Introduction to Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific
I. Introduction: Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific
II. First, We Are Friends: A Legacy of the Religious Society of Friends
III. Second, We Do Peace Work: Alternatives to Violence and Healing and Reconciliation
IV. Third, We Are a Unique Organization: A U.S. Historical Perspective
V. Fourth, We Are Part of a Large Network: The Essence of Friends Peace Teams
I. Introduction: Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific
We are Friends (Quakers) organized by our direct relationship with life’s transforming power through people-to-people friendships and the lands on which we reside. We engage in grassroots peace work among people committed to living peacefully by a set of common agreements across a diversity of ages, cultures, religions and backgrounds. Our unique organization is structured by discerning what is right and true and by an historic imperative to live past our post-colonial, post-war imbalances and injustices into a just and peaceful world. We are part of a large network of Friends Peace Teams world wide that has grown out of the U.S. peace movement.
What began as one Traveling Friend’s ministry in Indonesia, has turned into a reliable Friends’ program in Asia West Pacific. We invest in people-to-people relationships among Friends traveling for peace and people committed to living peacefully in Asia West Pacific. We place our confidence in the power of the living spirit to give life, joy, peace and prosperity through love, integrity and compassionate justice found in these direct relationships.
We are a group of Friends who: 1) give loving care and good attention to Friends traveling for peace in the world, 2) organize opportunities open to people of all backgrounds to volunteer to accompany Friends traveling for peace in the world, and 3) disseminate stories so that our friendships among people committed to peace in Asia West Pacific may be known and nurtured. We strive for minimal organizational structure, committed to “no extra effort” to accomplish these goals. We rely on Friends who serve on the governing Council and on our spiritual companions Working Group for Asia West Pacific for discernment, tempering and support, as well as on donors, who come from many backgrounds, for funds so travelers may meet needs and arrange activities and on sustainers, who pledge to raise $500 annually, for the stable funding to make the program reliably known and accessible.
II. We Are Friends: A Legacy of the Religious Society of Friends.
Quakers experience a simple, personal, direct relationship with the palpable power of the Spirit in all life, life’s creative generative source, universal to every living being. This experience convinces us of the inextricable, omnipresent magnitude of life’s creative power, present in hard times as well as good times, present where we are inadequate, broken, and convicted as well as where we are clear, capable, and well. Our human capacity of conscience gives us access to this power as we pay attention and yield to its inward guidance. Our collective experience and discernment of the nature and flow of this Power forms the primary structure of the Religious Society of Friends.
Human tragedy is tragic — for human beings, absolutely — yet human pain and suffering are humbled in the context of the limitless, renewing power of life that flows forth with every breath. The physiology of human distress has no foothold in the daily needs and toils of our lives when we are in constant touch with this boundless, delightful, generous Spirit of Life. Before penicillin, people regularly experienced death at all ages, but also the calm, deep-running power of life to persist and overcome. The concept that human being’s capacity for destructiveness is greater than the creative power of life, proliferated by concepts of nuclear winter and environmental devastation, falsely leads to a crisis of faith or confidence in the power of life itself. As incomprehensibly tragic as the dropping of the atomic bomb truly was, the grass has grown back, the city’s been rebuilt and life goes on; that’s its nature.
As incomprehensibly tragic as it is that human beings persist in destroying species and eco-systems, including each other and the environment on which we rely, life goes on and will go on, with or without us. Human destructiveness at its zenith does not hold a candle to the power of life. It’s time for Friends to stop wandering in the post-nuclear wilderness fearing our own human destructive powers and return home to the still, small power in life, including our own and the earth around us, that endures all. Herein lies the inherent dignity, integrity and structure of Quaker life and our witness in the world.
The first social structure of the Religious Society of Friends was the traveling Friends, who set out with a companion to walk cheerfully over the earth, enjoying life and the power of relationships with one another and the earth and reaching every human being in every land with the news that peace is present and possible since we are all part of the same creative source.
