Building bridges across political divides

Parker Palmer writes (on Facebook):

Joan Blades is co-founder and co-chair of the well-known political organization MoveOn, which promotes liberal and progressive causes. Some people (and I’m one of them) are grateful for MoveOn. Some are not. But this post is not about taking political sides. It’s about building bridges across political divides.

Joan has launched a new project I’m excited about. Called “Living Room Conversations”, its purpose is to foster civil discourse between folks who differ politically and help them make common cause.

Want to see something hopeful? Check out the conversation. You’ll see and hear a dialogue between Joan and Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots: two people who are poles apart politically, but who found overlapping concerns and mutual respect through this project.

The site is full of resources for starting your own Living Room Conversations with family members, neighbors, colleagues and friends. This kind of conversation can help “We the People” overcome our divisions and become a political power again—the power on which American democracy depends.

Joan and her colleagues are “putting wheels” on some of the things I wrote about in “Healing the Heart of Democracy”. So I’m very grateful for Joan’s endorsement of the book, which you can learn more about at the site below:

“Can we keep our sights on the vision of what we aspire to be while working constructively to transform realities that do not yet fulfill that vision? How do we remain ‘open hearted’ so that we can engage creatively with citizens who hold different views of the challenges we face? ‘Healing the Heart of Democracy’ asks these necessary questions and inspires us to answer.” — Joan Blades

Testing our students for military service

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is the military’s entrance exam that is given to fresh recruits to determine their aptitude for various military occupations. The test is also used as a recruiting tool in 12,000 high schools across the country.

The four hour test is used by military recruiting services to gain sensitive, personal information on more than 660,000 high school students across the country every year, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 18. Students typically are given the test at school without parental knowledge or consent.

The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy is working to prohibit the automatic release of student information to military recruiting services gathered through the administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Career Exploration Program in high schools across the country.

None of the cities or states with ILYM meetings seem to be currently addressing this issue, but you can learn more about how school districts elsewhere in the country are:

Is your Meeting working to address the privacy of students mandated to take the ASVAB?

Earlier this Spring, The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth reported on the work of the Texas organization, Peaceful Vocations, who presented to the Texas State Board making the request that “Option 8” be the choice for all Texas schools when administering the ASVAB. Since students and parents may not currently determine how test information is released, if a school chooses “Option 8” it will allow for a parent to decide: they may still give permission for the test results to be released to military recruiters, but with this policy change the decision rests with the parent, not the school.

Learn more about the work of The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy and The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth to explore what you and your Meeting can do to address this issue.

It has been reported that there was local activity several years ago up in the Chicago region under the name “Chicagoland Coalition Opposed to Militarization of Youth” who gained attention in 2006 for their efforts (read article here). Might anyone know if their work continues?

Who inspires you?

Quaker Voluntary Service grew out of the leading of young adult Friends to reclaim Quaker Service for our time. Though the model is different from previous incarnations of Quaker service and witness, QVS has directly benefitted from earlier generations and honors these stories. And those Quakers of earlier generations, who gave of their gifts to make this world more peaceful and just, continue to inspire. They served through Civilian Public Service (CPS), through Quaker work camps, through American Friends Service Committee and other relief efforts after wars and disasters, through Alternative Service programs for Conscientious Objectors, and in numerous other ways. Many of them are the models we think of when we aspire to rekindle that spirit and commitment to transformative Quaker service as envisioned by Quaker Voluntary Service.

As Quaker Voluntary Service offers new generations of young adults the opportunity to contribute to the expansive work for change, QVS wants to highlight the stories of those who have come before us. This is just the beginning of these efforts, but there is hope you will read these incredible stories and share with QVS others that you may know.

If you would like to contribute a story of Quaker service to this collection, please email:

Click here to read this beautiful collection of Quaker Service Testimonies.

Is American Nonviolence Possible?

From The New York Times:

Is American Nonviolence Possible?

“This past week was of course a searing reminder: Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon and the ensuing manhunt that ended on Friday with the death of one suspect and the capture of another, his brother, dominated the news. But there were other troubling, if less traumatic reminders, too. On Tuesday, a 577-page report by the Constitution Project concluded that the United States had engaged in torture after the Sept. 11 attacks. On Wednesday, a turning point in the heated national debate on gun control was reached when the United States Senate dropped consideration of some minimal restrictions on the sale and distribution of guns. Looming above all this is the painful memory of the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Now is as good a time as any to reflect on our responses to the many recent horrors that seem to have engulfed us, and to consider whether we can hope to move from an ethos of violence to one nonviolence…”

Click here to read the full article:

AFSC offers resources for fostering religious tolerance

Quaker meetings and churches can help AFSC by doing some specific things to support our peace and justice work. This year we are inviting you to help with our work to create more religiously hospitable communities by engaging with a film resource, “Hawo’s Dinner Party: The New Face of Southern Hospitality.”

