Friends (Quakers) have gathered from around North America to participate in the annual meeting of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which is closing on a hundred years old.
Henry Cadbury helped get the ball rolling in the early 1900s, with help from Rufus Jones. Henry was about 31 at the time, Rufus more my age at 54. Henry went on to teach at the Harvard Divinity School, having quit Haverford College when he found out he was going to be fired, for speaking out against post-WW1 anti-German sentiments that were going around.
I've been representing North Pacific Yearly Meeting for some time, making an annual trip to Friends Center, also known informally as the Quaker Vatican and/or Quaker Kremlin. Quakers, for those who don't know, got started in the 1600s thanks to activists Fox, Mott, Nayler and so forth, in England.
I'm one of three reps from our region, even though I laid down my membership in the Religious Society through my Monthly Meeting for various reasons. Claiming membership through a Monthly Meeting is but one expression of one's Quakerism. The original Friends of Christ (John 13:13) were not "members" of anything, just as Jesus was never a Christian (Praise Allah).
There's some chance my presence here over the years is in violation of the bylaws, but then we're in violation anyway, since participation of corp reps by YMs is below the bylaw numbers this year anyway. The bylaws are subject to revision. That's what the Board takes up on Sunday, when I'll be on my way (I'm not a board member).
In my view, NPYM is entitled to appoint non-members as reps to the AFSC corporation, and has done so in my case. Sometimes our non-members have strong Quaker values and are higher on my totem pole, as weighty Friends, than those following the practices around membership. I do serve on the Oversight Committee and have been involved in clearness committees for members, so it's not like I don't appreciate that process.
Cadbury's experience at Haverford reminds me of Linus Pauling's at Cal Tech, when anti-Japanese sentiments were being fanned by its administration. Japanese Americans were rounded up and sent to prison camps in that chapter. He tried to protect a friend of his, but the FBI had its way.
After a long day of sessions, we gathered in the meeting room for a presentation about AFSC work in Burundi. Burundi is a source of many lessons in sociology and anthropology. The recently warring factions, Hutu and Tutsi, were ostensibly indistinguishable when not acting out their roles (think of Democrats and Republicans). The differences are more historical and socioeconomic, not genetic so much.
We then had a fantastic presentation by a Wabanaki native on the program of cultural genocide waged against her people in Maine over the years. The Anglo-Euros were a nasty-cruel bunch. I'm not unhappy much of their culture is morphing into something else. Their indefensible ideologies are self-annihilating, given their shaky basis in non-science and stupidity -- lots of crappy, toxic religion, among other things.
I'm glad the AFSC has been involved in the global process of bringing attention to and of course repudiating the immoral / unethical Christian Doctrine of Discovery, an initiative first brought to my attention by Arthur Dye (a former AFSC regional director).
Maine has started a Truth and Reconciliation process in collaboration with the Wabanakis to help address the truths of cultural genocide and the sins (errors) of the ancestors. This is called "changing the narrative" (long overdue).
We also heard a first person horror story about some young children (six girls) taken from their tribal setting by some "child welfare" bureau and raised in a pathological household by some monster. One of these children grew up to tell her story from the podium.
This intensely stressful karma has been multi-generational. She had a hard time parenting, having been beaten, raped and tortured her whole life (she's closing on 50). She helps with the healing by telling her story. It's not about reparations for her, as there's no monetary sum that could restore her equilibrium. She has to do the work herself, in community, and is doing so. And so it is for many in their suffering.