by Marisa Johnson
I imagine many Friends, including me, may have hoped for a bolder and more decisive lead from Meeting for Sufferings on the issue of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions to help break urgently the deadlock in the moribund peace process in Palestine-Israel. Nevertheless, I am thankful that Area Meetings around the country have been asked to continue the consideration of this issue and its implications, and to send their responses to Sufferings.
I hope that Area Meetings will be encouraged and supported to prepare hearts and minds by heeding the wealth of experience that Ecumenical Accompaniement Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) witnesses have accumulated over almost nine years of constant presence at the heart of the conflict. Alongside this I also hope that Friends will draw from the excellent work of the Quaker Council for European Affairs in preparing a thoughtful briefing paper that explores in great depth the issues involved (available from http://www.quaker.org/qcea/ and also from our website: http://www.fwccemes.org/news/recent-qcea-http-wwwquakerorg-qcea-activity).
Most of all, I hope Friends will be aware of the call to action from our own Friends in Ramallah Monthly Meeting and the Friends International Centre it hosts, which was sent out to all Friends in the world through and epistle at the end of the celebrations for the centenary of the dedication of their Meeting House last March. This can be found on our website http://www.fwccemes.org/news/listening-to-local-voices-friends-international-center-in-ramallah alongside other articles about the work and witness of this small and in many ways fragile Meeting, which nevertheless is a focal point of Quaker life and witness for our whole Section.
I would like to share some extracts from this epistle: “We were moved in Meeting for Worship to see young Friends enact an episode from the life of John Woolman, in which Woolman, though thirsty, hungry and tired refuses to take drink, eat food or sleep in a bed prepared by a slave. Woolman’s example spoke to the condition of all present, mindful of the painful realities of life under occupation and caught up in conflict.” … “As Woolman was resolved not to acquiesce to slavery, we are resolved not to be complicit to the many evils of the military occupation. We call on Friends everywhere to uphold and pray for the ongoing witness of the Ramallah Friends Meeting, and to join us in this witness. We ask Friends to discern what, in their own circumstances, they can best do to support those working to end this conflict and bring peace and justice to this troubled region. We ask Friends to consider adopting boycott, divestment and sanctions as we may be led to do, individually or corporately.”
I would like to emphasise the word “do” – we need to search our hearts and be prepared to answer what love requires of us. The search for unity in our Meetings is not a zero sum option, where concern for one issue or for people detracts from action in support of another or others. It is a process of uniting around the creative energy that we call “leadings of the spirit”, which are calls to align ourselves with the power and wisdom that contradict and subvert the world’s power. We need to ask where the voices in these gathered Meetings are coming from – are they the voices of compassion, self-sacrifice for the love of justice, or are they the voices of caution, fear and self-preservation? In the words of Paul (Galatians 5:6) “The only thing that counts is faith working through love”.
Marisa Johnson was an Ecumenical Accompanier (Dec 2005-Mar 2006) and is a member of Cambridgeshire Area Meeting. She is the Executive Secretary of Friends World Committee for Consultation, Europe and Middle East Section.