The last post described the process by which peace and social concerns matters are dealt with by Quakers in Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), which begins its annual meetings today at Scattergood Friends School and Farm.
Following are the Minutes that have been approved by the Yearly Meeting in recent years.
Peace and Social Concerns Minutes
Chemical Abuse Statement of Concern
The abusive use of chemicals is a huge destructive reality in today’s society. We see this as a symptom of a general societal malaise rather than a root cause. This malaise or sense of hopelessness may be caused by economic, medical, geographical, social, and/or political problems. We believe that this drug abuse operates in the absence of spiritual nourishment. The Peace and Social Concerns Committee asks Yearly Meeting to consider chemical abuse as it affects the people of our local communities and the communities themselves. Is there an internal pathology of society that contributes to chemical abuse? As we do this, we must be conscious of the ramifications of the common military metaphor used to discuss this issue, as in the “war on drugs.” We hope that Friends will address the problem as the way opens. A member of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee, Deborah Fink, will be contacting monthly meetings in the next year to arrange a visiting time during First Day discussion to assist our education on this enormous problem.
Coffee Statement of Concern
It has come to our attention that our consumption of coffee involves us in a human rights problem. A deregulated coffee market has led the multinational corporations which process and market coffee to pay the farmers and their families who grow and pick the coffee beans less than it costs them to grow the crop. According to Oxfam International, this results in over 100 million people living in poverty in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Farmers who can’t afford to feed their families often resort to taking their children out of school in a frantic attempt to harvest more coffee. An alternative is available: fair-trade coffee, which guarantees a set export price for coffee farmers regardless of the global market value. This pays them a living wage.
This coffee also is organic and shade-grown—but it does cost more. Our committee would like to suggest that Friends use fair-trade coffee in our homes, our meetinghouses, at Midyear Meeting and Yearly Meeting as much as possible. We should be willing to pay a higher price as our witness in avoiding the exploitation of coffee workers. Fair-trade coffee may be more readily available in some communities than in others. Friends who don’t find it in their grocery stores could ask the managers whether they plan to order some. Friends are also encouraged to consider other products that we consume which involve exploitation of people in the Third World and developing nations.
Iowa Yearly Meeting (C) has been invited to send a representative to serve on the board of the Coordinating Committee of Friends Peace Teams. The Peace and Social Concerns Committee read a letter from Deborah Dakin expressing her desire to do so. We support Deborah’s leading to represent us and think it valuable to renew the IYMC connection with Friends Peace Teams. The board meets twice a year. They will meet this November in Indianapolis, IN and the second meeting is tentatively scheduled for March in Santa Monica, CA. Board members pay transportation costs as well as approximately $70.00 for each meeting to cover food and expenses. We request financial assistance in the amount of $600.00 towards travel and meeting costs for her to be in attendance as our representative.
As Friends, we believe in the Divine Light with each person, and we include the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals among us. State by state, the rights of these individuals are being eroded. We cannot bear to remain silent when fellow human beings are being used as scapegoats to divert people’s attention from our country’s ills. We wish to affirm that the life of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) has been enriched and strengthened by the spiritual gifts of all Friends, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We stand with people of faith across the United States against recent legislation that bans same gender marriages, partnerships and civil unions.
As American citizens, Peace and Social Concerns Committee is deeply concerned with the use of torture in our name. We will be communicating different possible actions for members to take on this issue, as well as posting them on quakernet.org. We also ask the Yearly Meeting to consider the following minute in support of John Calvi’s proposed conference at Guilford College for the spring of 2006. Because we recognize the need for and endorse this conference, we hope IYM(C) will send a representative when the occasion arises.
We ask the Yearly Meeting to endorse the following minute and that it be referenced in our general epistle to other yearly meetings, with a copy of the minute attached. The Declaration of Peace, a nationwide interfaith, nonviolent campaign launched in May 2006, has been endorsed by over 30 religious and secular organizations, including AFSC. The Peace and Social Concerns Committee asks the Yearly Meeting to join in endorsing the Declaration of Peace, and approving the following minute:
Basic to Quaker belief is the faith that the same Light we recognize in our own hearts illuminates the souls of all other people. This belief leads us to seek nonviolent means of resolving conflicts at all levels— interpersonally, within communities, among nations—and to work for justice as a basis for lasting peace. We find ourselves bound in many ways as citizens of the United States to policies of our government which are abhorrent to us and in violation of our most deeply held beliefs. Our efforts to encourage our government to establish policies that will lead to peace and justice here and around the world have not been adequate to bring about the change which is so urgently needed. The destructive forces unleashed in our world threaten the future of all people and the planet itself. Throughout our history, Quakers have at various times found ourselves called to suffer for beliefs which have placed us in opposition to our government. Based on this history of courageous witness, we challenge Friends to now consider participating in nonviolent civil disobedience. We must clarify both to ourselves and to our government that we put our trust and faith in a higher Authority, in the ocean of Light that extends over and surrounds the ocean of darkness. Specifically, we encourage all Meetings as well as individual Friends to consider signing the following Declaration of Peace Pledge, including, as conscience leads us, heeding the call to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience the week of Sept. 21–8, 2006. We challenge all Friends to step beyond what is easy or comfortable and to move to the next level of risk, whatever that may mean for each individual.
