Monday, August 3, 2009

Tis a gift to be diverse....

I am pleased that Pacific Yearly Meeting Friends are open to diversity and pluralism. One sign of this was the warm reception that Friends gave to Imam Ali Siddiqui, a world-renowned Islamic scholar/activist. (See

He was invited to speak by David Hoffman, a Northern California Friend who has a deep commitment to interfaith work. David is pictured here with Imam Siddiqui and yours truly.

Around thirty or so Friends gathered to hear Siddiqui speak and answer questions on a wide range of topics, from women's issues to the economy. He spoke with wisdom and grace and was well received. He was accompanied by a Sufi named Rashid Patch, founder of the Alalusi Foundation. Friends found Rashid so fascinating that some of them engaged him in conversation for over an hour after Iman Siddiqui's talk ended.

As I prepare myself spiritually for the Ramadan fast--which I have been observing since 9/11--I am glad that Friends are open to learning from our Muslim brothers and sisters. My own faith has been deepened by reading the Quran and working with Muslims concerned with justice and peace. I feel blessed by having such wonderful Muslim friends, some of whom were very supportive when Kathleen and I went through our cancer journey.

Another blessing has been the long-awaited publication of the book "Fit For Freedom, Not for Friendship." This book project was started many years ago by Friends General Conference so that Friends could seriously address issues of racism in our history. While it is true that Quakers were in the forefront of the anti-slavery and Civil Rights movement, we have not always been welcoming to people of color, as Henry Cadbury pointed out in a study he undertook in the 1930s. This book is more than an historical study of our checkered past, it is also a effort to engage the Religious Society of Friends in an ongoing dialogue about race that will help us to become more open and inclusive. One of its authors, Vanessa Julye, is of African American descent; while the other, Donna McDaniel, is of European descent. Together they bring a balanced perspective to this highly charged topic and model what interracial friendship is all about.

I confess that I have only read the beginning of this book since it just came out. But what I have read convinces me it is an important study that every Friend should take the trouble to read carefully.

FGC has placed a talk by Vanessa and Donna on youtube which is definitely worth watching. You can learn more about this book and see the video at

I am also delightedthat Vanessa Julye has been coming to our Yearly Meeting to help us to have a deeper dialogue about race. Her ministry has been invaluable.

Other good news from YM: Friends approved a minute endorsing single payer as the best option for solving the health care crisis in the USA. Now if only our elected officials would listen to us instead of to all the special interests plying them with big bucks!

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