Minutes of Meeting at 10/08 BYM

Peace and Social Concerns Committee

Baltimore Yearly Meeting, Annual Session

August 4 & 6, 2010

Attendance: Bill Mims (Langley Hill) Clerk, Leada Dietz (York) Recording Clerk, Alexander Barnes (Adelphi), Davis Balderson, Ann Solomon (Alexandria), Michael Conklin, Joan Gildemeister (FMW), Chuck Hedges, Lella Russell Smith (Goose Creek), Maryhelen Snyder (Langley Hill), Kathy Fox (Maury River), Ken Stockbridge (Pataspco), Carol Miller (Patuxent), Bette Hoover (Sandy Spring), Howard Fezell (Shepherdstown) Ellen Johnson Arginteanu (State College), Bob Goren, Dellie James, (Stony Run) Sally Keller (York)

We gathered in worship at 7:30pm on 8-4-2010 to consider three things:

1.  A draft letter to Barack Obama concerning a House Resolution supporting Israel’s use of any means necessary to eliminate nuclear threats posed by Iran.  There was agreement on the need for a letter, and after much discussion about the focus and wording, the committee approved a sub committee, Bill Mims, Bette Hoover, Mel Snyder, and Leada Dietz, to refine the letter for presentation to the gathered body during Peace and Social Concerns Committee report to Annual Session on 8-6.

Draft Letter from BYM to President Obama, and members of Congress.

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to you out of our concern regarding proposed HR 1553 which voices support for Israel to use “…all means necessary…including the use of military force” to “eliminate nuclear threats” posed by Iran. We believe this could lead to another tragic war in the Middle East.

As members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) we are committed to resolving conflicts through nonviolent means.  We believe there is that of God in every human being and therefore the life of every person is sacred.  When you accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, you spoke of working toward peace throughout the world.   Now is the time to speak out against this misguided effort by some members of Congress, and to redouble your diplomatic efforts to resolve this situation without the use of military force.

An Israeli attack with U.S. supplied weapons, by a country with a “special relationship” with the U.S. and a history of mounting major military attacks with U.S. permission would be seen by much of the world as an attack by the United States. Iran, moreover, would likely retaliate against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf as well as Israel. Our concern is that an Israeli attack on Iran could compromise Israel’s security and increase anti-American sentiment.  It could launch a war with horrific consequences for the peoples of the Middle East and U.S. interests.

We therefore ask you to oppose such a resolution, and to let your opposition be known to the Congress.  The world cannot afford, in any sense of the word, yet another terrible war in the Middle East.  We cannot afford it in terms of our young men and women in the military, in terms of actual money spent, and in terms of the spirit and soul of all nations involved.

2.  Dellie James from the Indian Affairs Committee requested some of PSCC time during Friday’s Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business to introduce their work advocating for US endorsement of the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, introduced in 2007 and ratified by 143 countries but not by United States nor Canada.  Her request was approved with some coaching on how to make her presentation as focused and succinct as possible since this is an introduction of a minute to be considered at October’s Interim Meeting.  The background information and the minute are copied below:

Background Information on the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

In September 2007, 143 countries voted in favor of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are sorry to say that the United States voted against it. The only other countries to do so were Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The goal now is unanimous consensus.

The Declaration is a human rights framework that opposes discrimination and encourages protections for 3 70 million indigenous peoples.

It recognizes rights such as protection against dispossession of land and subsequent displacement, protection against forced assimilation, the right of retention of cultures and languages and resources, and the right of self-determination.

Indigenous peoples and Native Nations have disproportionate poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, and other disadvantages that arise from the taking of their resources and prior treatment.

The Declaration raises government awareness of how they continue to be at risk if they have no control over decisions that can jeopardize their unique ways of life.

Rationale for President and Congress to Act Now

It is encouraging that the four countries that decided against endorsing the Declaration are in the process of reconsidering or have already changed their position. Our endorsement should happen this year because there is often a short window of opportunity for the U. S. to adopt international declarations and conventions. After that, the struggle to do so–even when almost every other nation has endorsed the document–often goes on for decades. For example, decades ago our government played an active role in drafting the Convention on the Rights of Children but has not ratified it. Somalia is the only other country that has not ratified it. Similarly the U.S. was active in drafting the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, yet has not endorsed it.

Another reason to move ahead promptly is the expense to indigenous people in our country when crucial decisions are postponed. It is terribly difficult for people without resources to travel to places where decisions about’ their future are being made. Indigenous delegations have already participated in an interminable process of discussion and negotiation at the U.N. The fact that they stayed the course and continued to attend meetings for a quarter of a century, despite immense obstacles, illustrates how important the Rights Declaration was to their communities. It will continue to be time-consuming and costly for advocates if they must travel to Washington, DC to make the case for endorsement during one congress after another.

Finally, marginalized groups that are out of sight are out of mind must make a monumental effort to get on the agenda nationally or internationally. Then, all too soon attention can slip away. There is a life cycle of sympathies regarding human equality. Before the Declaration loses the spotlight and American Indians and Native Alaskans lose hope, our country should endorse it.

