Quakers have joined in the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) for these last two months. Every Monday for 5 weeks, we have gathered near Boston Common. Yes, Friends were ruffled and hot. Yes, Friends raised their voices against the liars and gluttons in our tattered democracy. Moreover, Friends burnished divine power to heal oppression. Our cry echoed MLK’s PPC.** The Poor People's moral compass points to Repairing the Breach. Yes, Friends illegally crossed into the streets. People took risks by forming a string of human pearls between the poor and the thrones of power. On different Mondays, Friends joined 15 others who shut down streets around the statehouse.Read more
by Minga Claggett-Borne
I asked the Holy One for water, and I was given ice.
I asked the Holy One for warmth, and I was given the embers of a dying fire.
I asked the Holy One for truth, and I was given an ancient poem.
In my confusion, I asked the Living Spirit to show me the path,
and I was given this roomful of people to guide my feet.
Quakers scramble up the rocky hill, our thin sneakers barely gaining traction. In a moment of polarization between Billy Graham and Rev Barber; between the NRA and the survivors of Parkland High School; between republicans in Washington whining to build a wall, and catholics putting jugs of water in the Sonora desert for families crossing the border. Where is the moral ground?Read more
“Part of understanding Justice is to recognize the disproportions among which we live..."
it takes an awful lot of living with the powerless to begin to understand what it is like to be powerless, to have your voice, thoughts, ideas and concerns count for very little. We, who have been given much, whose voices can be heard, have a great responsibility to make our voices heard with absolute integrity for those who are powerless.” John O'DonohueRead more
We facilitated an AVP workshop in Ramecchap Nepal for 18 Evangelical Friends. These Friends are not used to workshops on peace, social issues or self-esteem. The church has no running water nor chairs. But these Quakers were very savvy about social justice. They survived an earthquake; they heard about the generous world-wide donations after this disaster, and they knew that this money wasn't distributed fairly.
These friends are not scholars, but they are wise in the ways of structural violence. They are fishermen and farmers living where the rivers run more and more turbid and the soil is too rocky to support crops. They live on steep mountainsides with frequent landslides. Nepal government released $150 for any earthquake family victim. Now the monsoon season has begun and the government's many promises to disperse the international aid has not occured. Fifty years ago people in Ramecchap lived with milk and honey, their land a jewel. Now, what are they?--the salt of the rumbling earth.Read more
Today about 100 of us AVPers from around the world were invited into Wheatfield Prison meet with 12 inmate facilitators. It was my first bright sun-flecked day in Ireland and the inmate testimonies were even more amazing. We heard from the jail administration who were called governors, and we appreciated many of these men who have a life sentence. Their gardens, metalwork, art and woodworking were all impressive. The garden inside Wheatfield had foxgloves, bleeding hearts, and huge coneflowers. Here's what I learned from some of them:
<+>Brightness Brian said before AVP I was totally broken up inside. AVP saved my life. It introduced me to adult education. Now i'm in the third year of the Open University. I trained to be a first responder with the Red Cross.
<+>Good Gary said before AVP I was always fighting. After the workshops I openned my eyes to how my fighting was affecting myself and other people. I now help others in prison and hope to open a gym of my own when I get out.
<+>Randy Rossy said at first I had a problem with authority officers telling me what to do. After AVP I see that I'm happier. I started work with the Red Cross in its program called Weapons Amnesty. There were 2 months when in Ireland we had 'no slashings.' Slashing is cowardly.
<+>Dandy Dane stated before AVP I was impulsive and quick to react in violence. AVP taught me to take a step back and evaluate the situation. Also now I get both sides of a story before acting violently. AVP makes me more calm and relaxed. I'm doing the building lives program.
<+>Noble Niall said before I was considered a difficult prisoner and always in trouble. After AVP I had ways to deal with issues. I began on the road to a better attitude. AVp makes me want to grow as a person. To be a facilitator is something that would not have been possible years ago.
I have so much to learn about how to forgive, how to be courageous, and how to become genuinely myself. I learn a lot about freedom in prison.
What land that recently fought the Brits for 3 decades calls the violence and degradation: the troubles? Ireland has fought off many invaders before the British such as the Celts and the Romans. Isn't this a remarkable place for the International Alternatives to Violence Conference? Irish hospitality and warmth is notorious. What kind of people can be so cheerful, curious, musical and child-loving and still be fighting for their dignity and freedom? What does that do to a people? Is there any reason that the Land has its share of Ire and thus Ireland?
Their native peoples did not fight off the bigboned Celts when they moved in in the 5th century. But they staked out fields and stone circles in discreet places like the rocky pennisulas and western islands. Some say the petite smaller race became reclusive enough that they lived underground, or went on disappearing islands like Glastonbury in Wales. Thus the belief in fey people or the fairies.
