Monday, February 1, 2016

Table talk and addressing the climate crisis: reflections on the FWCC World Gathering of Quakers

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Section of the AmericasJanuary 29, 2016
In This Issue
The time has come for serious action to address the climate crisisby Anthony Manousos
Jonathan Wooley_ Charlotte Gordon_ Rachel Madenyika at the WPM

For me, one of the most exciting and encouraging events at the 2016 FWCC World Plenary was the consultation on the environment, facilitated by Charlotte Gordon (Aoteora New Zealand YM), Jonathan Woolley (director at QUNO in Geneva) and Rachel  Madenyika (QUNO representative in New York). Of 350 attending the gathering, over 60 Friends from around the world showed up for this remarkable consultation. Only FWCC has the convening power to bring together Quaker leaders from North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, all of whom are affected by the climate crisis and are committed to addressing it.

During the 2012 Friends World Conference in Kabarak, Kenya, FWCC produced a powerful statement calling for "peace and eco-justice." This statement emerged from a deeply felt sense that Spirit is calling us to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis. "We must change, we must become careful stewards of all life," insists this statement. It evokes biblical language as well as Quaker tradition to remind us "we are called to be patterns and examples of peace and eco-justice, as difficult and decisive as the 18th and 19th century drive to abolish slavery." Powerful as this call is, it lacks specific advice on how Friends can become the change we so urgently need.

Since the 2012 consultation, there has been a growing sense that FWCC needs to offer concrete recommendations on what Friends can do to make a difference. During our 2016 gathering in the Sacred Valley of Peru, the spiritual heart of the Inca civilization, we became aware that local rivers are polluted, insecticides and pesticides are poisoning the farmland, and indigenous people are protesting the mining that is desecrating their sacred mountains. I was told that some of the spiritual leaders of the local indigenous community have placed their hands to the ground and feel the sadness of mother Earth.

Feeling this deep pain in the midst of a breathtakingly beautiful Andean landscape, we wrote: "Our hearts are crying out for our beloved mother Earth, who is sick and in need of our care." As a starting point, we came up with 27 specific actions that individuals, monthly meetings and yearly meetings can take to foster sustainability. They range from "grow your own food and plant trees" to "support Quakers in politics and international work."

FWCC calls for every Yearly Meeting to:

1. initiate at least two concrete actions on sustainability within the next twelve months.
2. support individuals and groups in their meetings who feel called to take action on sustainability.
3. support the work done by Quaker organizations such as Quaker UN Office and Quaker Council for European Affairs to insure that international agreements and their implementation support sustainability.

In addition to advising others what to do, FWCC has committed to "invest ethically" (meaning it is divesting from fossil fuels and supporting green energy); share Quaker experiences with other faith groups; bring Quakers together from around the world in a sustainable way; and encourage Quaker pastors, teachers, and leaders to become more environmentally conscious.

In future issues of the FWCC newsletter and on the FWCC webpage, a full report will be published along with more details.

I would like to conclude by saying what written reports usually fail to convey: the deep sense of urgency felt by those present; the moving stories told by Friends from the global south, where crops are failing, farmers can no longer make a living and other disastrous effects of the climate crisis are already being felt; and also the stories of hope and resistance told by Friends who are making a difference in their home countries. Only at a world Quaker gathering like this could we feelingly sense the "big picture" of how the climate crisis is affecting all of us, and how we can work together as a Quaker family  to "redouble our efforts right now." As our minute states, "We must move beyond our individual and collective comfort zones and involve the worldwide Quaker community." 

I hope that Friends will take to heart this advice as well as the report's call to look more deeply: "The environmental crisis is only a symptom of a wider crisis in our political and economic system. Our loving and well-informed environmental actions as Friends must therefore work to transform these systems."

Table Fellowship at FWCC: Ireland, Bolivia, Peru and Central America find common ground in Pisac, Peru
by Jill Shook 

  Grant_ Jill_ Catherine and Neva eat lunch at the WPM
"De donde eres?" I ask as we sit down for lunch at the Royal Inka Hotel, the site of our world conference.

"De Bolivia," replies the man in Spanish, who tells me he's the director of a private Christian school.

Then I ask the man across the table, "Where are you from?"

 "I am Irish, from a long line of Quakers. My father visited the first political prisoners to die in a hunger strike, among those in prison standing for fair treatment of prisoners."

 "Why were there political prisoners in Ireland?" asks the Bolivian in Spanish after I translate for him.

The Irishman summarizes the long history of a violent division between Catholics in the south and Protestants in the north in his country, rooted in unequal rights, such as Catholics not being given the right to vote or own a home.

I ask the Bolivian if similar divisions exist in his country.

"Yes, there has been a long history of tension and division between the Aymara and Quechua Indians, like a seam down the center of our Cordillera Mountains, with one group trying to take the land of the other. And at times it becomes violent."

The Irishman tells us about the beginnings of the Quaker House in Ireland, strategically placed in the geographic center of the conflict between the north and south. And how over the years, peace teams from around the world have gone to Quaker House to participate in trainings on non-violence and conflict resolution. They also made a public witness - standing in the gap like Jesus, reconciling us to God and to each other.

As we eat our Peruvian potatoes, a Latina American Friends Service Committee worker in Guatemala, who was sitting next to us, turns from her conversation to join ours.  She tells us that Guatemala is the thirteenth most violent country in the world, Honduras is number one, and El Salvador is number two. She explains how she works with youth, helping them form a network of support and a collective voice to deal with the violence in a peaceful way. She says they are beginning similar work in Honduras and El Salvador.

She asks me how I learned Spanish, and where I am from. I explain that I live in Pasadena, CA, in the United States, and attend the Orange Grove Meeting with my husband Anthony Manousos.  I learned Spanish while living in Mexico, coordinating work teams from across the USA to serve alongside villagers to do community and economic development projects.

As a silent listener next to us tops off our glasses of purified water, the Irishman concludes by telling us about his Catholic and Protestant neighbors who are now friends, and that the residue of this historical conflict today mostly exists in their memories.

As we drink down our last drops of water, our tummies and hearts and minds are full, feeling hope, and a growing appetite to learn from each other, to keep our hearts open to new friendships and understanding between programmed and un-programmed Friends.         
After finishing our lunch I stand and look through the glass walls of the Royal Inka dining hall, to the ancient Inca Ventanayoc Mountain lifting its praise to God. Then I peer across the room at conversations similar to ours taking place among the 350 attendees packed around the 45 tables. My heart sings as I see worshippers seeing "that of God" in each other and feel the buzz of hearts and minds uniting around table fellowship. 

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