Out of the Forest to Peace
By Getry Agizah, Coordinator, Friends Church Peace Teams
Mt. Elgon has experienced many conflicts since Kenyan independence. These conflicts are based on tribe, land and politics. The worst violence that took place was between the years 2006-2008 and began because of a land dispute at a settlement called Chepyuk. This happened because the scheme was aimed to settle Dorobo, a community that lived high up on the mountain. Since they were small in population, the government opened the door for other landless Sabaots in the region to share the land equally with the Dorobo.
There were many Sabaots that did not receive any land and as a result, formed an armed militia group called Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF) to fight for the rights of the landless Sabaots. But in reality they did more harm than good and terrorized the region with violence against their own people in the region.
After years of living in hiding in the forest, the SLDF approached Friends and said they were tired of living in fear but wanted to work with the community in making Mt. Elgon peaceful. They asked for a meeting with me and we planned two major activities. One of the events was to hold a community dialogue in each of the eight locations and have the administration, together with the ward representatives, attend a forum for the SLDF members to share an open apology with the community members that were invited. Then we planned on 10 members from two locations to be trained in a four-day training on trauma awareness. We experienced an overwhelming number of both SLDF and community members wanting to be trained.
In all of the eight dialogues, one thing was spoken loudly — fear in the perpetrators’ voice and eyes. Peter Serete, FCPT facilitator, said, “I could see desperation. I felt like I have gone to visit people in prison. I saw a huge responsibility of helping these people deal with their fear.”
As we ended this project, nine guns were spontaneously surrendered, and we hope more will be handed in as peace settles in on Mt. Elgon.
By Dale Graves
Several weeks ago, Ms. Candi got a call from the 4-H in Belmopan, the capital of Belize, to see if the school would be interested in talking with some other groups about athletic competition. (4-H has a school that serves students like ours in the central part of the country.) Unfortunately, the government sponsored primary school competition is limited to students who are under the age of 14, which excludes about 1/4 of our students, while the high school competitions would be completely out of our league as ¾ of our students are between the ages of 12-13. However, representatives from some of the schools met in Belmopan and began to outline a private athletic competition.
The athletic event will be on a school day, and will take most of the day as teams will compete against several other teams. Mr. Jerome, the man who provided footballs (soccer balls), has volunteered to do a little football/soccer coaching for our boys after school. We must go about five blocks to the practice field. On the days when it isn’t raining since we are going through
some strong gang territory, Ms. Candi is not comfortable with our students walking to practice. So, I have been loading two teachers and up to 11 students into the little Ford Ranger Pickup
and driving to practice at about 3:45 pm.
We practice until 5:00 or 5:30, and then I drive the students back over to Canal Street where they can start their trip home. Some walk, one rides a bike, some catch a bus.
On November 12, we competed in football (soccer), hosted by Global Outreach. We got better as we played. We lost both games, 4-1 and 1-0. The 11 boys on the field and the 4 reserves comprise over 75% of our student body, which was way above the other two schools who each have 60 students. Ms. Candi, Ms. Darcel and I were very proud of our guys, the way they handled themselves and the way they played. We took a good bit of time during opening exercises to tell them so. Belize Friends School has subsequently purchased a small school bus. More information can be found on the FUM website.
A Visit from the Dentist
By Dale Graves
One Friday in September, the Belizean Department of Health sent a dentist and his helper to examine our students’ teeth. The dentist arrived unannounced and right before a guest speaker from MarAlliance, the local marine preserve, arrived to do a presentation.
As this was a much needed service, we helped the dentist get set up upstairs and began sending up one student at a time. He examined each of the 11 students who were in attendance Friday and showed Ms. Candi the results of the exams. Only two of our 11 had healthy mouths. Many needed fillings and extractions. Nine had gingivitis. “Now what?” I asked Candi. Her reply was that for a
payment of two dollars per student, the ministry would return and do the dental work needed.
I replied, “Really? Two dollars? Will we do that?” She told me that we were the second school the doctor had visited. He had earlier been to Living Hope, a school similar to ours, and all the students there had declined the treatment. These children, and their parents, do not go to the dentist or to the doctor because it costs money, and consequently don’t want to hear what the doctor says. She then said, with some determination, “Can we fundraise the money? I will not let our students decline treatment.” The look in her eyes told me she meant it.
