. 4) you will find an extensive discussion of our Peace Testimony, prompted by Scott Simon’s article (FJ Dec. 2001) "Reflections on the Events of September Eleventh." Many Friends are struggling to find meaningful and practical pacifist responses to these events. I encourage you to read through these thoughtful letters—I believe they have germane ideas that will help us to formulate appropriate actions for ourselves. In a similarly germane article, Quaker peace activist George Lakey has written "Terrorism and the Practical Idealist" (p.8), exploring how Gandhi might have reacted to the events of September 11. As we each grapple with how to bear witness in these times, I urge Friends everywhere to write to us about how you are putting your faith into action—and to share practical suggestions for all of us who are seeking alternatives to violence.

While grappling with grave concerns, there also is good news to share. I am delighted to announce that I’ve appointed Robert Dockhorn as our new senior editor. Bob has had a career as an educator, Quaker administrator, and editor. His teaching (he holds a Ph.D. in modern European history) has been in both Canada and the U.S. (His studies took him abroad to Germany as well.) For 16 years he actively pursued Quaker social concerns as administrator of the Testimonies and Concerns section of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. During seven years as a homemaker, caring for his three sons and his aging mother, Bob authored a weekly column, "Openings," which was circulated via the Internet. He came to us in 1999 as assistant editor and has put in an outstanding performance in that position. Bob brings enthusiasm, dedication, a seasoned eye, and great caring for individuals and the Religious Society of Friends to his work. I hope you will join me in congratulating him on this new assignment.

I also want to introduce two newer volunteers. Tom Hartmann, a graduate of Haverford College and former graduate student in Russian studies at Columbia University, and a member of Radnor (Pa.) Meeting, is recovering from a serious car accident. Tom helps with circulation and editorial tasks each week and hopes that this work will help rehabilitate him for the job market. Joan Overman, our book review assistant, is a long-time Friend and member of Elmira (N.Y.) Meeting. She is a graduate of Earlham College and SUNY Geneseo and holds an MLS in Library Science. Joan was a school library media specialist in Corning, N.Y., elementary and middle schools for 27 years and she’s been an involved peace activist for many years. We are deeply grateful for the dedicated hard work of these and all of our outstanding volunteers, which makes it possible for us to be there for you every month.