Declaration of Peace
I join with the majority of U.S. citizens, the people of Iraq, and people around the world in calling for a comprehensive end to the U.S. war in Iraq. I solemnly pledge to 1) Call on the Bush administration and Congress to immediately withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq, with no future redeployments; 2) Urge my congressional representatives to adopt a “bring the troops home now” position, and to establish a concrete, comprehensive withdrawal plan no later than September 21, 2006, International Peace Day, just days before Congress adjourns; 3) Participate in marches, rallies, demonstrations and other peaceful strategies to establish this plan; and 4) Engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, as conscience leads me, if this plan for a comprehensive withdrawal is not established and activated no later than September 21, 2006. (www.declarationofpeace.org)
Our hope is that a group of Quakers will come forth from Iowa Yearly Meeting (C) to participate together in nonviolent civil disobedience in the context of this nationwide effort to end the occupation, witnessing as Quakers to the transforming power of the Light. Such a group of Quakers will also need support from our community. This support would come from Friends who can pledge to some of the commitments listed above but who will not be risking arrest. That support would include forming committees to be present during the witness, holding personal items, bonding the person out of jail if desired and providing transportation for them when released, accompanying that person to court, communicating needs and advocacy during any expected or unexpected time in jail. Support is a crucial and challenging role which uplifts the people who risk arrest and communicates the meaning of the witness to the general public.
As part of our support for the Declaration of Peace, our committee has decided to set aside $100 of our budget to be held as a contingency fund for expenses incurred by any IYMC member engaged in civil disobedience.
In the midst of the calls of many causes for our attention, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) holds as a matter of primary concern the ending of the occupation of Iraq and the withdrawal of United States troops as promptly as possible. While we are most anxious that the killing and maiming of U.S. troops and the people of Iraq should cease, we are also concerned about trauma to the friends and family of those who serve on all sides of the conflict. We are also aware that the continuation of this conflict is a great drain on the internal resources of our country, and also brings desolation to the cities of Iraq. Rather than bringing peace, our use of military might threaten to grow and further spread violence and destruction across the borders and to more people and lands. Uncontrolled military spending deprives the poor and needy of our county of material and medical care. Each and every one of us, as an expression of our faith, must do whatever we can to bring an end to all acts of war and destruction done in our name.
The following minute is a statement of concern and suggestion for action about a set of issues that are affecting us now and will increasingly affect all of us in the future. Friends are encouraged to prayerfully consider how they will each respond as individuals, families, and meetings.