We are definitely adding a line item to the Friends School budget called Student Services for things like this.
Cuba Yearly Meeting Celebrates 114 years of Cuban Quakerism
On November 14, 1900, the steamship “Olinda” landed in the port town of Gibara, in northeast Cuba, and five Friends alighted (three Americans and two Mexicans). According to legend, the first act on Cuban soil was to sing “What a Friend we have in Jesus” in English. Every year on November 14, Cuban Friends celebrate this anniversary with a sunrise worship at the seashore (including singing the song in Spanish) and a special service focusing on missions in the evening.
This year, Friends United Meeting organized a small group of visitors to celebrate together with Cuban Friends. The five Friends, including Eden Grace, FUM Global Ministries Director, at the request of their Cuban hosts, sang the song in English. The evening service included a dramatic retelling of the early missionary story by the youth of the church, a sermon by Eden Grace, many special songs and poems from children and adults and an enormous birthday cake.
Kakuma Refugee Camp, in the remote desert region of Turkana in northwestern Kenya, is over-crowded and underserviced. Nearly 200,000 people are essentially imprisoned in the camp, without the freedom to leave and seek work or education in Kenya. Even at the best of times, life is hard in a camp that houses displaced and traumatized people from all over the African continent.
In late October and early November, serious inter-communal violence erupted inside the camp. Stories conflicted and details were hard to obtain, but news sources indicated that two different Southern Sudanese communities — the Nuer and the Dinka — imported the current civil conflict from South Sudan into the camp. However, the refugees from the Great Lakes countries (Rwanda, Burundi and Congo) were perceived to be allied with the Dinka and were therefore being targeted in this chaotic situation.
The Friends Church in the camp is primarily Congolese. Pastor Etienne Mogombe reported that most of the members took shelter in a police station and a church in Kakuma town (outside the camp). As the refugees were not legally allowed to leave the camp, several Friends — including children — were arrested.
Getry Agizah and Peter Serete of the Friends Church Peace Team made an emergency trip to Kakuma to hold listening sessions and AVP workshops with the various factions in the camp. They hope their efforts would interrupt the violence and address the underlying grievances.
The ongoing work of Friends Church Peace Team can be supported through donations at www.fum.org/donate.
Chavakali Friends Choir Wins First Place
Season four of the popular Kenyan reality TV show, The Ultimate Choir, from the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation was won by the Chavakali Friends Choir. The choir competed against other amateur groups from around the country to win the grand prize of 1,000,000 Kenya shillings (approx $11,500 in U.S. dollars). The finals were broadcast live on September 21, 2014 from Musinde Muliro University in Kakamega. Choir competitions are a very popular activity among Kenyan Friends, and clearly the commitment and hard work of these church members paid off.
Check out this TV news report about the competition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQE2pQYp9fM.
Friends Theological College 2014 Graduation
Thirty-four accomplished men and women graduated from Friends Theological College in Kenya on October 18, 2014 in a ceremony presided by the new Principal, Dr Robert Juma Wafula, who had arrived on campus a few days earlier. The theme chosen by the graduates was from Joshua 1:8; “a prosperous and successful ministry.”
The invited speaker was Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Chemingich, Executive Director of the Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa. In his message, Dr. Chemingich reflected that the biblical standards for measuring success and prosperity are completely different from the world’s standards. God’s formula is simply this: to desire and obey God’s will. He encouraged the graduates to meditate on God’s Word, to maintain a clear channel of communication with God, to use the Bible as a compass, to reflect the character of Christ within themselves and to focus on self discipline and courage as the marks of a mature Christian ministry. At the conclusion of the graduation, John Muhanji, Africa Ministries Director for Friends United Meeting, offered a commissioning prayer for the graduates as they moved out into new ministries.
