Views from Quakerism’s Modern Nexus
Readers of Friends Journal, especially those newer to the Quaker way, could be forgiven for thinking that North American Friends represent the majority of Quakers. This is not the case. In fact, roughly half of the world’s 400,000 Friends live in Africa. Language and cultural barriers, as well as matters of technological and economic disparity, help to explain why the weight of our content arises out of the experience of Friends in North America and the United Kingdom. For this issue, our editors took care to widen our view.
The Quaker lineage of most African Friends can be traced to Quaker missionaries from the United States who founded a mission in Kaimosi, Kenya, around the turn of the twentieth century. As Eden Grace shares in “The Place of God’s Own Choosing,” this history is painfully entangled with the history and enduring systems of colonial power and White supremacy. I find it encouraging that Grace, who serves Friends United Meeting as the director of global ministries, describes her own ministry as “decolonizing Quaker mission.” Legacies aside, the characteristically African Quaker faith and practice that has developed in East Africa is the faith embraced by more Quakers than anywhere else.
In Stanley Chagala Ngesa’s piece, “Quaker Christianity in Kenya,” the author shares memories of his great-grandmother Dorika Bweyenda, who was a young woman when Quaker missionaries came to her village. She was one of the first convinced Friends in her village, and she was a shaman in the Maragoli tradition. Dorika saw these as complementary, as building upon each other. What emerged over generations is a perfect example of how continuing revelation works among Friends. Ngesa describes a Quaker faith in his community that is influenced and in conversation with the Maragoli shamanic teachings, “a Christian Quakerism enriched by the reverent panentheism of her inherited shamanic tradition.”
David Zarembka, who deserves our thanks for encouraging Friends from across the African continent to contribute to this issue, shares scenes of daily life and shows us what Quaker services are like in the village where he lives in Kenya. He compares it to the experiences of North American Friends who are more familiar with unprogrammed meetings. And to round the issue out, we have stories of intercontinental peace and social justice cooperation spanning decades, as well as a ministry that arose in Burundi to help women victims of sexual violence rebuild and strengthen their lives.
I hope your eyes are opened, as mine were, reading these stories from our Quaker brothers and sisters. How will we open our hearts to be touched and enriched by that of God emerging through the experience of Friends in places far away, in circumstances that are perhaps so different from ours? Spirit, after all, knows no boundaries. Thank you for reading!
Yours in peace.