Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fasting for Peace, in Solidarity with the Palestinian Hunger Strikers and my Interfaith Friends

Although I have made a commitment to fast during Ramadan until there is peace in the Middle East (see Why do I fast?), each year I ask myself, "God, is this really what you want me to do?" 

To be honest, it's hard to go without water and food during the daylight hours, to rise before dawn to pray, and to wait until sunset for one's first meal. I enjoy rising before dawn to pray but by late afternoon, when the hunger and especially the thirst become acute, I sometimes wonder: "Why am I putting myself through this? I'm not a Muslim. I don't have to fast, do I?"

But each year, God lets me know very clearly that yes, it is important for me to be faithful and fast during this holy month.

This year I have had two clear and unmistakable signs from a higher power.

Marium Mohuiddin
First, a joyful one: My young progressive Muslim friend Marium Mohuiddin organized a Ramadan celebration at Barnsdall Park yesterday and brought together a delightful assortment of interfaith leaders and activists, many of them Jewish. She is involved in a group called "Newground: a Muslim-Jewish partnership for change." This group brings together young Muslims and Jews and helps them to hear each other's stories and build friendships. Each year they organize a Muslim-Jewish Community Iftar, which will be held this year a the Wilshire Boulevard Temple (see flyer).

At Barnsdall park, where there is an Inca-style building by Frank Lloyd Wright and a fabulous view of the city,  you could browse and schmooze at tables with groups like the Turkish Sufi Pacifica Institute and the Parliament of the World's Religions (led by my friend Ruth Sharone), offering  information and food. 

I had a blast hanging out with my interfaith friends at a park that gives you a God's eye view of the city. It felt as if I were in the kind of world that God truly intends--a world in which we are all one big happy family

However, I am reminded of wise Chinese proverb: "The whole world is like your family. Therefore, expect problems." That is another down-to-earth reason I'm fasting. Even though God intends us to be a big happy family, we are unfortunately a very dysfunctional one, especially in the Middle East, where injustice and violence prevail.

As I write this, I am painfully aware that 1,500 incarcerated Palestinian political prisoners are on a hunger strike in Israel/Palestine. Their nonviolent protest is supported by Sabeel.(Arabic 'the way' and also 'a channel' or 'spring') 

Sabeel runs a Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center  in Jerusalem.  founded by Palestinian Anglican priest, Rev. Naim Ateek, the former Canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.
According to its official website, Sabeel "strives to develop a spirituality based on love, justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities." In particular, the group aims to "promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns."
As a Christian and a Quaker, I totally support Sabeel and was moved by this letter I received from Friends of Sabeel in North America (FOSNA) yesterday. This is another reason I feel God is calling me to fast--to be in solidarity with these oppressed prisoners of a war that has been going on far too long and needs to end with justice and dignity for all.

[Today] marks the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. It is a time for prayer, reflection, fasting—a time to be with family and loved ones.
But today, over 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have entered their 40th consecutive day of fasting. The prisoners have been on a hunger strike, demanding their basic rights in the prison in pursuit of dignity, justice, and freedom.  This Ramadan, these prisoners are separated from their families—some of them indefinitely under administrative detention.
Now in their sixth week of the hunger strike, the situation is dire. While Palestinian prisoners participating in what has been dubbed the Dignity Strike were initially drinking salt water to survive, many have stopped drinking water altogether. With rapidly deteriorating health and utter silence from the global community and international governments, it is imperative that we the people act, to force our governments to take a stand and protect the lives of the hunger strikers.
In order to accomplish this, the BDS National Committee (BNC) has put out an urgent call for people of conscience around the world to amp up BDS efforts. In particular, they are calling for international bodies to engage in a comprehensive military embargo against Israel, similar to that imposed against apartheid South Africa in the past.
We cannot preach solidarity with Palestine and fail to act. This Ramadan, Christians must act in the spirit of interfaith support and international solidarity. You can take action in the following ways:
  1. Make your church HP-free: Already,  churches across the United States have taken our pledge to go HP-free. HP profits from Israel’s prison system, which the hunger strikers are resisting. Take a stand to support the Dignity Strike and get your church to sign on.
  2. Start a municipal campaign: Pressure your local government officials to take a stand in support of the Dignity Strike.
  3. Spread the word: Post on social media using the hashtags #DignityStrike and #BDS4DignityStrike. Take a photo with a sign showing your support. Participate in the #SaltWaterChallenge and upload your video to Facebook. These are all great ways to challenge the media blackout on an individual level.
This Ramadan, let’s act from a place of love in concrete support the hunger strikers. Every hour that the strike continues, Palestinian prisoners are risking their lives in pursuit of freedom and dignity. It is our moral imperative to support them in their efforts.
In solidarity and struggle,
FOSNA Staff  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What California Quakers are doing to promote justice and peace....

