War and violence are not the natural human condition. Wars begin and violence takes hold only after “we” come to see “them” as less worthy than “us”—less worthy of respect, food, shelter; less worthy of life itself. In an “us versus them” world, some people are unable to meet basic needs, while others waste precious resources protecting themselves from those they fear. In the end, no one feels secure.
AFSC sees another way to peace, grounded in the essential Quaker insight that all human beings have the light of the divine within them. Everyone—even in the most polarized environments—has a role to play in fostering justice and building peace. As Nelson Mandela said, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
This insight, and this commitment, leads AFSC to work on problems at many levels. We work with victims of violence as well as those who have committed violent acts, so that both may heal. We offer young people, especially those vulnerable to violence and poverty, opportunities for leadership. We bring those experiencing oppression together with those in positions of power, recognizing that change needs to happen on many levels, among the privileged and the marginalized, if it is to succeed.
This year, AFSC and the Friends Committee on National Legislation developed a vision for shared security, a cooperative approach to foreign policy and global engagement based on the common good.
The search for shared security underpins AFSC’s work in the U.S., Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East—in some of the world’s most impoverished and violence-prone places.
While Congress debated military strikes in Syria, AFSC supported a nonviolent network of Syrians working for reconciliation and peace. As many despaired over the killing of an African-American teenager in a gated community in Florida, AFSC worked to end racial profiling and transform the systems that promote racism.
This report is a celebration of these and many other efforts, and of the courage and compassion of all those who join us in laying foundations for just and lasting peace.