Sabaot-language Bibles arrive on Mt. Elgon in Kenya to be distributed to new believers on the remote slopes of the mountain after FUM facilitated the planting of several new Friends Churches among the Sabaot people. Ethnic Luhya Quakers (the vast majority of Kenyan Quakers) are participating in a matching challenge to raise funds for the distribution of indigenous-language Bibles among non-Luhya Quakers in East Africa.
Ramallah Friends School Students’ Fears Channeled by Helping Others
By Joyce Ajlouny, RFS Director
It is always encouraging to see children give a bit of themselves to help others. It is even more remarkable when those same children are experiencing their own anxieties and are able to channel their fears and frustrations in a positive manner through helping others.
We saw this clearly this fall at the Ramallah Friends School (RFS). As we in the RFS community were haunted by the horrific images and stories stemming from the summer war on Gaza, our students came to our rescue and gave everyone a constructive and meaningful project that helped to ease the anxiety and pain.
Students at the Lower School, with the mentorship of our Preschool Head Teacher Duha Masri, led a campaign that raised abundant funds in support of books for Gaza school libraries and community centers. By saving their allowance, arranging bake sales and approaching corporate sponsors, the students generated over $20,000. Students also expressed themselves through writing and artwork created for their Gazan peers. Their work is now on display at the Qattan Center for Children in downtown Gaza.
Duha Masri offered these personal reflections on the significance of this project:
“It is strange how time passes slowly during times of crisis. It is strange how quickly a building is demolished and ruined, how quickly a person is wounded and killed, and yet how difficult it is to rebuild, create and heal. The act of war is painful and horrific, and no soul survives it and is able to stay whole after it. There are no winners of wars; there are only losers
on every level.
At the Friends School, we believe that education is a human right and key to ensuring long term and sustainable development and to nurturing upcoming generations to strive for freedom. We believe it is our role as a school to foster a constructive response to a bad situation and to provide students with an opportunity to act on their empathy.”
This successful effort was a vivid reminder of our students’ empathy and compassion; it reaffirmed their humanity and their acknowledgement that suffering, regardless of what form it takes or who it is affecting, requires their attention and action.
Quaker Religious Education Collaborative Is Created
On August 17 and 18, 2014, 33 Friends gathered at Pendle Hill in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, to envision the future of religious education among Friends. We left feeling exhilarated, believing that way had opened for a collective effort in Quaker religious education that reaches across the current yearly meeting, organizational and geographic boundaries. “Elegant in its simplicity, the meeting planted a thousand seeds,” is how one Friend described the gathering.
The gathered group confirmed these major underpinnings:
• Religious education for Friends is about taking people to their Inner Teacher.
• Each Quaker Meeting grows in its own way.
• Whatever we do must be theologically and geographically inclusive.
• Meetings need families, and families need religious education.
• Religious education is for children of all ages.
• From infant to elder, all of us are teachers, and all of us are learners.
The way this collaboration came about was amazing. Last spring, four Friends were led to expand their discussions on religious education resources and networking by inviting others from across the country to conduct Listening Circles focused on religious education joys and challenges. In faith, they reserved space at Pendle Hill to gather a first meeting of an emerging Collaborative. By August, 33 Friends from Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, South Dakota, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. responded to the call to gather. Many more Friends added their voices from the Listening Circles. At Pendle Hill a steering group for the Collaborative was formed.
Our intentions going forward:
• Continue to build an international online community of practice using a contact list that has grown to almost 100 names and represents 15 yearly meetings and three countries.
• Create an on-line repository of Quaker curricula and teaching/learning resources that could be freely available to everyone.
• Establish a fluid structure that would allow us to raise money to pay for a website.
• Support the set-up of small, virtual working groups around religious education topics.
• Gather the RE community of practice together again in 2015.
• Offer an RE Institute in the USA within the next four years.
Interested in joining us or learning more about what is available for those in Quaker Religious Education and the work of the Quaker RE Collaborative? Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kickapoo Friends Center Report
Over the past two years, the Center has been working to develop a Work Study Program where Native American youth and others will be offered the opportunity to learn fundamental skills. They are now ready for an open house and for inviting the Kickapoo tribe to tour the facility and learn what opportunities there are for their youth. The Training Center features a wood shop, metal shop, mechanics shop and a class room equipped with a projector, flat panel monitor and seating for fourteen students. The plan is to offer entry level classes at first in all these areas and then move on to more advanced levels. Looking into the future, the Center wants to add cooking classes and others. Wednesday night is youth night where they play, have dinner and then go to Bible study, usually with around 40 attending.
