Peace & Social Justice
Newtown Friends Meeting played a pivotal role in supporting Heeding God’s Call and other faith communities in putting on a Gun Violence Awareness Day. Read more about it here. If you’re interested in organizing something similar or other work around gun violence prevention, contact Heeding God’s Call Executive Director Bryan Miller, email@example.com.
A faith-based organization called Heeding God’s Call can help Quaker meetings across Philadelphia Yearly Meeting with reducing and eliminating gun violence. If your meeting is looking for an avenue to make a difference in this public health crisis, we hope you’ll be in touch. There are several ways to do so:
- Attend a conference call on Wednesday September 23 at 7 PM.
- Attend and Spread the word about Newtown Meeting’s Gun Violence Awareness Day.
- Talk to Brad Sheeks of Newtown Meeting about how to organize your own Gun Violence Awareness Day in your Quaker community. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Contact Bryan Miller, Heeding God’s Call Executive Director, about other information and other ways to help. email@example.com
We interviewed Brad Sheeks about his experience organizing the Gun Violence Awareness Day in Newtown, and this is what he said:
I got started with planning a Gun Violence Awareness Day event as a result of a talk last May by Bryan Miller, Executive Director of Heeding God’s Call to End Violence at Newtown Friends Meeting. Bryan suggested the idea of having such an event in Newtown. It seemed that this was a good thing to do, and I had the time and energy to do it.
I made phone calls to about fifty faith communities and organizations in Bucks County, telling them about the idea and inviting them to attend an informational meeting. Twenty people, representing thirteen organizations came to the meeting. Bryan Miller explained the basic idea of a Gun Violence Awareness Day. He offered to be the primary sponsor. We agreed to start discussions in our home faith communities about co-sponsorship as a way of witnessing to the community about our concerns for reducing gun violence.
We agreed to set the November 10th as the date for the Gun Violence Awareness Day event itself.
So far eight faith communities and organizations have approved co-sponsorship of the Gun Violence Awareness Day, set for November 10th.
The service Awareness Day will feature survivors of gun violence, music, responsive readings, and prayers. Informational tables will display opportunities for taking further action about reducing gun violence. There will be a witness walk on and around State Street, leading to the church were a service will be held.
If you have questions or concerns about how this event fits into the wider question of reducing gun violence, contact Bryan Miller directly by phone at 856-371-3038 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as visiting the Heeding God’s Call website https://www.heedinggodscall.org/
I am available to others who might like to consult on how to organize a Gun Violence Awareness Day event.
Church World Service (CWS) is launching a new Ration Challenge Campaign at rationchallengeusa.org.
Ration Challenge is a fundraising and awareness building campaign that invites participants to commit to live for one week (the week of World Refugee Day) on the same rations that Syrian refugees receive in a camp in Jordan. Leading up to the challenge, participants ask family, friends and colleagues to sponsor them by donating to their campaign. Participants earn rewards as they raise money to help supplement their rations (fruit, veg, tea, spices etc.). The money raised goes to provide food, medical care, and education to Syrian refugees in Jordan via Act for Peace (30%) and to support CWS programs for refugees and displaced families around the world (70%).
Here’s how you can get involved:
- Share a post about the Ration Challenge on Facebook or Twitter
- Invite your networks to join/sign up via email
- Do you know any “influencers?” pro-refugee contacts with more than 20,000 followers on social media—Let us know if you’d be willing to reach out them to get them involved in the challenge. We will help with outreach and follow up.
- Take a short version of the Challenge (one or two days) and write about your experience
- Sign up the take the challenge yourself the week of June 16-23
- Work with CWS to write an opinion piece highlighting the challenges facing refugee families and support for the Ration Challenge
We hope to hear from some of you about getting involved as the Ration Challenge gets underway. Please let us know if you decide to sign up yourself. Thanks for your support!
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is a member of Church World Service, and we occasionally post announcements and invitations from CWS on our website.
What’s going on in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania may not be at the southern border of the United States, but family detention is taking place here. The Berks County Detention Center, officially the Berks County Residential Center (BCRC), holds families in custody for extended periods. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services revoked the facility’s license to operate more than two years ago, in February 2016, due to their failure to comply with regulations. Nevertheless, the state has not yet closed BCRC definitively.
For more information on the situation, refer to the website of the Shut Down Berks Coalition/Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition.
How has PYM been involved?
In the summer of 2018, the Young Adult Friends community was led to take up the concern of family detention in our region. Their epistle laid out a call to action to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and the yearly meeting minuted its support. The f/Friends involved in organizing the resulting action, set for the morning program in spring 2019 Continuing Sessions, have sought support from many partners in the community.
What do I need to know?
The action at Berks will take the form of extended, multi-generational, semi-programmed worship
- Young adults, and others with need, can register for no-cost bus transport from Philadelphia to BCRC, plus lunch for the day of the action.
- Let us know you’re coming by filling out the Registration for Continuing Sessions and clicking “Going” to RSVP on Facebook.