By Anthony Manousos, Co-clerk of the PYM Peace and Social Order Committee (PSO), with help from Stephen McNeil, Co-clerk

Since the election, there’s been an upsurge of activism among Friends as well as among other segments of the American population. We’ve been aroused to action by the threats posed by the current administration to the environment, immigrants, Muslims, people of color, the poor and life itself, with the EPA budget being slashed and the drumbeats of war becoming increasingly loud and insistent. The words of William Penn seem especially relevant: “True godliness does not turn [us] out of the world, but enables [us] to live better in it and excites [our] endeavors to mend it.” Our divided and broken country desperately needs mending. Our Quaker message and approach are urgently needed.
Each month there is a PSO Committee conference call open to anyone interested in peace and justice. To take part in these calls, contact me at Please let me know if your Meeting has approved minutes of concern and/or how its members are engaged in peace and social activism. We need to hear from and support each other.
A major task of PSO has been to present minutes of concern to annual session, but there is currently no unity on how to do so.  In 2015 PSO worked on this issue for over a year with the YM clerk and presented detailed procedures based on best practices for seasoning and presenting minutes of concern, which were posted to the PYM website:
M & O feels that current practices for presenting minutes of concern have not resulted in significant action or reflected changed lives, and has recommending ways to insure more accountability. PSO, Friends in Unity with Nature (FUN), and the Latin America Concerns Committee (LACC) are reviewing M & O’s proposal so we can come up with a set of procedures we can all be in unity with.
For the second year in a row, PSO has no new minutes of concern to present. Minutes of concerns approved by our YM in the past that seem most alive today relate to immigration and the environment. Meetings and individuals have taking many actions around these concerns, which will be reported by LACC and FUN.
As clerk of PSO for SCQM as well as PYM, I am pleased to report that SCQM and Orange Grove Meeting co-sponsored an all-day workshop on immigration rights with Pedro Rios, director of the AFSC’s U.S./Mexico Border Program. A native San Diegan, Pedro has worked on immigrant rights and border issues for over 20 years.  On May 20, around 25 Friends from San Diego, Orange County, Santa Monica, Orange Grove and other MMs took part in this workshop, along with half a dozen non-Quakers. In this excellent interactive workshop we learned ways to become effective immigrant rights advocates and allies.
A new concern that has surfaced among Friends has been income inequality. An ardent advocate for social and economic justice, Philadelphia Quaker George Lakey has lifted up this concern and been on a book tour of northern and southern California, promoting Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got it Right, and How We Can, Too.  Santa Monica Meeting approved a minute on income inequality (see below) and is sponsoring an all-day workshop with George Lakey in June.  This workshop will focus on how to address income inequality, a core challenge to American democracy in this era of plutocracy. We’ll learn how Quakers are addressing this issue and what we can do to create a social democracy in America similar to those in Scandinavia.
Involvement in faith-based based lobbying has escalated since the election.  Friends Committee on National Legislation and FCL-CA have been increasingly active.  FCNL Advocacy Teams have been formed in the Santa Monica area, Pasadena, and Orange County as well as in Northern California. Thanks in part to the efforts of Joelly Mejia, a young Advocacy Corps staff person, non-Quakers as well as Quakers are being trained on how to be effective advocates and lobbyists. Delegations have gone to the offices of Senators Feinstein and Harris as well as Congress members Judy Chu, Adam Schiff, and others. You can read about these visits on my blog at Joelly Mejia is also coming to Yearly Meeting annual session to lead an interest group focusing on faith-based lobbying.
Other interest groups sponsored by PSO:

