Since August I’ve seen banners, signs, Facebook statuses, and Tweets with the message “Pray for peace in St. Louis.” I’ve heard prayers for peace as people of faith gather in response to events in Ferguson, MO. In recent days I’ve seen an increase in the calls to pray as people waited for the Grand Jury announcement. I’m tired of hearing the calls for peace. Let me be clear: I do not want violence, destruction, or death. I care about the well-being of all parties from police to protesters. However, when I see some call for peace I don’t think they understand it to mean what I understand it to mean.
Note: This is the second installment of a series of three interviews with people who are living out Quaker values through their healing justice work. The first, an interview with Philadelphia Quaker and organizer J. Jondhi Harrell, can be read here.
Note: Liz Oppenheimer is a Quaker who has been very involved in supporting AFSC's Healing Justice program in Minneapolis. During Ferguson October she traveled to St. Louis and participated in protests and in supporting activists on the ground. The experience opened her eyes and led her to wonder about Quaker readiness to lend support to the communities of color most impacted by police brutality and other injustice. These are some of her reflections on her time in Ferguson, with an invitation to Quakers to become engaged and activated as allies in this movement.
Note: I first met J. Jondhi Harrell through Philadelphia’s prison and reentry activism circles. Later, I worshipped with him at Germantown Friends Meeting, where he recently became a member. As an insider to the worlds of both Quakerism and the criminal justice system – he was incarcerated for over 20 years – he speaks powerfully about prison, reentry, and Friends’ mandate to confront the dehumanizing system of mass incarceration. -Madeline Smith-Gibbs
Note: This year Laura Magnani gave the final plenary address at the FGC Gathering. She focused her remarks on her long years working within and outside the criminal justice system, grappling with a system which she believes embodies and carries out evil. In her talk she spoke about the power of nonviolence and love to upend both the racism out of which mass incarceration has arisen and the system itself and to find a way to a “new normal” based on transformative justice.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression before—organizing Quakers is like “herding cats,” an impossibly frustrating task, often leading to an overabundance of structures created to quell the insecurities of so many strong-minded individuals. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to work together, motivated by a deep, Spiritually grounded commitment to justice. This spring, I witnessed one Yearly Meeting employ a variety of methods—both spiritual and intellectual—to bring together one Quaker body for deep, impactful social change work grounded in Love.
AFSC’s Mini Film Series continues on May 8 and wraps up on June 5. The next film (on May 8) is 500 Years Later, a provocative documentary that has won five Best Documentary awards in a number of international film festivals.
While many students chose to party or sleep over spring break, a group from Earlham College travelled to Ann Arbor, Michigan to learn about the criminal justice system and AFSC’s ongoing work to promote restorative and healing alternatives. AFSC staff Natalie Holbrook, Pete Martel and Ron Simpson-Bey led the break; Erin Polley assisted with advance organizing.
The students had a packed week, touring and learning, talking and debating, challenging and growing. They had a lot to say about their experiences and the value of relationships over punishment.
AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more
Where we work
AFSC has offices around the world. To see a complete list see the Where We Work page.