Wording of Minute calling for U.S. Endorsement

The Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends minutes its support for endorsement by our country of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We appreciate the U.S. State Department’s solicitation of public comments. Many Quaker organizations and individuals have written in support of the Declaration which affirms the worth of indigenous peoples and the importance of addressing their particular issues and challenges.

The Declaration sets international human rights standards and promotes the principles of fundamental freedoms and equality. In keeping with our belief that there is that of God in everyone, we welcome the opportunity to include marginalized communities in the global family. As a matter of justice, the federal government should heed the plea of American Indians and Alaska Natives who have labored diligently to reverse the U.S. government’s original opposition to the Declaration.

More information available from clerk of Indian Affairs, Pat Powers patricia_r_powers@yahoo.com or Dellie James at delliej@yahoo.com

Document available at http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html

3.  One committee member’s concern about a proposed minute to resume financial support of FUM.  After some discussion, it became clear there was no unity among those present to allow PSSC to voice a position on this question.  There has been a history of this committee requesting release of with held funds to support specific peace building actions in Kenya, and being asked to provide input on conflict resolution among the Meeting on this issue, but at present, the committee is divided on how to respond to this minute.

4.  A new concern was brought forward for future consideration—the UN’s Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the ongoing use of rape as a weapon of war.

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We gathered in worship again at 5:15pm on 8-6-2010 to reconsider the changes to the letter suggested by the Meeting this morning, and again approved the rewrite committee making the suggested changes to present to tomorrow’s Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business.  The revised versions follow, one addressed to the president and one for members of the House of Representatives:

Dear Barack Obama:

We are writing to you out of our concern regarding  House Resolution 1553 which voices support for Israel to use “…all means necessary…including the use of military force” to “eliminate nuclear threats” posed by Iran. This could lead to another tragic war in the Middle East.  Your administration has revealed both its vision and its skill in forwarding peaceful solutions whenever possible.  We believe this is a critical moment for taking a stand against the use of pre-emptive violence.

As members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) we are committed to resolving conflicts through nonviolent means.  We believe there is that of God in every human being and therefore the life of every person is sacred.  We believe that war is wrong.  When you accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, you spoke of working toward peace throughout the world.   Now is the time to speak out against this misguided effort by some members of Congress, and to redouble your diplomatic efforts to resolve this situation without the use of military force.

An attack on Iran would lead to further violence.  We believe that violence intensifies animosities and leads to even more violence. The U.S. and the wider world have viable alternatives for resolving conflicts and avoiding the catastrophes of war and nuclear proliferation.  We therefore ask you to oppose House Resolution 1553, and to let your opposition be known to the Congress.  The world cannot afford, in any sense of the word, to expand the terrible wars already going on in the Middle East.  We cannot afford it in terms of human suffering, in terms of money and resources spent, in terms of the spirit and soul of all nations involved, and in terms of the earth itself.

We write to you on behalf of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, (Quakers).  Baltimore Yearly Meeting represents Quakers in four states and the District of Columbia.  This letter was approved in unity by members meeting in worship.

Sincerely,

Howard Fullerton, Clerk

Baltimore Yearly Meeting

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Dear [member of Congress]:

We are writing to you out of our concern regarding  House Resolution 1553 which voices support for Israel to use “…all means necessary…including the use of military force” to “eliminate nuclear threats” posed by Iran. This could lead to another tragic war in the Middle East.

As members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) we are committed to resolving conflicts through nonviolent means.  We believe there is that of God in every human being and therefore the life of every person is sacred.  We believe that war is wrong.     Now is the time to speak out against this misguided effort by some members of Congress, and to redouble diplomatic efforts to resolve this situation without the use of military force.

An attack on Iran would lead to further violence.  We believe that violence intensifies animosities and leads to even more violence. The U.S. and the wider world have viable alternatives for resolving conflicts and avoiding the catastrophes of war and nuclear proliferation.  We therefore ask you to oppose House Resolution 1553.

The world cannot afford, in any sense of the word, to expand the terrible wars already going on in the Middle East.  We cannot afford it in terms of human suffering, in terms of money and resources spent, in terms of the spirit and soul of all nations involved, and in terms of the earth itself.

We write to you on behalf of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, (Quakers).  Baltimore Yearly Meeting represents Quakers in four states and the District of Columbia.  This letter was approved in unity by members meeting in worship.

Sincerely,

Howard Fullerton, Clerk

Baltimore Yearly Meeting

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

We also reviewed the plans for Networking Day to be held at Sandy Spring on Saturday, 9-11-2010, from 10 until 3.  Lunch will be provided by Sandy Spring’s Hospitality Committee.  Speaker in the morning is Nathan Harrington, member of Sandy Spring and public school teacher who is creating an intentional community in the Congress Heights section of Anacostia in D.C. He is one of four people who have bought a house there and work together in the community on social justice issues.  It has been publicized by announcements to June’s Interim Meeting and Annual Session, a flier will be sent out to all the Meetings for inclusion in their newsletters and announcements, and by way of the PSCCS yahoo news group and the BYM website.

This is Bill’s last meeting as clerk and member of the committee, and we expressed our heart felt thanks for his leadership during the past four years.  Brad Olgilvie from William Penn House will assume clerkship as of the end of Annual Session, and will be present at Networking Day.

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