How Can Friends Navigate and Counter Islamophobic Rhetoric? Due to the increase in Islamophobic rhetoric and proposed policies that equate Islam as a world religion with terrorism, we will explore the production of phobias in our country in order to counter these imperial imaginary constructs.  Productions of evil rely on cultivating fear in civil society, therefore, learning how to delink these social imaginaries is key to countering the fears and injustices of our time.  Led by Shannon Frediani
Waging Peace in the Trump Era. What are some of the Spirit-led and most effective ways to respond to Trump's militarism and jingoism? We will look at George Lakey's "Ten Steps for Stopping Trump."  Led by Anthony Manousos and David Hartsough, who will also share his thoughts and experiences traveling to Russia in the past year, his seventh trip there since 1961. David is the author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist
Quakers needed: Our country needs Friends in public office. National politics gets the Headlines, but local government decisions affect us the most. There are about 400 locally elected officials for every state and federal elected official: school boards and water boards; city councils and mayors; county supervisors; sheriffs and district attorneys; fire districts, hospital districts, and numerous special districts. This interest group will encourage Quakers to do it themselves and, equally important, to identify, encourage, and support well qualified candidates who share our Quaker values. Led by Janet Gastil. [FCNL and FCL-CA may participate in this interest group.]
Friends Helping Communities. David Brietzmann, San Francisco Meeting, and Linnea Hanson, Chico Meeting, plan to continue their work on supporting social work that Friends Meetings and Worship Groups are undertaking in Pacific Yearly Meeting (PYM). Our goal is to link those that are working on similar kinds of social work to be able to learn from each other. We also would like the social work that Friends Meetings are doing to be known by others in Pacific Yearly Meeting so that their experiences can be shared with other meetings that may want to start a similar work.
George Fox and Prophetic Witness. In a special Sunday night session of Transformative Friends we’ll look at key passages in Fox’s journal dealing with “civil disobedience,” “speaking truth to power,” and other aspects of prophetic witness. Led by Anthony Manousos, author/editor of Transformative Quakers 2015: True Stories of Quakers Who Made a Difference in the World; Howard and Anna Brinton: Reinventors of Quakerism in the 20th Century (2013); Quakers and the Interfaith Movement (2013), EarthLight: Spiritual Wisdom for an Ecological AgeCompassionate Listening and Other Writings by Gene Hoffman (2003), A Western Quaker Reader (2000) as well as other books, pamphlets and articles.
As co-clerk of PSO, I am eager to find out what your Meeting is doing to promote justice and peace and would be happy to pay a visit, so please invite me. This is a time when Friends who care about justice and peace need to work together. Most of all, we need to be faithful to the Spirit that stirs in our hearts, calling us to do utmost to mend this broken world.

Statements about Leadings rom State of the Meeting Reports in So Cal:

Inland Valley: Historically, our Meeting has had a leading in supporting people from Central America who have been driven from their homes by poverty or violence.  More recently, we have become concerned about the plight of refugees from other parts of the world.  We have restarted our Peace and Social Order Committee which is meeting on a regular basis.  There are many ideas and questions to explore.
Many in our community have felt led to work with other faith groups.  Our nation’s troubled times have motivated these efforts.  Meeting with others of different faiths has made it easier to see that of God in others.  We are reminded that we have much more in common with other faiths than differences.
La Jolla Meeting: The actions of individual Friends bring Quaker values into the work of many other groups.  Some Friends pursue their leadings with the help of a newly organized Leadings committee, a successor to our Peace and Social Order Committee.  Several independent concerns were united this year into corporate action through an Asylees, Immigrants, Refugees (AIR) Committee, assisting Meeting families sheltering people in their homes.
Orange County – Our meeting tends to quietly support individual members and attenders who have strong leadings; in a sense, the interconnectedness of our community is our strongest leading. We share a deep appreciation for the Meeting’s absolute commitment to the equality of all people and yearn for a Quakerly corporate response to the frightening changes we see taking place.
We want to make ourselves known to those who might yearn for what we offer, and also we wonder how to do outreach and be consistent with our commitment not to proselytize. 

Santa Monica – We are relatively effective in a variety of individual leadings, but struggle with identifying and acting upon our corporate leadings. Many Friends noted that our work about Economic Inequality, including the related blog and the approved Minute, represent a real possibility and opportunity for a corporate leading. We continue to search for who we are as Quakers in the world around us. What is our core? What are we doing together? A Friend spoke of “the past five years as ones of self-discovery, coming to know our identity as a community and faith organization. This will support us as we are drawn into the world and begin to experience an expanding sense of community.”

