Looking for a new way – in lots of ways

By Ira Harritt, IHarritt@afsc.org

AFSC Kansas City Program Coordinator

In October, a forum entitled “Healthcare/Warfare: We Pay. Who Profits?” was organized by AFSC with volunteers and support of representatives of some 22 co-sponsoring organizations. Airline issues prevented the keynote speaker, Dr. Victor Sidel, from being present (though we were able to enable him to give a PowerPoint talk via cell phone from the Chicago airport). In addition we had a strong panel of four presenters which was very well received.

Another large project that came to fruition in October was the holding of two “Embracing Healing – Hope for Iraqi Refugees” luncheons. These gatherings, catered by two Iraqi refugee women, educated 40 faith leaders using a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation, originally developed by AFSC Chicago, about the refugee crisis, experiences of area refugees and ways congregations can help. Iraqi refugees have presented to two area congregations, and other congregations are making plans for involving their members in support and advocacy of Iraqi refugees.

One AFSC volunteer who has taken to heart helping repair some of the damage done by the Iraq war is devoting many hours each week to several Iraqi refugee families. A typical week involves taking or recruiting a friend to take a young Iraqi woman out to practice driving, giving rides to doctors appointments or guiding a new family through the process of enrolling their children in school.

This year she reported that she had received more Christmas cards from Iraqi refugees than all her other friends and family combined. The cards are a small sign of the sincere appreciation felt by these families, even though Christmas is not their holiday.

New ways of talking about peace

At a recent holiday party at the home of some friends, the topic of Afghanistan came up around the buffet table. One guest challenged the idea that pacifism was the answer. But he also acknowledged that the military, also, would not make things better. He said there has to be a third way.

He somehow had the idea that anti-war pacifists were just opposing military action and not offering anything to address the human suffering and abuses experienced by the Afghan people. He did not seem to hear my explanation of the need to remove the causes of violence by investing in humanitarian aide and development and conducting diplomacy among all parties.

After the advocate for the third way left, another participant in the conversation leaned in and said that AFSC should continue to talk more about the positive, active things that can be done, just as I had articulated in our conversation.