This issue of Quaker Action is filled with stories of the transformative power of programs and projects that build lasting peace with justice. The participants in these programs and projects understand nonviolence is not only the ethical choice; it is the method that works best.
In January, AFSC staff and Occupy Atlanta organizers mobilized to prevent the eviction of the congregation of the 108-year-old Higher Ground Empowerment Center, a church in the Vine City neighborhood.
That victory helped spur Occupy organizers nationwide to create Occupy Our Homes, which is fighting against wrongful home foreclosures and evictions. It was also the start of a series of successes protecting people’s rights to housing and free speech.
Recently, I had the privilege of visiting AFSC’s pro-grams in the Middle East and Africa. I returned hopeful and inspired that peace is truly possible, even in places emerging from decades of brutal civil war, military occupation, and violent political struggles.
I met young people determined to claim their right to a peaceful future in Gaza and the West Bank. I witnessed deep commitment to healing the wounds of past violence among returning refugees, ex-combatants, and long-time residents of a Peace Village in Burundi.
The 2011 fall issue of Quaker Action, covers the last ten years of war and AFSC’s peace-making efforts along the way. A timeline, events confronting ”Islamophobia,” reflections from General Secretary Shan Cretin, and brief updates on other work are included. Also featured is the unique fundraising support provided by Gwynedd Friends Meeting (PA) and volunteers.
Iowa is a long way from Somalia or Vietnam or even El Salvador. Yet on Tuesday afternoons at Friends House in Des Moines, “walk-ins” from a number of distant lands arrive at AFSC for low-cost immigration legal services. Others come by appointment throughout the week for needs such as applying for a green card or citizenship, or bringing a family member to join them in the U.S.
From their origins as a swap table in the late 1960s, the “Recycle Sales” which benefit AFSC have grown through a “tangled web of connections and efforts,” according to Beth Binford. Beth, the spiritual engine behind the sales, retired from AFSC in 1994 and has been leading the effort ever since. The sales are made possible by dedicated volunteers, many of whom have been involved with the operation for more than 20 years.
Since the 9/11 tragedy, reports of attacks, both physical and verbal, on Muslims—and those perceived to be Muslim—rose dramatically nationwide. The new word “Islamophobia” is now common, and such incidents demonstrate a sad erosion of the U.S. tradition of religious tolerance as yet another result of 10 years of war.
The police took away his shirt, which had three bullet holes. So says Carlos Gomez who survived a shooting outside of his public high school in Los Angeles. He quickly found himself expelled and had to scramble to find another school. Now a senior at Central High School, he’s seen too much of his neighborhood devastated by gang violence, too much prejudice based simply on someone’s neighborhood, too much abandoned property, too much discouragement.
It’s a small, very functional tool found in most American homes: a flashlight. When the electricity goes out, its beam is helpful, even comforting. And in communities in Haiti, flashlights can mean the difference between danger and safety.
AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more
Where we work
AFSC has offices around the world. To see a complete list see the Where We Work page.