Minute on Income Inequality from Santa Monica Friends Meeting

16-12-04: Santa Monic Meeting approves the following Minute on Income Inequality, Economic Inequality and Social Justice, noting our desire to share it widely, and acknowledging the discernment involved in preparing it:

Friends (Quakers) believe that there is a divine spark in everyone, and on that basis we believe in the equality of all people. That belief leads us to create community among ourselves, foster community in the broader society and promote equal justice and equal opportunity.

We find that the laws, tax structure, and regulations of our society now disproportionately favor and reward the few, while disproportionately impoverishing the many. Wealthy special interests have used their resources and access to influence politics, the courts and regulatory agencies to redistribute wealth to enrich themselves at the expense of the middle class and the poor, who now experience declining wealth, declining earning power and declining levels of education. Our society now experiences rising poverty, homelessness, mental illness, drug addiction and environmental degradation. These factors in combination result in the weakening of our democratic institutions and our social fabric. We also find that this inequity is reversible, with correction of the tax codes, regulations, laws, and political reform.

We call on Friends to teach themselves and others about the truth of economic inequality. We call on Friends, people of other faiths and people of good will to recognize the need to change our tax code, our regulations, and our electoral processes to restore our social safety net and our educational systems to create a more just, healthier and more sustainable society based on principles of equality and respect for our fellow human beings. We call on Friends, people of other faiths and people of good will to work to reduce income inequality in our society by supporting actions that redistribute the fruits of our economy more broadly and equitably in order to build a stronger, more just, more rewarding and more stable society.

Economic inequality is at the root of many of social ills we now see. We seek to reduce income and wealth disparity, while recognizing that success in doing so will not cure all social ills. Our goal is to reduce economic stress in our society to the point that people of modest means may lead happy, productive lives and realize their God-given potential. We seek to restore the social fabric and respect for the inherent dignity of all.

Our goal reflects our Quaker testimonies on simplicity, equality, peace, community and integrity.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Accessory Dwelling Units (aka "Granny Flats"): A Way To Help Make Housing Affordable

Recognizing that California has a housing crisis, the legislature passed a bill that makes it much easier to build accessory dwelling units (aka "ADUs or "Granny Flats"). According to the SF Chronicle:

The laws that take effect Jan. 1 — AB2299 and SB1069 — amend the state law  governing second units and rename them “accessory dwelling units. ”About two-thirds of California’s cities and counties have their own second-unit ordinances, but the state law is more permissive than most of them. Jurisdictions that have not adopted  or amended a local ordinance that complies with the new state law by Jan. 1   will have to follow the state law until they approve a compliant one.Under the new law, second units are allowed on any lot with a single-family home, but local ordinances can say where they will or won’t be permitted based on factors such as water and sewer services, traffic flow and public safety.The amended law will allow accessory units up to 1,200 square feet, but allows jurisdictions to impose lower limits and establish standards governing height, setback, lot coverage, landscaping and architectural review,
The City of Pasadena is now reviewing local ordinances regarding ADUs and is considering lowering the required minimum lot size from 15,000 sq feet to 7200 sq. feet. 

Affordable housing advocates are pushing the city to make it easy for homeowners to build new units or renovate existing ones to bring them up to code. We hope that the City will grant concessions to homeowners who rent their units to low-income Section 8 renters. Jill has put together an excellent list of talking points. Please come to the Planning Commission Meeting on Wednesday, May 24, at 6:30 at Pasadena City Hall so we can advocate on behalf of our low-income residents and their need for affordable ADU's:

To: Pasadena Planning Commissioners

Dear Planning Commissioners,
            I am writing to ask you to support several of the staff recommendations in regard to ADUs and for you to strengthen their recommendations in the following ways:
A.     ADUs should be allowed in all Landmark Districts, with or without the units being visible from the street. 

B.     Adjust the minimum lot size from the staff recommendation of 7,200 to 5,000 since 5,000 is what the majority of comments at the community workshops recommended. Additionally because the majority of the cities chosen by staff to compare to Pasadena allowed ADUs in properties at 5,000 or less. For example. Santa Cruz allows ADUs on properties of 4,500 square feet, Long Beach 4,800, Santa Monica 4,000 and some cities have no minimum lot size at all (Arcadia, Glendale, Monrovia, LA City and County and Burbank). Other comparisons above 5,000 were Beverly Hill at 6,000 and San Jose at 5,445 and South Pasadena at 12,000.