Friends learned quickly, however, that when inwardly guided the line between inspired and neurotic may be thin. To distinguish, Friends temper discernment by acknowledging:
1) Inspiration is creative and expressive, therefore it seeks to shape outward forms to reflect inward experience, whereas neurosis turns inward and does not want to be named outwardly; experimenting with living in accord with transforming power, one listens and relies on conscience to shape day-to-day interactions with others and the earth. 2) Inspiration can always stop, whereas neurosis cannot; sitting silently we may let the self fall away, sense the greater power and remember nothing one may say or do will make one any more valuable than one already is. 3) Inspiration’s universal nature is exposed in diversity, inviting and responding to external feedback, whereas neurosis does not; discerning what is right and true, one naturally and regularly turns to others to seek and test insights in the learning process.
The second social structure of Friends was the monthly meeting for people committed to experimenting with conscience in daily life (shape outward forms), which met at every opportunity for silent sitting (stop) and monthly to testify to the shaping of the outward forms to reflect the inward experience and test each person’s discernment (invite and respond to feedback). Eventually they learned to support each others’ suffering for conscience sake, but were not successful in supporting each others’ inevitable prosperity (a public principle of “use what we need and share the rest”).
Traveling Friends and local monthly meetings form the warp and weft of the fabric of the Religious Society of Friends. For a peaceful world, ordinary people need to reach out and know one another in that power which is eternal. We need people who travel and people who host, learning from one another. For local communities everywhere to maintain direct relationships with neighbors around the globe, we need to call on the gifts of our own members to travel and host those who travel for peace and conscience sake.
At the outset of World War I, Friends in the United States turned to their monthly meetings for discernment and support. Their inward experience and guide would not allow them to kill others for any intent or purpose, but a mandatory draft was eminent. So, Friends trained themselves in languages, emergency medical aid, cooking and so forth and went on their own to the front lines in the war to care for people, regardless of side.
In 1947, the Religious Society of Friends became the first and only religious body to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for the “silent assistance from the nameless to the nameless.” Friends Peace Teams is grounded in the same experience and commitment to transforming power as Friends from the WWI and WWII generations. We carry on this legacy of the Religious Society of Friends, seeking ways to live our faith in the face of permanent war industries forcibly demanding our participation and allegiance; corporate colonization through consumerism and the courts; and the tragic ramifications of historic injustices and abuses of power.
III. We Do Peace Work: The Essence of Friends Peace Teams’ Work.
Friendships, person-to-person, are the powerful foundation of our work. Each friendships has its own history and intricacies. We arrive first to “catch up,” to listen to one another, to hear the stories, to grieve the losses, to celebrate the new gifts, and to be with one another, whether or not we can “solve” anything. This framework of love and caring, interest and attention, commitment and expectation, changes and shapes everything else we do.
Listening to one another at the grassroots, rather than pursuing a particular professional agenda or planned budget, minimizes the importance of boundaries of age, nation, class and race and maximizes the local and worldwide neighbor relationships. We go to places that are difficult – geographically, politically, and emotionally – working to heal historical legacies of racism, exploitation and oppression. We visit regularly in Aceh, Sumatra, Java, Nepal, the Philippines, and Australia as well as irregularly in other places in Asia West Pacific.
We seek friendship with Quakers, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitators, community peace activists, and local people deeply affected by global geopolitics that westerners often know nothing about. Oppressed people tend to know their oppressors intimately, but people who oppress others tend to know nothing about the people they oppress. Reaching out and getting to know others, especially those negatively affected by our own policies and politics, begins to unravel insidious geopolitical prejudice and oppression.
All of our friends make a universal commitment to living peacefully by a set of common agreements: respect and affirm self and others; listen, don’t interrupt; no put downs of self or others, even in joking; be authentic, teachable and changed by learning; speak simply and succinctly, without fear of mistakes; physically discharge pain and emotional distress; express feelings directly to someone in words; ask for and give feedback and help; use what we need and share the rest; speak from your own experience, not others’; use your right to pass, privacy and consultation; volunteer yourself only, not others; take care of yourself and the group; and work to develop each person, community and culture.