Humanity is no longer in a right relationship with God’s creation. Because of our numbers and the way many of us live, we are using resources and impacting the environment in ways that cannot be sustained, the primary example being our dependence upon fossil fuels. Society‘s consciousness of this has recently been heightened by rapidly increasing oil prices. People are becoming aware that the way of living that we have become accustomed to cannot continue. If we don’t make changes voluntarily, they will be forced upon us. There has been an unspoken assumption that it is acceptable for developed countries to use a disproportionate amount of resources compared to underdeveloped countries. As oil supplies dwindle and prices soar, there is a growing potential for conflict to arise worldwide over remaining oil supplies. Vast resources are required, not only to produce personal automobiles, but for the infrastructure to support them, including highway systems, parking, car washes, supply stores, repair shops, auto insurance, licenses, sales lots, highway patrol, and gas stations. Exhaust from all types of vehicles contributes to greenhouse gases and global warming. Our communities are built on the assumption that we all have the means to travel great distances to get food, go to school, work, and meeting. This has an enormous impact on oil supplies. Friends could help provide leadership by redesigning our communities and lifestyles in such a way that we can forego automobiles. Improved systems of inter- and intra-city mass transportation will be one key to this. There are organizations working to expand and improve rail passenger transportation. Creating more bicycle trails and encouraging the use of bicycles is important. The challenge of giving up automobiles is much greater in rural than urban areas, but the factors at work are the same. If those who do have alternatives to personal automobiles would use them, it would help those who need more time and resources to develop their own alternatives. The ease and relatively low cost of long distance travel by air has led to a sense that rapid travel over long distances is normal and acceptable. This has made the air travel industry a major contributor to global climate change. Friends are encouraged to avoid air travel and to work to reduce the need for long distance travel. We need to explore ways to do business remotely. This is a new area that will require trial and error to see what does and does not work for us. Our eating habits also should be considered. It is estimated that the food for an average American meal travels 1,500 miles from the farm to the consumer. Studies have shown that the livestock industry contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions than transportation does. We need to eat locally grown food whenever possible. Community garden plots, community-supported agriculture, and re-learning how to preserve foods will help, as will reducing meat consumption. Friends are encouraged to work with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and their local, state, and national representatives to help pass environmentally responsible legislation, including government support for improved mass transportation, and blocking construction of new coal and nuclear fission power plants. We have seen the unintended side effects of legislation promoting the increased use of ethanol. We encourage Friends to be examples as we explore creative ways to promote renewable energy, reduce energy consumption, recycle, and facilitate the use of local foods and products. There is an urgent need to curb oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, right now. Until some of these physical and social changes occur, it may be difficult for some Friends to give up their cars. Doing so as soon as possible is our goal, and could be a catalyst for change of the magnitude needed to reduce the current rate of environmental damage.
“Any voice that calls us back to the mount of human sacrifice, in whatever form it takes in its myriad disguises, is not God’s. It is time for us to come down to the place of promise, where we can see that no moral value attaches to sacrificing any human life for any cause, with the possible exception of one’s own.” Bruce Chilton
The messages we receive from our political leaders and the media on a daily basis are that
· the war in Iraq is succeeding,
· the surge is working,
· we are finishing the job
· fewer Americans are dying.
The goal is described as
· the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq as the Iraq government is capable of defending itself.
Our own peace testimony belies the assumptions that this definition of success is based on. Peace cannot ever be achieved through violent means. We cry out for a response that reframes the relationship between the United States and Iraq. We recognize that the war is in reality an occupation and call for a complete withdrawal of all US troops and private contractors. Likewise, we call for a reversal in the policy of establishing permanent bases in Iraq. In Afghanistan, we decry the call for redeployment of American troops and instead support civilian and non-governmental organizations that are working for peaceful solutions to the violence by addressing the underlying social and economic problems of the Afghan people. Our current administration proclaims that all options are on the table in relation to Iran and its nuclear capability. Based on the belligerent language spoken by our government, many people fear that the United States is poised to attack Iran, or support an Israeli attack on Iran, in the next few months. An attack on Iran would be disastrous not only to our own country, but for the entire Middle East and worldwide stability. Even the threat of such action hinders any peace process. Based on our belief that that there is that of God in everyone, we insist that our government end any consideration of attacking Iran as well as any support of an Israeli attack on Iran. Further, we call on our government instead to vigorously pursue diplomatic negotiations with Iran so that our brothers and sisters there can live without fear.
We urge monthly meetings and individuals to make use of this minute in their peacemaking activities. It is imperative that we all work to change the dialog that speaks only of military options in response to the world’s problems.
“Do not oppress the alien, for you know how it feels to be an alien; you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.” Exodus 23:9
We deplore the current climate in this country that encourages us to look upon our immigrants with fear and blame them for many of our problems. It is important that each of us become more versed in the issues present in the dialogue taking place across this country on immigration, so that we may help change the climate from one that is based upon fear, to one that will let us “see what Love can do.
Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) is grateful to Scattergood Friends School and Farm for recognizing the need for converting to renewable energy supplies, and strongly supports it in this endeavor.
Working for peace entails working for justice. The state of Israel continues to expand its occupation of Palestinian land, continues to imprison Palestinians without trial, continues to rob Palestinians of water and other vital resources, and continues to violently deprive Palestinians of basic human rights. By our economic and military support, we and all Americans are complicit. Our faith compels us to respond. Therefore, we support the Palestinian civil society’s call of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to boycott products made in Israel’s West Bank settlements and to divest from the companies that support Israel’s military occupation and repression of the Palestinian people. The yearly meeting approved the following minute and the following letter to be sent to our Congressional Representatives on our behalf.
Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) supports a carbon fee and dividend approach to accelerate the necessary transition from fossil fuel to renewable sources of energy.
