News, February 2019

Dove on separation barrier in the West Bank. © Quakers in Britain.

Britain Yearly Meeting to not profit from the occupation of Palestine

On November 19, 2018, Britain Yearly Meeting (also known as Quakers in Britain) announced “it will not invest any of its centrally-held funds in companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine.” With this announcement, the 22,000 Quakers in England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man became the first British denomination to deliberately not profit from the occupation of Palestine.

Paul Parker, recording clerk for the yearly meeting, stated:

Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government. With the occupation now in its fifty-first year, and with no end in near sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.

The announcement drew swift criticism from Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, the official representative for the British Jewish community. Van der Zyl condemned “the appalling decision of the Friends House hierarchy to divest from just one country in the world—the only Jewish state—despite everything else going on around the globe.”

Van der Zyl continued:

While other churches have reached out to the Jewish community at this time of rising antisemitism and polarization to work together to tackle prejudice and promote peace in the region, the Quaker leadership has chosen to import a divisive conflict into our country, rather than export the peace that we all want to see. . . . We urge the Quakers to reverse this decision, to stop promoting division, and to join those of us looking to build bridges instead.

The original announcement from Britain Yearly Meeting anticipated much of the criticism:

We know this decision will be hard for some to hear. We hope they will understand that our beliefs compel us to speak out about injustices wherever we see them in the world, and not to shy away from difficult conversations. As Quakers, we seek to live out our faith through everyday actions, including the choices we make about where to put our money.

The decision was made by Britain Yearly Meeting’s trustees in consultation with Meeting for Sufferings, the national representative body of Quakers. In its minute, Meeting for Sufferings reaffirmed its 2011 decision to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements built in occupied Palestine “until such time as the Israeli occupation of Palestine is ended.” Meeting for Sufferings added that its members “continually pray for both Israelis and Palestinians, keeping them together in our hearts, and looking forward to a future of loving and generous cooperation.”

Hilary Burgin, new executive director of Quaker Voluntary Service

Hilary Burgin. Photo © Lee Anne.Hilary Burgin began as the new executive director of Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS) on December 1, 2018. She previously served as the city coordinator of QVS’s Boston program. Burgin is a lifelong Friend from New England Yearly Meeting

Quaker Voluntary Service is an 11-month fellowship experience for young adults at the intersection of transformational spirituality and activism. Begun with a single site in Atlanta, Ga., in 2012, QVS now offers 36 fellowship positions in five cities, adding sites in Boston, Mass.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Portland, Ore.

“I see first-hand the incredible gift that Quaker Voluntary Service is for the communities and cities we operate in, for the Quaker movement as a whole, and, especially, for the Fellows,” shares Burgin. “Fellows discover options for living a more faithful and integrated life, and are shown a path forward for Spirit-led social justice work.”

“At the moment,” Burgin says, “our priority is both deepening the impact that we have for Fellows and with local communities as we learn from the first seven years of QVS, as well as sharing with the broader Quaker community what we’ve learned about working with young adults at the intersection of spirituality and justice.”

Burgin replaces the founding executive director of QVS, Christina Repoley. Repoley will be moving to a new position with the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) in Decatur, Ga. FTE is a leadership incubator, inspiring young people to make a difference in the world through Christian communities. Repoley will stay connected with QVS as a consultant.

Nikki Holland called as director of Belize Friends Ministries

Nikki Holland and family. Photo © Eden Grace/FUM

Nikki Holland has been called by Friends United Meeting (FUM) to serve as the director of Belize Friends Ministries.

For more than 20 years, FUM has been operating Belize Friends School, a small non-traditional school for at-risk inner city youth in Belize City. In 2015 FUM expanded its work in Belize and created the position of director of Belize Friends Ministries. Dale Graves served as interim director before his death in December 2018.

Holland became convinced as a Friend while living in Merida, Mexico, with her husband and three young children. She is a member of Indiana’s New Association of Friends and a Master of Divinity candidate at Earlham School of Religion. In Merida, she has helped to plant a Friends meeting and worked to understand and educate around domestic violence in the region.

Holland feels called to her position. “The work that I see happening in the Belize City Friends Center (BCFC) is about transforming difficult situations. It’s about offering second and third and fourth chances. It’s about believing in youth to live into their potential. BCFC makes space for young people to rest from turbulent pasts so that they can grow in a loving and encouraging environment.”

During 2019, she will be working to raise the money to support her position, which will include the needs of her family. Holland’s call followed a nearly year-long discernment process with FUM and her family.

FUM Global Ministries Director Eden Grace will supervise Holland in her new position. “Nikki has the ability to gather people into a sense of teamwork and collaboration in which we are all working toward a common vision of God’s work in the world,” says Grace.

Belize Friends Pastoral Minister Oscar Mmbali says he is anxious to see Holland join him: “The sooner we can get her here the better!” Mmbali adds:

Nikki is coming with gifts we really need. To be successful in an international context you need to be open-minded and open-hearted. That is what she brings. She is going to be very helpful in . . . putting additional support in building relations. Our work in the church and community thrives on relationships. The more friends we make the more opportunities we have to share our Quaker values.

Mmbali says that Holland is “not coming here for a job. She is coming here to make a change.”

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