“Hawo’s Dinner Party” is a video module designed to support dialogue, bridge-building, and cultural exchange in communities that receive immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries.

Directed and produced by Kim A. Snyder and executive produced by BeCause Foundation in association with Active Voice, the module follows the trajectory of Hawo Siyad, a refugee and former nurse from Somalia, who has come to work at the nearby Tyson Foods chicken processing plant. Dressed in colorful hijab even on the assembly line, Hawo is determined to learn English and to connect with her neighbors. But as news of “home grown terrorism” appears in the national media and as Hawo tries to reach out, we get an intimate glimpse into the honest—and often uncomfortable—encounters that emerge.

You can learn more about “Hawo’s Dinner Party” and the Shelbyville Multimedia Project at Active Voice would really like to know if you have offered an event; you can send that information to Lucy Duncan at lduncan (at) and AFSC will pass it along.

Click here to read the full article, find event planning resources and discussion questions.

Post-Traumatic Stress – A Natural Response to War

Watch a video interview of Nao Rozi, an Afghan National Army veteran who is now a member of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. When Dr. Hakim reflected on this interview for a postscript, he shared “my thinking about war trauma transformed in the few minutes that I was interviewing… Nao Rozi, an Afghan National Army veteran. War related post-traumatic stress is a natural order, not a disorder.”

Click here to read the transcript and additional after-thoughts from Dr. Hakim, published by Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm

Camp registration opens today! Help find campers interested in creating peace in the world, living in a diverse community and having fun.

Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm is an overnight camp dedicated to bringing together a diverse group of campers to live in community, learn ways to create peace and justice in the world, and have fun. Campers build deep friendships, meet peacemakers, swim, hike, serve others, and learn new ways they can make a positive difference in their world.

There are two week-long camp sessions:
June 17-22, 2013 (ages 13-14)
June 24-29, 2013 (ages 11-12)

We will accept twelve campers for each session. Tuition is $650 for this 6-day, 5-night camp in Americus, Georgia. Scholarships are available. Our goal is to turn no one away for financial reasons.

Click here to learn more and register for camp!

White Privilege Conference 2013

April 9-13
Seattle, WA

White Privilege Conference (WPC) is a conference that examines challenging concepts of privilege and oppression and offers solutions and team building strategies to work toward a more equitable world.

Who attends the WPC?
The conference is unique in its ability to bring together high school and college students, teachers, university faculty and higher education professionals, nonprofit staff, activists, social workers and counselors, healthcare workers, and members of the spiritual community and corporate arena. Annually, more than 1,500 attend from more than 35 states, Australia, Bermuda, Canada, and Germany.

Registration information and 2013 agenda:

About the WPC:

Telling the story of us: Reflections on Quaker Voluntary Service

As volunteers for Quaker Voluntary Service, the young people I visited during my stay in Atlanta were still sorting out what their own authentic journeys might look like. But working full-time in community support and development organizations that can place high demands on their emotional and psychological energy is not easy. Caught up in the drama of life and change and community, there is little time to consider rather abstract concepts of meaning and motivation…

Madeline Schaefer is the Friends Relations Fellow at American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). She grew up in Philadelphia, surrounded by Quakers of all shapes and sizes. After searching for stories and adventure in distant, cooler climes, she returned home only to find the richest ones right in her backyard. Madeline lives with five lovely people in West Philadelphia, and is involved with Quakers throughout the Philadelphia region.

Click here to read Madeline’s full story.

Ex-Virginia executioner becomes opponent of death penalty

Jerry Givens’ improbable journey to the death chamber and back did not come easily or quickly for the 60-year-old from Richmond. A searing murder spurred his interest in the work, but it was the innocent life he nearly took that led him to question the system. And he was changed for good when he found himself behind bars.

His story helps explain how a state closely associated with the death penalty for decades has entered a new era.

“From the 62 lives I took, I learned a lot,” Givens said.

Click here to read the full article.