A semiannual feature to connect Friends Journal readers to the good works of Quaker organizations* in the following categories:
- Consultation, Support, and Resources
- Environmental and Ecojustice
- Investment Management
- Retreat, Conference, and Study Centers
- Service and Peace Work
*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.
Friends Committee on National Legislation
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
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 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
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
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
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)
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)
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.”
Quaker Bolivia Link
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’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
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.
Bolivian Quaker Education Fund
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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.
Friends Fiduciary Corporation
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 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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 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.