AFSC files concerns over travel restrictions to North Korea
On August 22, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) International Programs Asia Region filed a public comment with the U.S. State Department expressing deep concerns over the travel restrictions to North Korea that took effect on September 1. AFSC, a Quaker service and relief organization, has been working with North Koreans since 1980 to address human rights and global security, and is one of the few U.S.-based organizations operating in the country today.
The new State Department restrictions prohibit a U.S. passport from being used to enter or travel through the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Passports used to do so may be revoked by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), and criminal punishments may also apply. According to the comment, AFSC “calls upon the DOS to recognize the ever-growing need to establish more forms of communication and expand spaces for people-to-people connections between the U.S. and DPRK.” AFSC’s comment argues that when communication lines are open, the DPRK is less likely to engage in nuclear missile tests and other concerning actions.
The comment goes on to note that “the travel restrictions could impact essential humanitarian assistance to ordinary North Koreans,” and urges the State Department to enact clear processes for exemptions and appeals. Additionally, AFSC requests a process for third parties to submit applications for the travel exemption on behalf of those who are elderly or disabled. As it currently stands, permission for travel into North Korea with a U.S. passport requires special validation on the basis of humanitarian or national interest. According to the State Department website, permission will only be granted for single trips, and “will be issued on an extremely limited basis.”
“We’re deeply concerned about these travel restrictions and their potential impact on the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea,” said Daniel Jasper, advocacy coordinator for AFSC’s work in Asia. “AFSC’s work in the DPRK has been the most continuous example of a successful relationship between U.S.- and North Korean-based organizations, and we want to see increased avenues for engagement, not more restrictions.”
AFSC has been engaged in relief efforts on the Korean Peninsula since the years after the Korean War. AFSC’s North Korea program is currently working with cooperative farms to raise productivity and implement sustainable agricultural practices in the region. The full comment is available on AFSC’s website, afsc.org.
Quaker groups partner with Everence to expand financial resources
Two Quaker groups that support yearly and monthly meetings have started new partnerships with member-based financial services organization Everence, a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and other religious organizations. The two groups are Friends General Conference (FGC), based in Philadelphia, Pa., and serving 16 yearly meetings in the United States and Canada, and Friends United Meeting (FUM), based in Richmond, Ind., and serving 34 yearly meetings and associations in North America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East.
After discernment, Everence and FGC’s Friends Meeting House Fund (FMHF) are moving forward with a partnership that makes Everence a preferred provider of loans to Friends meetings through the fund. FMHF, a nearly 60-year-old program, provides loans and grants to meetings for use in purchasing, expanding, or repairing meeting properties, including improvements in environmental sustainability and physical accessibility.
Barry Crossno, the general secretary of FGC, said of the partnership, “Everence can provide more flexible financing and make larger loans than FMHF could make when it was operating on its own—this is great news for Friends.”
As part of this new arrangement, Everence purchased the existing FMHF mortgage portfolio, consisting of ten loans to FGC-affiliated meetings throughout the United States. These meetings received the same terms as they previously held through the FMHF. The meetings currently holding loans now also have access to other resources provided by Everence, including financial guidance and support.
Over the last 58 years FMHF connected Friends-affiliated investors with meetings in need of loans. Since its beginning, the fund has loaned or granted over $4.6 million to more than 200 meetings. FMHF approached Everence in June 2016 to explore partnership opportunities to better serve monthly meetings’ financing needs. The purchase of the fund, completed on July 30, 2017, builds on Everence’s current portfolio of church mortgages.
FUM and Everence announced formation of a stewardship partnership at the FUM thirty-first Triennial in Wichita, Kans., in July.
A significant feature of the FUM-Everence partnership is the creation of an Everence stewardship consultant role for FUM and the broader Friends faith community. Kelly Kellum, a lifelong Friend and pastor, began in that role in April.
Kellum views stewardship ministry as a pastoral calling to support Quaker meetings, churches, and organizations to fulfill their callings and achieve their stewardship goals. He is a member of High Point (N.C.) Meeting, where his wife, Kathy, serves as the pastoral minister.
The partnership and Kellum’s role were introduced by FUM general secretary Colin Saxton at a meeting for business session at the triennial. Saxton announced that Everence will provide stewardship resources and support for FUM and other parts of the Friends community, including monthly meetings, yearly meetings, and affiliated organizations. Over the years, Everence has worked with FUM and other Friends groups in various ways, including on the Friends Retirement Plan and Friends Mutual Health Group for meetings, churches, and nonprofits.
On September 1, Kindra Bradley became the new executive director of Quaker House in Fayetteville, N.C., replacing Lynn and Steve Newsom, who served as co-directors since 2012 and are now retired. Quaker House provides services and advocacy to military members, veterans, and their families. Its mission is to “provide counseling and support to service members who are questioning their role in the military, educate them, their families, and the public about military issues; and advocate for a more peaceful world.”
Bradley was raised in a military family and understands the difficulties these families face. A love for the people in the military and a desire to do more to create peace are central to her life. She was born during one of her father’s two tours during the Vietnam War. One of Bradley’s brothers was a Marine reservist in a specialized winter warfare unit, and her future son-in-law serves in the National Guard in North Carolina. She knows that serving and protecting is at the core of their being, but she also understands the possible consequences of that service.
Bradley’s family moved every three years and lived in different parts of the United States and in Germany. While in Germany, she learned that no matter where she went in the world, there were good people. She was also confronted by the realization that some Germans wanted, and actively sought, a decreased American military presence in their country. That was her first introduction to a viewpoint that was not pro-military, and was the catalyst for her efforts to broaden her thinking about the military and war.
Bradley decided to study law in order to become a better advocate for justice, mercy, and understanding, with the hopes of working with a nonprofit organization that would mirror her own vision for our world. She is grateful to have found an ideal blend of all these interests in Quaker House. As executive director, she will not be working in a legal capacity, but is appreciative of the perspective that background has given her.
After Bradley passed the bar exam, she wanted to invest in regular volunteer work and chose to work with the Red Cross. Bradley brings a high level of energy, experience, and commitment to Quaker House. She previously attended Spring Friends Meeting in Snow Camp, N.C., and currently attends Fayetteville (N.C.) Meeting. The Quaker peace testimony resonates strongly with her.