C.     Change the staff recommendation of 800 square feet limit on the unit size of the ADU, which is arbitrarily low, and does not accommodate the spatial needs of single occupants, couples, or families residing in accessory residences to be congruent with the state maximum allowance of 1,200 square feet or 50% of the total living are of the primary dwelling.  This is what South Pasadena, LA County and Santa Cruz allow.

D.     The staff is recommending that the height limit of 17 feet stay the same. We are recommending that ADUs be allowed above garages by increasing the height to 25 feet.  Pasadena allows homeowners to have a second floor in their homes and an ADU over an attached garage. Our recommendation is consistent with this. We are concerned about privacy issues and believe this ca be mitigated by having no windows or entrances facing neighbors.

E.      While we believe in affordable housing, we do not recommend affordability covenants for ADUs. In other situations affordability covenants are appropriate, but not with ADUs. In this case it can be a poison pill to prevent homeowners from wanting to build an ADU.

F.      Just as staff is researching if the residential impact fees of $18,979.88  can be exempted, we too are recommending that ADUs be allowed a waiver, especially  in exchange for an agreement to rent to Section 8 or affordable housing (without an “affordability covenant,” but monitored in some other way. 
Given that our state in a housing crisis, with 1.3 million units short, thus pushing up the cost many times faster than wages, it is essential that you do all you can to help relieve this shortage. In addition to helping to increase sorely needing housing stock, there are many good reasons to support all of our recommendations:
1.      To create life cycle housing, for aging parents who might otherwise wind up in assisted-living facilities or nursing homes, thus reducing the cost of their care.

2.      To keep affordable housing from being concentrated in one spot and invite economic diversity and be in keeping with historic heritage. Hunt who designed our library, Bachelder and one of the Green and Green brother’s lived in ADUs. Pasadena’s broad streets with the large stately craftsman homes adjacent to more narrow streets with smaller homes, allowed the servants to live close to wealthier residents. This rich heritage of a mixed income community sets a precedent for ADUs. 

3.      To house "boomerang" kids or those who wanted to stay close but couldn't afford local housing.

4.      To provide a potential source of income when the homeowners ready to downsize, especially for seniors on a fixed income. They could live in the granny flat and family members could move into the main house, or rent it out for retirement income.

5.      To allow more money to circulate and stay in the community, through the employment of local contractors and construction workers, as opposed to large developers that are usually from out of town.

6.      To increase the property values and provide more property taxes for the city.  This is a better use of underutilized land and infrastructure.

7.      To minimize traffic by allowing people to live closer to family and work. When Cynthia Kurtz was the City Manager, she adamantly opposed to the need for a traffic study in relation to Granny Flats, feeling this was a non-issue and waste of tax payer’s money. The number of people applying for permits to build ADUs in other cities has been minimal.

8.      To prevent a possible fair housing lawsuit due to the disparity between those who want ADUs but don’t have permission to build them due to the unreasonable 15,000 required lot size and those who have large lots, but don’t have the need for them. 

9.      To help increase the city’s housing stock without the use of any subsidy. Due to limited federal funds for housing, the city has lost 85% of its budget for affordable housing. ADUs are one important source for helping to solve the housing crisis without spending tax payer’s dollars.

For all the above reasons, we ask that you allow the city to regulate the construction second units under the recommendations we are requesting.  This will help to remediate unpermitted, informal housing that can often be unsafe. Unpermitted housing exists in every jurisdiction, every geography, every demographic, and every socioeconomic stratum: unpermitted dwellings, garage conversions, subdivided houses, and occupied RVs exist across the City of Pasadena. Lack of affordable housing coupled with skyrocketing housing prices are partly due to unworkable zoning laws that stifle efforts to build legal accessory dwellings and therefore directly contribute to the proliferation of illegally built dwellings. It’s a simple calculus: when people need housing, people build housing. And when the zoning code creates barriers, people ignore the code.
            Thank you for reading our letter and taking serious consideration of our recommendations.

Jill Shook, for the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Holding Activists in Prayer: Some Suggestions

During these challenging times, those who are called to work for justice and peace need spiritual and emotional support more than ever before. I hope that this reflection inspires activists and mystics, contemplatives and prophets, to see how we can work together for the good of society in holy obedience to the Spirit of Love and Peace.

