The Peace and Social Concerns Committee continues to face a wide variety of issues. The concerns that are appropriately considered by our committee touch every one of the Quaker testimonies. Our cup continues to run over.
We began this past year by challenging Friends at Annual Session to consider two queries:
- What have I done, or seen others do, that takes away the occasion for war?
- Where am I most eager to put my efforts in promoting peacemaking and social justice?
The Committee asked Friends to settle into silent worship, and consider these queries. Friends were asked to write their responses, as led, on index cards which were collected by the committee at the end of session. The responses to those queries were enlightening. A member of the Committee, Joan Gildemeister, did a scholarly examination of them, and wrote an excellent summary of her findings (attached). We hope that Friends will review these, to see how they might inform the work of Monthly Meetings in peace and social justice work.
In the fall, the Committee held its annual Networking Day at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting. Mary Lord spoke to us about her own journey in peace work, and described the current situation with regard to the peace “movement.” She talked about the history and the “life cycle” of movements. We learned about frustration, and about how, in times of war, “peace folk” tend to, “get in too late, and leave too early.” This helped us understand that much of our current frustration over the seeming lack of a peace movement is due to ourselves. She told us that we can be faithful to our values, in spite of history. It was a wonderful and uplifting message that Mary gave us, which led many present to renewed optimism and understanding.
At Interim Meeting in the fall of 2009, the Committee proposed that the Yearly Meeting send a letter to President Obama, who had been announced as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009. We wrote as Quakers, fellow recipients of the Prize, who are guided by our Peace testimony. We asked him to reduce the presence of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and increase humanitarian assistance to those two war torn countries. The letter was approved by Interim Meeting, and sent to the President. Betsy Meyer, Clerk of Interim Meeting, received a written response from the President. The response made no commitment to reduce our military presence.
The Committee formed an informal sub-committee on immigration issues. It will consider what action might be appropriate for us to recommend to the Yearly Meeting on this continuing and contentious issue.
In the fall, when President Obama announced that he would send more troops to Afghanistan, the Committee responded by asking BYM monthly meetings to consider holding a Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Peace. At least five such meetings were held. An article in the Interchange spoke to the reports of those meetings. Many Friends found them helpful, in dealing with their frustration over the expansion of war.
The Working Group on Right Sharing of World Resources, which is under the care of this Committee, has been active throughout the year, making itself available for presentations at any venue. Two of the members of the Working Group, Karen Grisez and Joan Gildemeister, have produced a DVD documenting their visit to India meeting with recipients of RSWR mini-loans. This DVD is available to anyone on line at www.rswr.org.
The Committee sponsored two workshops at Annual Sessions this past year. The first was on Appreciative Inquiry, a new and refreshing way to address internal conflicts, and was led by Brad Ogilvie, of William Penn House. Brad is an excellent speaker, and an authority on Appreciative Inquiry. It was offered by the Committee to the Yearly Meeting as a possible way to move forward in our internal struggle over our relationship with Friends United Meeting. The second workshop was on the Middle East, and was led by Helena Cobban, a renowned journalist who spent many years living and working in the Middle East. Helena has an extensive range of knowledge of the area, and her two day workshop was well attended.
The work of the committee continues to grow, and all are invited to take part.