Our activities seek to include people across a diversity of age, culture, religion and background, often mixing people across “sides” or with “enemies” in the same event. Cautions are taken to ensure that people are safe with one another and in the neighborhood. Often it can take up to 36 hours before the tension and disbelief melt away, people begin to get to know one another, and then bond. This experience is so transforming that these bonds tend to last a long time if not a lifetime.
The diversity of religion and ethnicity in Asia has made it possible for us to identify activities universal to restoring peace, health and education among people and communities.
Our activities tend to begin with Alternatives to Violence Project workshops which help us identify violence in its many forms and make choices for living peacefully. Re-evaluation Counseling techniques teach us to discharge distress, stabilize emotion and clear our minds, as we learn to accompany each other in healing. The Playcentre Federation of Aotearoa/NZ offers developmental play that is professionally sound, yet accessible to community members, that helps extend peace and healing with our youngest community members. We draw from Conscience Studio for techniques for being aware of and experimenting with transforming power in our daily lives and discerning conscience as a foundation for community and organizational structure.
Herein lies the cyclical nature of our work: learning to heal our wounds and interact with our social and material worlds is essential for establishing discerning, peaceful, socially-committed communities; inversely, discerning, peaceful, socially-committed communities are essential for learning and healing to occur. In other words, peace and discernment require learning and healing, and learning and healing require peace and discernment. Advances globally in education and health are suffering from the lack of recognition of the central role of peace, nonviolence and discernment as a foundation for our work together.
We share a faith–across age, religion, class and culture–in the power of the Living Spirit to give life, joy, peace and prosperity through love, integrity and compassionate justice among people who live in simplicity and equality. We make no enemies, take no sides. We seek the liberty of living in accord with our conscience and connecting with other people of conscience. Anyone who shares these commitments is welcome to travel with us.
Thousands of lives have been transformed by our work. The Indonesian Director for Disaster Relief in 2007 remarked: “Where we consistently fail is where you succeed, reestablishing education and livelihoods, healing traumas and reducing violence.”
IV. We are a Unique Organization: A U.S. Historical Perspective.
The steady increase in the ease of travel and communication and expansion of relationships around the world has made possible numerous options for global, grassroots peace action. We are unique among these as we structure our work by the active presence transforming power in life, our discernment of what is right and true, and an historic imperative of living past post-colonial imbalances and injustices into a just and peaceful world. A chronology of some options in the trajectory of global peace movements and efforts are noted here.
American Friends were active in the abolition of slavery and the women’s rights movement in the mid-1800s and later in the movement to establish the League of Nations, which became the United Nations. During World War I, Quaker conscientious objectors to war in the United States organized training in language, emergency medical care, cooking and so forth and went to the front before they could be drafted. This group later formed the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in 1917 and continued to organize Quakers and others to volunteer in work camps and grassroots peace efforts around the world.
During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Friends developed the Children’s Creative Response to Conflict and later Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP 1975) comprised of experiential workshops that spread around the globe and laid a foundation for training for nonviolence movements and conflict resolution materials.
In 1982, as AFSC turned programs over to the populations being served, closed their work camps and professionalized staffing, Peace Brigades International (PBI) was established with significant Quaker participation in response to the situation in Nicaragua, leveraging volunteers for protective accompaniment to avert violent outbreaks and protect human rights workers. As PBI expanded globally, they identified most strongly with their Gandhian and political roots.
The following year (1983) Witness for Peace was established, also initially in Nicaragua, to document history as it occurred, transform perceptions of U.S. citizens and hold U.S. policy makers accountable for their actions. In 1987, Quakers in St. Petersburg Florida responded to the situation in Nicaragua by establishing ProNica to maintain a sustainable, mutual relationship to empower and educate Nicaraguans and North Americans alike.
As people sought outlets for expressing solidarity with civilians caught in armed geopolitical crossfire around the world, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) established a biblically-based public witness with direct action for undoing oppression and protecting human rights in 1988. Established by the historic peace churches, including Friends, it quickly expanded to Christians of all denominations. The evangelical nature of CPT was problematic for peacemaking in pluralistic societies for many universalist Quakers, who felt a need for a Quaker-based, volunteer peace team alternative.