RSWR Appoints Stillwell as General Secretary
The Board of Right Sharing of World Resources is excited to announce the appointment of Jacqueline Stillwell as the new General Secretary. Jackie has been a Quaker most of her life and currently serves as clerk of New England Yearly Meeting. Her international experience began in Norway where she did an internship in an educational program for mentally challenged youth. She spent nearly a decade in Guatemala, part of which she served in the Peace Corps. She has also led five trips to Cuba to visit NEYM’s sister yearly meeting there. Jackie has many years’ experience with not-for-profit organizations including 22 years as Head of School for The Meeting School in Rindge, New Hampshire. She will be leaving her current position as Administrator of the Tobias Community to take on the leadership of RSWR in January. She is known and well respected among Friends General Conference and many who met her for the first time at last summer’s Triennial sessions of Friends United Meeting.
Jackie received her B.A. degree in Education/Psychology at Friends World College in New York. She earned a master’s degree in Organization and Management from Antioch University in Keene, New Hampshire. She has served Friends General Conference on several committees that include Personnel, Ministry and Nurture and Executive Committee. Obviously very grounded in Quaker thought and practice, she has also served her own Monadnock Meeting as clerk. The mother of three grown sons and married to Travis, she enjoys contra dancing, sewing, quilting, knitting and singing.
Jackie says her experiences in Guatemala and Norway caused her to reflect on her own choices about what material possessions are wanted vs. needed and how God calls us to be faithful in the management of our own material and spiritual resources As an educator, she finds fulfillment in helping people recognize and develop their own possibilities and sense of spiritual wellness. It is those reflections that still drive her life style and make her excited to lead the team that manages the work of Right Sharing of World Resources.
Praxis invests in initial Education, Youth and Employment Bond
Bond purchase supports programs addressing education, youth and employment
GOSHEN, Ind. — The Praxis Intermediate Income Fund has purchased $2.5 million in the first ever Education, Youth and Employment (EYE) Bond through the Inter-American Development Bank, continuing the Praxis Mutual Funds’ commitment to making high impact investments.
Issued on September 17, 2014, the new EYE Bond offering is designed to support loans that specifically focus on education, youth and employment programs in the Caribbean and Latin America. The Inter-American Development Bank is a multifaceted financial institution whose projects promote sustainable growth, poverty reduction and social equity programs in that same region. In addition, the Inter-American Development Bank is committed to bringing about development in a sustainable, climate-friendly way. “We are excited to be part of this inaugural EYE Bond, and being part of an effort to improve the lives of children and young adults,” said Benjamin J. Bailey, CFA, Co-Manager of the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund. “This bond fits seamlessly with our goal to purchase investments that make financial sense and also benefit the global community. It’s one way we are investing in what matters.”
Praxis Mutual Funds, advised by Everence Capital Management, is a leader in green bond investments — and the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund has a history of purchasing bonds that make a social impact. In 2009, the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund became one of the first socially responsible investors to purchase a U.S. dollar denominated World Bank green bond. High social impact investments now make up more than 15 percent of the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund. In addition to the EYE Bond, market rate investments also include bonds in auto industry asset-backed securities, real estate investment trust green bonds, solar and wind installations, affordable housing, vaccines, medical research and community infrastructure. The Fund’s high social impact investments also include community development investments, benefitting disadvantaged communities nationally and abroad.
About Praxis Mutual Funds and Everence
Praxis Mutual Funds, advised by Everence Capital Management, is a leading faith-based, socially responsible family of mutual funds designed to help people and groups integrate their finances with faith values. To learn more, visit praxismutualfunds.com Everence helps individuals, organizations and congregations integrate finances with faith through a national team of advisors and
representatives. Everence offers banking, insurance and financial services with community benefits and stewardship education. To learn more, visit everence.com or call (800) 348-7468.