I came to Ireland full of curiousity and some wonder. Would I meet Samuel Beckett's absurdity, or James Joyce's verbal paintbrushes, or Mairead Maguire's peace efforts? Ireland: so famous for pubs and story-telling and luck. The Irish have put their stamp in Boston. Ireland hangs onto western Europe by a fingernail, the pinky finger. It resists incursion from the UK--fighting its brawny neighbor for Irish autonomy and self-rule. It is awash with mists and rains, stacked with rocky crags and engulfed by the northern sea. The moon seems to rule as much as the sun in Ireland. The music afloat in the air softens the stiff Catholic collar.
My Nonviolent workshop on Discernment had 20 people, from 14 different countries including Korea, South Africa, Columbia, Australia, Germany, Sudan, and Nepal. All these people work actively in the AVP community getting prisoners, youth, drug lords and other perpetrators to change their violent ways. We examined discernment as an individual process as much as a group process.
How can each of us continue growing in discerning our path? How can I change my use of words, of time, of actions? A Ugandan Friend said that we need to listen behind the words, or What do we perceive that is unspoken. What is my daily commitment to transforming?
I learned the difference between changes I make based on convincement verses personal change that I make due to conviction. I learned that positive changes that I make work if I use alternating techniques of experimenting and then reflecting on what occured: action and analysis. We are AVP scientists in the lab at work.
I have heard of mythological figures such as Queen Maeve, Cuchulainn, and Grainne, the Irish she-king of the sea. I felt we were taking the next step in advancing humanity out of the cycle of endless wars. Write this day down in the Irish cronicles when a small group of discerning, fun-loving, commited people came together in Dublin to offer a non-violent path.
The workshop of AVP glided into the lives of Magdalena, Marco and Eunice like a stream of clear water in the dessert. I want to share here with you the thrill of an AVP (Alternatives to Violence) workshop, held at a Quaker school, with 16 Guatemalans and one Bostonian
participating (that's me). Friends Peace Team was introducing AVP to the municipality of Ipala Guatemala, nestled beside a volcano and a deep lagoon. Guatemalans entered with their bright, shy eyes; long ebony hair, some with cowboy belts. One youth with a long braid had a beaded barrette as if a quetzal had flitted into the room. They studiously carried in their thin notebooks and pens. (These Guatemalans came more prepared than an AVP I taught in Philadelphia, where the participants brought with them yoga mats.)
We asked "How has violence affected your personal life?" the stories Eunice and others told tenderly were numbing. "My father was collecting honey in the countryside when he disappeared and we didn't know what happened to him." "My cousin was attacked by a gang, shot twice, and when he was taken to the hospital they didn't accept him." "My daughter was raped at 15, she came home bruised in shock; and it still feels like it happened to me. this man was stalking me for years at my first job in a small village. Even though it happened to me 15 years ago, I still have nightmares, and that creepy feeling of someone watching me." By the end of the go around, three quarters of us were crying.
In Guatemala these stories are common and people suffer from many somatic problems. Along with Honduras Guatemala has many social burdens, high malnutrition, increasing narco-traficking, low adult literacy, and family abuse. We ended giving many hugs, whispering in each others' ears, "You are not alone." "We are here to help each other." "We are learning how to stop this violence that you suffered."
We had our last day of the workshop at the park outside Ipala called Posada de la Pila. We took chairs outside and sat at the side of the river (called Pila for the lava rocks that made it perfect for scrubbing clothes) . The river tumbled between boulders, a muscular stream with moss covering shallow rocks. Tall trees curled over the ravine, thanks to efforts to protect the environment. Birds, butterflies and unknown flying bugs also participated in our AVP. Our exercises included Crossing the Border, Empathy, and the Gusano (means the worm, but caterpillar sounds better). For the Caterpillar 8 people lined up in a train, everyone with a blindfold except for the first, who was the leader. The facilitators gave the general directions for the caterpillar to move, over a bump, under a branch, or up some stairs. After five minutes the Leader was given a blindfold and moved to the bottom of the line. The next person was the eyes and guide for the 8 people. After 5 minutes another moved to the front until all had the experience of guiding and being part of the train. We asked, "Which position do you prefer? How did trust develop over time even though you often didn't know who was leading?" The workshop offered me insights into my own control issues, and doing AVP in another culture awakens me to new ways to communicate. I was touched by a woman who said in the end, that she has been a person that didn't share the pain of the past, but in AVP she opened up, and wants to share more of herself. AVP heals lives even when living next to volcanos. Luis, Clelia, and Almy, Guatemalan AVP facilitators