- English/Spanish interpretation will be provided throughout the morning.
- If you own a folding chair, or several, bring them along! Friends who might need to take a seat for part of our time at Berks will appreciate this, as PYM will not be able to provide chairs at the action.
- There is an alternative multigenerational program located at Reading Meeting led by Melinda Wenner Bradley (Youth Engagement Coordinator) and Amy Connelly (Children and Families program Assistant). The program at Reading Meeting 10am-12pm will focus on “Love Thy Neighbor” and how we welcome one another in our homes, schools and work, meeting communities, and PYM. There will be stories, sharing, and worship for all ages together.
The Quaker Life Council has recently approved an updated set of Threads, which are ways of organizing the work and witness that all of the communities in PYM face on a regular basis. The new list is:
- Peace & Social Justice
- Ministry & Care
- Religious Education
- Outreach & Communications
- Governance & Stewardship
Join the Call for Migrant Justice!
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) is partnering with American Friends Service Committee (ASFC) to stand in solidarity with the asylum seekers, the migrant caravan, and all who seek refuge in the US. Faith leaders and communities around the country will take part in AFSC “Love Knows No Borders” days of action which begin on December 10, 2018 (International Human Rights Day) through December 18 (International Migrants’ Day). In the PYM community, Young Adult Friends have lifted up the concern about immigrant justice and AFSC has been present at the US-Mexico border in recent weeks. We are called as a faith community to be present to this issue.
“Together, we are calling on the U.S. to end the detention and deportation of immigrants, respect the human right to migrate, and end the militarization of the border.” – AFSC website.
Days of Action: December 10-18, 2018. All are welcome!
There will be a daily vigil at Friends Center in Philadelphia on Monday-Friday, December 10-13, and Monday and Tuesday, December 17 &18. All are welcome to gather from 12:00-12:15pm for worship to hold in prayer the asylum seekers and those called to witness at the border.
Following the vigil on December 14 at 12:00pm, we will walk from Friends Center to the Thomas Paine Plaza at City Hall and stand in support of the migrants. We will proceed to the historic Arch Street Meeting House where we will have open discussion and worship, which will end by 2:00pm. Please join us for any part of this witness that afternoon.
Resources for Organizing
This is a great opportunity to organize a local event, and AFSC has created a “toolkit” for ideas and resources on how to do this as a meeting, individual or group.
For more information: “Love Knows No Borders”: https://migrantjustice.afsc.org/
Friends from Chestnut Hill and Frankford Meetings, along with many others, joined Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting (CPMM) on Wednesday 10/24 for an evening at Friends Center on Imagining Philadelphia without Cash Bail, co-sponsored by CPMM and POWER. About 50 people gathered to hear from Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey, an organizer for the Philly Community Bail Fund, and a woman who had personal experience with the cash bail system, about the costs and injustices of the current system (even as it is being improved) and the possibilities for ending cash bail altogether. Few of us knew that a court case is moving from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in the South toward the Supreme Court, on the basis that cash bail is an unconstitutional violation of equal rights under the law. All of us left under the weight of grave injustice, yet hopeful that change is possible in Philadelphia and that we can be part of it.
This event was one way of acting on a minute that CPMM passed in June of 2017, saying that if we want to refer with pride to our Quaker history of support for ending slavery, we must speak up in the present against mass incarceration.
If you are interested in hosting a similar town hall meeting, or in participating in bail watch hearings, please contact Dana Reinhold at email@example.com or Terry Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a recent meeting, the Quaker Life Council considered and celebrated the expression of Quaker Faith & Practice that is our Ujima Friends Peace Center. In the year that it has existed, the center has forged profound connections with the community in which it is located in North Philadelphia. Friends at the center established a summer freedom school, teaching young people an adapted peace curriculum called the Mpatapo Curriculum, which synthesizes African principles and Quaker values. The Ujima Friends Peace Center community also offers tenants’ rights classes every Saturday at 11am and organizes a monthly food give away. The community meets for worship every Sunday, and many PYM Friends who are members at monthly meetings also count themselves as members of the Ujima Friends Peace Center. Learn more about the center at ujimafriends.org.
As stated on their website, the work of the Ujima Friends Peace Center is to reduce violence and provide a safe haven with educational, cultural and recreational opportunities for adults and young people. The [center] is a ministry of the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent.
The word Ujima conveys the intention to make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together. At its meeting held on Saturday, September 15, 2018, the Quaker Life Council honored this intention by recognizing that the Ujima Friends Peace Center is an imperative part of the wider body of PYM of Friends. The center’s ministry expresses a central message of Quakerism: with worship and spiritual practice at its core, it is possible for faith to reveal insights in unexpected and liberating ways that bring us closer to justice. Indeed, the emergence of the Ujima Friends Peace Center has tremendous historical significance. This is the first worshiping Quaker community conceived of and maintained entirely by Quakers of African descent. The center was envisioned first by the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent in their 2016 Minute Regarding State Sanctioned Violence. Read the full minute here. Some excerpts of the minute are included at the end of this story.