We are deeply moved and appreciate the contribution of Junior Yearly Meeting to our ongoing concern regarding changes in our environment. Their project to raise funds for FCNL’s efforts to address environmental concerns by selling flowers was both spiritually and artistically beautiful.
Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends (Conservative) believes the recent practice of detaining families seeking asylum in the United States is both immoral and illegal. We support community based alternatives to help these families.
Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) supports the peaceable agreement among world powers, including the United States and Iran, to dramatically curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing international sanctions against Iran. We recognize that the United States has a history of dealing poorly with Iran and that Iran has every reason not to trust the United States. We hope that this deal will be the beginning of greater trust and amity between the two countries.
Interconnections Among Dilemmas
We as Quakers, experience the unifying core that animates all peoples and nature. This common experience compels us to work at resolving injustices that separate peoples and people from nature.
American society, in which we live and breathe, is today saturated by greed and violence to the extent that life as we know it veers toward extinction. Maladies that we experience as separate are in reality deeply interconnected.
Examples are legion:
Our imperialist foreign policy, which encompasses mass killings of people of color has the same roots as violence within our borders.
Gun violence parallels military violence and systemic racism.
Domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse are directly coupled with military violence and structural poverty.
Massive population displacement results from war, climate disruption and economic policy.
Climate disruption follows from the unquenchable greed and military dominance that alienates us from each other and the rest of the world.
Only radical turning will save the world. It is both frightening and challenging to consider that a great part of both the problem and the solution lies within U.S. society.
Our hope rests in the spirit of Christ moving within and among us and our attentiveness to its direction. Within Friends, different members bring different gifts of discernment and action.
Artistic creativity opens possibility and inspires broader participation. Those who faithfully lobby lawmakers and insert themselves in democratic processes move us forward. Those who engage in healing and rebuilding our communities provide the basis for peace and stability. Interrupting the racism woven into our culture opens untold possibilities. Alternatives to Violence workers dismantle roots of violence and build bridges. Those who aid in releasing us from the greed endemic to capitalism can do much to save the environment and interrupt rapacious resource exploitation. Spirit-grounded educators ease technological and intellectual barriers to the world we seek. Individuals nearing the end of their life may offer unique wisdom, love and support to those with the energy to continue life on earth.
Quaker Social Change Ministry of AFSC, Advocacy Teams of FCNL, Experiment with Light, and Clearness Committees are among the various Quaker techniques for moving us forward towards the Light and away from fear and despair. How we avail ourselves of them will rest on the particular resources of the communities in which we live and diverse gifts within our meetings.
We have one purpose; a spiritual awakening and creating a peaceful, loving, just and sustainable world. And there are diverse approaches to reach the goal. We act in harmony when we support, appreciate, and speak truth to those whose struggles intersect with ours, even when the paths seem to be different.
A testimony of Quakers is that all people are beloved and equal in the eyes of God.
We live in a society that is struggling to deal with consequences of slavery, and the failure to achieve equity for all after slavery was abolished. Conditions such as discriminatory lending practices, multigenerational inequities around home ownership, and easier access to education for white people persist in our laws and culture, resulting in institutional racism.
Some Friends once owned slaves. William Penn believed that “slavery was perfectly acceptable, provided that slave owners attended to the spiritual and material needs of those they enslaved.” 1 Penn “had a curious blind spot about slavery. Quakers were far ahead of most other Americans, but it’s surprising that people with their humanitarian views could have contemplated owning slaves at all.”
Picking up the work of colonial Quaker Anthony Benezet, who wrote an early tract opposing slavery, John Woolman traveled up and down the Atlantic coast laboring with Quaker slaveholders and testifying against the institution of slavery. It was through his years of patient dialogue that Quakers first freed their slaves then testified against slavery and over time became the backbone of the anti-slavery movement in America.
A gap in awareness exists today, which allows so many people who consider themselves white to continue practices that give them advantages over people of color.
The scope of these problems is extensive and deep. Racial tensions continue to result in violence and death. There is an increasingly militarized police response. The Black Lives Matter movement is helping raise awareness around these issues.
Many white people are still not as aware of some of these issues. But to continue to benefit from these privileges is not right.
Not having relationships with people of color often results in misunderstanding and unfortunate racial attitudes among white people. One significant consequence of that is the election of so many representatives who reflect these views to legislative bodies.
Building relationships with people of color is one way we can begin to address this, as we build Beloved Communities together.
We urge each person to take a careful look at their life, to identify where one is benefiting from this, and work to correct that. We urge Friends to speak out and take action against these systemic injustices and violence occurring today. We appreciate how much we learn from communities of color.