In 1993, Friends Peace Teams was conceived to establish long-term relationships with people in areas of conflict to participate in mutual peace building, healing and reconciliation in the manner of Friends. We began in the African Great Lakes and Colombia and expanded to Central America and more recently in Asia West Pacific in 2007. A small plethora of other traveling Friends opportunities percolate as well, such as the Friendly Folk Dancers who travel as a group to worship, build community, visit and reach out for peace, Wyoming Friends who go to be present on the U.S.-Mexican border, Alternatives to Violence Project International formed to connect AVP facilitators who respond to requests to support one another around the world, as well as the more established peace delegations of ProNica.
Later, political humanitarian efforts emerged, such as the International Solidarity Movement (2001) to end Israeli-Palestinian apartheid and the Nonviolence Peace Force (2002) to pursue one of the original hopes for Peace Brigades International of forming a professional, paid Peace Force to protect civilians and reduce violence around the world. Western humanitarian and charitable donors are responding to changes in transportation, communication and balances of power by shifting funding directly to local, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the places served.
V. We are Part of a Growing Network of Friends: Our Organizational History.
Friends Peace Teams was conceived at the 1993 Friends General Conference Gathering in a discussion group on “How can we respond to the crisis in Bosnia?” David Hartsough (Pacific Yearly Meeting), Mary Arnett (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting) and Val Liveoak (South Central Yearly Meeting) called for a consultation meeting in Philadelphia of representatives from all yearly meetings in the U.S. and Canada later that year, which over forty Friends attended.
In January 1994, Mary Lord (Baltimore Yearly Meeting) and Elise Boulding (Intermountain Yearly Meeting), founding co-clerks, sent a mission statement to yearly meetings, while Philadelphia and Baltimore Yearly Meetings provided initial administrative assistance.
Since then, in any one year approximately fourteen to eighteen yearly meetings participate on the Friends Peace Teams Council, the incorporated non-profit governing body of Friends Peace Teams, which meets face-to-face for three days annually and on the phone for an hour monthly. The time and attention these Friends dedicate keeps Friends Peace Teams in existence making extensive peace work possible in the world. Council members contribute time to convene and record meetings, ensure responsible maintenance of legal and financial records, research and develop financial and communications infrastructures, and produce and distribute a newsletter twice a year. This reliable work releases other Friends to travel to do grassroots peace work around the world or to support, host and accompany those who travel.
St. Louis Friends Meeting donates office space for a part-time, paid bookkeeping and accounting specialist. Working partnerships in Africa developed into the African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) in 1998, notably in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya and the Congo; ongoing relationships in Colombia developed into Peacebuilding en las Americas, working in Central America and Colombia; and what began as the Indonesia Initiative in 2007 expanded into the Asia West Pacific Initiative in 2012. Each of these initiatives functions autonomously within the scope of our common mission, shaped by the variety of friendships and historic and contemporary circumstances in each region.
Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific has the unique circumstance of directly mixing people of world religious faiths, animists and atheists, challenging the growing tide clashing militant, conservative Christianity and Islam. In seeking what is universal among us, we are heartened by our commonalities, which in turn releases our curiosity to explore and delight in our differences, coming to know our world more richly and fully. Committed to overcoming societal oppression, we work across the full range of ages, from toddlers to elders.
We are curious about the lives of our friends here in Asia and the West Pacific and share in peace nonviolence training, trauma healing, developmental play and practices of discernment as our foundation together. A plethora of activities develop around that based on the needs, interests and talents of the people–ceramic water filters, microbiological water testing, wooden developmental toys, picture book writing and illustrating, organic composting, farming, biogas production, rough-terrain wheelchairs, mediation, art, and so forth.
Each initiative has a Working Group, which meets on the phone for an hour or more monthly. The Friends Peace Teams Council and three Working Groups each function as “home” peace team, supporting “traveling” peace teams. Each team member of a traveling peace team is encouraged to form his or her own supporting peace team among family, friends and neighbors, as we seek to connect communities at home and afar. As each team member shares a personal story of the work and why it’s important, we raise the wide array of resources needed to support this work: awareness, understanding, interest, attention, companionship, fellow travelers, discernment, feedback, funds and skills necessary for the travel and activities. Traveling peace team members join a local host for a few weeks, months or years; schedules are custom designed, constrained by mutual needs, gifts, goals and schedules.