The Quaker Life Council approved the following minute of action:
“Friends around the table gave joyful and tearful spirit-led testimony to how Ujima Friends Peace Center in a short period of time has changed the neighborhood around the Peace Center, the lives of individual Friends, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Friends sensed the joyful presence of the Spirit being witnessed and fed at Ujima. QLC sensed Spirit calling members to support the programs and efforts of the Center. Supporting the Center is in alignment with PYM strategic directions. Members acknowledged that the Ujima Friends Peace Center arose from a 2016 minute from the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent. The minute exemplified a minute of concern with clear action and designated resources committed to following it through. At the time, there was not a clear path for bringing a minute of concern to PYM.
1.Friends APPROVED $10,000 to Ujima Friends Peace Center from its General Fund and $5,000 from the Strategic Reserve Fund.”
The Ujima Friends Peace Center has asked that we hold their ministry in the Light. They are happy to hear from friends through email or receive words of encouragement through the mail.
For those who are interested in donation, you can give through their website here or by mailing a check made out to Ujima Friends Peace Center at 1701 W. Lehigh Avenue, 19132.
Excerpts from the 2016 Minute on State Sanctioned Violence:
“We grieve the loss of any human life, including the lives of police. However, the presence of the police too often seems like an occupying force designed to protect and serve an invisible elite instead of protecting those who reside in our communities. We also recognize that the violence and tragic killing of innocent civilians have touched so many in our communities. We believe that these evil forces cannot be overcome through retribution and retaliation, and can only be overcome through respect, resources and love. Jesus taught us that the love of God and our neighbor is the greatest commandment.”
“In the absence of real opportunities for employment and economic self-sufficiency underground economies rise up in our communities to fill the gap. People in these economies are criminalized and prosecuted even though they are only seeking to provide enough resources to support their families. We realize that we cannot have a meaningful conversation about ending racial oppression without also addressing classism, joblessness and wealth inequality.”
“In response to these realities, we, as Quakers and as people of African descent call for the following:
…2. PEACE CENTERS. The development and support of “peace centers” in our communities which will provide safe havens and educational, cultural and recreational opportunities for young people in our communities. Quaker Alternatives to Violence trainings can be redesigned to be rooted in the cultural experience of African people. These centers will function as spaces where Quaker worship and values can be modelled and developed…”
Green Street Meeting’s EMIR Ministry Support Group says a heartfelt “Thank you!” to everyone at Green Street, the meetings in Philadelphia Quarter, and beyond who supported our school supplies drive in summer 2018.
The drive benefited 103 children whose families had lost a loved one to homicide, and who received services and support from the EMIR Healing Center. The center was founded by our member Victoria Greene, and named in memory of her son Emir, who was murdered. The name also makes the statement “Every Murder Is Real.” No matter who the victim was, or how much or little attention the crime received, that person’s loved ones are mourning their loss for years afterwards.
Still going strong in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood, after 19 years, the EMIR Healing Center continues to help families survive and eventually heal from the pain of losing a loved one to homicide.
Friends from Green Street Meeting formed the EMIR Ministry Support Group in early 2018. We use the Quaker Social Change Ministry model, developed by American Friends Service Committee (especially Green Street member Lucy Duncan). In this model, a group of Quakers partner with a local organization led by people most impacted by a particular issue. The Quaker group follows their lead in deciding what to work on. The model also makes time for spiritual sharing, connection, and reflection, leading to deeper relationship, followership, and grounding of action.
Victoria asked our group at Green Street to organize a drive to provide backpacks with school supplies to the children EMIR serves. When a parent is mourning a murdered family member, whether it be a brother, sister, parent, or child, it can be very hard for them to keep things together for the rest of the family. They may be depressed and overwhelmed, and not as able to track things like school start dates and supply lists. They may lose income or even their job.
Our ministry support group got organized in the spring, asked the Meeting to take us under their care, and then spent the summer campaigning and publicizing the drive. An online buying service was set up so supporters could buy things and have them shipped directly to EMIR. (See this PYM news story from May 2018.)
With a couple of weeks to go before our deadline, we had 51 backpacks, toward our goal of 85. And then we found out there were 103 kids served by EMIR! With God’s abundance, people came through. We had enough to serve every child. We raised about $1,750 in donations, which enabled us to fill gaps in what was bought online or contributed in person.
The week before school started, we gave away 103 backpacks with school supplies in them at the EMIR office. The little children in particular were overjoyed. There were even a few backpacks left over, in case other children have a need.
Victoria said it was a great success and thanked our support group for doing the project and everyone who contributed supplies, funds, or time.
To everyone who purchased supplies online, dropped off supplies directly at the Meetinghouse or at the EMIR office, or made a donation, THANK YOU!
– Chris Mohr, support group convenor
Photo: Victoria Greene, member of Green Street Meeting and founder of EMIR Healing Center, with a box used to collect school supplies. Learn more about EMIR at emirphilly.org.