Quakers believe that every person has a Divine Spark and that the concept of “enemy” is abhorrent. Over the decades, AFSC has taken this precept to heart and has opened paths of communication in times of international tension, in communities where historic animosity prevails, in urban neighborhoods and rural settings.
A recent example is finding ways to relate to North Korea. We responded with direct aid when severe famine meant starvation for tens of thousands of Koreans. Then we stayed on to improve agricultural output. And a number of North Korean agronomists travelled in the United States under AFSC auspices to learn from farmers here about crop rotation to enhance soil fertility and other techniques they could use in their own system. In the best circumstances, such informal connections can influence how governments relate to one another.
In the Central Lakes Region of Africa, where numerous wars and civil unrest has been all too present, the Service Committee has facilitated exchanges among civic leaders, civil servants and others to help the democratic process and elections run smoothly. The goal is to transfer knowledge from successful elections to other countries so that potential violence is averted.
Over the last 10 years Latin America has gone through a spiral of violence and crime which has affected most of the main cities on the continent. Feelings of insecurity and fear among people have drastically eroded both cultural and social relationships. There is a strong need to rebuild confidence and re-create relationships among people, especially in poor areas. Together with a local partner in Guatemala, AFSC supports “Burrita de la Paz”. This project combines practical assistance to gang members affected by physical aggression while at the same time aiming to reconstruct relationships among local people affected by the violence.
The AFSC has been a presence at the United Nations almost since the body’s inception. The off-site Quaker House often is used as a site for off-the-record, informal sessions for diplomats who can work on resolving problems.