Please consider joining us!
• Join a Friends Peace Team to travel or support those who do!
• Become a donor or sustainer with PayPal on the web or send a check (memo: AWP)!
• Read e-news, Facebook, or website and share our stories!
• Volunteer to serve as your yearly meeting representative to the Council!
• Purchase gifts and books through CourageousGifts.com!
Write to: AWPOffice@FriendsPeaceTeams.org PayPal at: www.fpt-awp.org. Send checks to: Friends Peace Teams, 1001 Park Ave., St. Louis, MO 63104 Memo line: Asia West Pacific.
How are funds raised? Friends who travel with teams and others who host teams and activities are responsible for seeking donors to raising the resources needed to cover their ministries, which may come and go organically as the life of their ministries changes. Approach to fundraising as how we present ourselves to others. The piece does not ever say that anyone should actively set up fundraising in their meetings. Many organizations raise as much as they can. We are very clear about what we need and we raise just what we need. I will write about fundraising (resource raising) at the end or later, but for now to me it is clearly up to each meeting. Meetings are giving. They chose what they give to. They deserve to know about this opportunity. If Friends choose other donations, that’s fine. It’s communication, not competition. If Friends don’t chose to support it, that is good feedback to our question for discernment–do Friends want us as a program we as a body can rely on? If not, we close — we don’t compete.
The fact of the matter is it doesn’t take very many sustainers to keep us going. I only want people who’s heart leap for joy at the offer to support this work. It seems like there’s enough of us. If not, it’s time to lay it down. I trust the truth. I don’t work against it or try to make it anything other than it is. For me, Friends Peace Teams IS the first structure of the Religious Society of Friends and the monthly meeting is the second and those are the first two things I will take care of and support. If I can help others — indigenous people, Palestinians, CPT, world development… great. But I thrive with Friends Peace Teams and my monthly meeting. Each to our own. I started to write a piece on fundraising / resource raising and will try to finish that soon, because it is key to how we think of ourselves, each other and present ourselves to others.
Friends Peace Teams to Indonesia began after the 2004 tsunami devastated Aceh. Working with Peace Brigades International from 1999-2004, traveling Quaker, Nadine Hoover, established relationships with Acehnese isolated by thirty years of war. Alfred Friends Meeting, wrote a Travel Minute in May 2005 (updated 2010) to support her travel to Indonesia to help tsunami and war survivors in Aceh and North Sumatra.
Friends from Java also came to help and then invited Friends Peace Teams into areas in Java struggling with religious violence and large populations of young people left with family and neighbors as a significant portion of the adults migrated for labor into Asia and the Middle East.
As Nadine Hoover reached out, it became clear that most tsunami survivors—in Aceh, South Thailand, Sri Lanka, Somalia—were also survivors of persistent war. Acehnese asked, “Why do people care so much about tsunami victims? We were only hit one day. The war hits day after day after day. Why don’t they care about war victims?” Children and families throughout Java are affected also by the wars in the Middle East.
Nadine’s travel minute expressed a conviction from her home town, Alfred, NY, USA: “She carries with her our faith in the Living Spirit to give life, joy, peace, and prosperity through love, integrity and compassionate justice among people who live in simplicity, equality and non-violence.” The Acehnese pointed to that statement, “This! This! How do you do this?” Many survivors were more interested in how to live peacefully than in building houses or bathrooms.
In November 2007, this work came under the care of Friends Peace Teams. Companions from California, Delaware, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Norway form a working group to offer regular attention and direction. Activities are coordinated with Partners in Indonesia and the U.S.
After seven years, Nadine Hoover’s ministry took shape as program of annual Peace Team trips for peace and service work in Indonesia conducted in the manner of Friends by a number of active companions.
Finances for this effort were raised by companions to Friends Peace Teams to Indonesia, who shared stories of the work with family, friends and religious and/or social groups at home. As we come to know others, we come to know ourselves. This is has been an opportunity to come to know others very different from ourselves.