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A letter to Friends from AFSC's Friends Relations Committee

Love knows no borders with Imam Omar Suleiman Photo: AFSC

In December, AFSC gathered Quakers and faith leaders from many denominations to respond to the migrant caravans escaping poverty and violence in Central America and seeking safety in the U.S. – only to face the Trump administration’s cruel policies to separate families, detain immigrants, and expand the border wall.

Nearly 400 faith leaders walked solemnly across Border Field State Park to the beach and made their way to the border wall with an intention to bless migrants on the other side. They were greeted by armed Border Patrol agents, whom they faced vulnerably with prayers and blessings. Eventually 32 of those gathered were arrested, bearing witness to the unjust laws that many migrants face every day in this country.

Those who participated in that action bore witness to how the spirit of love can overcome the brutality of a wall. People gathered on both sides of the wall to celebrate their community and solidarity. These faith leaders reached out in an affirmation of the truth of our common humanity.

These faith leaders were enacting our current collective call – to act boldly to stand in the way of injustice and demonstrate alternative, nonviolent ways to enact community. We invite Friends to join us in this transformative work of the present moment.

The wall is not the only futile and ugly thing that we are working together to overcome. There is no shortage of injustices that must be addressed:

  • The United States has military bases in over 100 countries, a sign of the global militarized and violent presence of the United States.
  • The U.S. incarcerates more people than any other nation on earth.
  • Our president’s hateful rhetoric and policies are leading us backward in the long struggle against racism.
  • We have the most expensive health care system in the world, yet our longevity is shorter and our infant mortality is greater than those of 39 other nations.
  • Our greed-based economy generates enormous disparities in wealth and income and empowers huge corporations whose activities imperil the planet itself.

As we witnessed in our “Love Knows No Borders” action and many others, overcoming brokenness and fragmentation with reconciliation and love is a spiritual quest and an expression of faith. It is through our faith that we can find ways to live in peace and to build justice.

Kneeling before border patrol

For Friends, our life in religion and our responsibility to address public questions have always been closely entwined. We know that social and political activism that is not illumined by devotional practice can get carried far from the truth by its own momentum.

Conversely, a spiritual life unrelated to the needs of the world is a futile search for one’s own peace of mind and serenity in the midst of turmoil.

It is this knowledge of the unity of faith and action that gave rise to the creation of AFSC itself in 1917. Clarence Pickett, who led AFSC during its early formative years, wrote in 1953:

“If ever the meeting for worship ceased to be at the heart of our undertakings, no matter how great these undertakings might be, at that time our course would begin to go downhill. The close relationship between AFSC and Friends Meetings and schools and colleges is a relationship which must grow with every expansion of program, if our growth is not to run away from our roots and so defeat itself in the end.”

And yet, Clarence Pickett wrote in different times. AFSC is now more than 100 years old. New conditions and new insights encourage a new vision of our life in faith and action. Over the past century, AFSC transitioned, through faithful adherence to Quaker process, to engage more deeply in communities impacted by injustice and become more and more an organization that accompanies those who know the most about what will shift the conditions of their lives. How does the U.S. Friends community enhance its skills to share and participate in accompanying communities impacted by injustice?

Love knows no borders on the beach

In recent years, the Friends Relations Committee has been the vehicle through which Friends and the AFSC have nourished this precious relationship between activism and faith.

As we move into AFSC’s second century, we are envisioning building on connections developed in the past few years and strengthening our engagement with Friends through innovations and deeper partnership with Quakers, Friends Meetings, and Quaker organizations.

We heard from you through the recent survey of Quaker meetings a longing to extend the connection in a variety of ways and to serve as a connector of Friends Meetings engagement with social change efforts. We are taking your feedback very seriously, and it will inform that next phase of Friends Relations in the coming years.

In the meantime, there are many ways for you to engage with AFSC. Please find ways to partner with us. As the religious community from which AFSC springs, we need your spiritual presence and participation in our work to create peace with justice and the Beloved community. Join us!

We work together for a world beyond walls and borders that offers refuge for indigenous folks, for migrants, for any that face oppression. We work for a world that recognizes the light of God in all people, and that truly is based on a belief in the equality of all people. May our work as Quakers be one passage in our collective journey to heal the soul of the nation and the world. This is my prayer. May it be yours, as well.

About the Author

Dan Seeger is a retired non-for-profit administrator and organizational leader, and a Quaker religion and social issue writer.  In 1965 the Supreme Court, in the case of the case of The United States of America vs. Daniel A.