Those who are called to a life of prayer rather than of activism can be of great help in promoting peace and justice if they pray in the right spirit (see quotes from Gandhi).

I know from personal experience how empowering it is to feel lifted up by the prayers of faithful Friends, and of those in other faith-based spiritual communities. When I have traveled in the ministry, I have usually asked for a letter of support from my Meeting. Not everyone in Meeting goes with me on my journey, of course; but I feel their spiritual presence, which helps me when challenges arise. When I return to my home meeting, I share with Friends the letter of support, signed by Friends in far off places, and give a report on my journey. These travels in the ministry bring us closer to each other, to distant Friends, and to Spirit. This is how I see a minute of concern. Everyone doesn’t have to carry the weight of this concern or act upon it, but if we approve a minute of concern, we agree to share the spiritual burden through prayer and words of encouragement. This is how we align ourselves with God and with those who are trying to do God’s will by working for peace and justice.

When my wife had a concern about starting a Housing Commission in our city, she brought this concern to our Peace and Social Concerns Committee, which approved a letter of support. This letter was also approved by our monthly meeting for business. When the time came for this proposal to be considered by our City Council, five members of Orange Grove Meeting showed up to speak in support. My wife, who is not a Quaker, was enormously impressed by our prayerful Quaker process, and by the faithful activism of Friends. For my wife, going to City Council meeting to speak on behalf of low-income residents of our city is a form of worship—“praying with one’s feet” is how Rabbi Joshua Heschel called it. When I attended this City Council meeting, I felt supported not only by the presence of Friends and the letter from our meeting, but also by the Spirit. This is what I experience when I am involved in faith-based activism. 

Here are some queries that I hope Ministry and Oversight will consider using and sharing with Friends:

  •          How do we hold in the Light those who are called to peace and justice or environmental work?
  •          How has prayer made a difference in your personal life and in supporting those you know who are involved in social concerns?
  •          How do we express appreciation and support for those who are making personal sacrifices for the sake of justice and peace?

Gandhi on prayer and activism

For me, Gandhi has been a model of how to connect the spiritual and activist life. Famously, Gandhi said: “Those who believe religion and politics aren't connected don't understand either.” These quotations by Gandhi can help us to see the deep connection between prayer and action, and can be used for worship sharing along with the queries.

  • ·         I can give my own testimony and say that a heartfelt prayer is undoubtedly the most potent instrument that man possesses for overcoming cowardice and all other bad old habits. (YI, 20-12-1928, p420).
  • ·         As I believe that silent prayer is often a mightier [force] than any overt act, in my helplessness I continuously pray in the faith that the prayer of a pure heart never goes unanswered. (YI, 22-9-1927, p321)
  • ·         Prayer is not …. idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action. (H, 14-4-1)
  • ·         Silence of the sewn-up lips is no silence. One may achieve the same result by chopping off one's tongue, but that too would not be silence. He is silent who, having the capacity to speak, utters no idle word. (H, 24-6-1933, p5)946, p80)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Celebración de la rica diversidad de Cuáqueros: Informe sobre la reunión de la CMCA en Stony Point, NY

[Este es un reporte para la reunión de primavera de la Reunión Trimestral del Sur de California, donde trabajo como secretario del Comité de Paz y Orden Social. Nuestra reunión de primavera tiene lugar el sábado, 29 de abril de 2017.Para la versión inglesa vea:]

Este es un momento en que nuestro país está profundamente dividido políticamente y religiosamente. La división entre cristianos es especialmente profunda y dolorosa, una reminiscencia de la profunda división entre los cuáqueros evangélicos y liberales que tuvo lugar en el siglo 19 y todavía persiste hoy en día. Afortunadamente, el Comité Mundial de Consulta de los Amigos  (CMCA) ha trabajado duro y con éxito para lograr la reconciliación entre las muchas ramas del Quakerismo. Es el único lugar donde conozco donde se puede encontrar la verdadera diversidad entre los Amigos: la diversidad étnica, racial y teológica. Sentí una increíble alegría inexpresable de estar entre los cuáqueros tan ricamente diversos!
Hoy me gustaría informar brevemente sobre la reciente reunión de la CMCA que tuvo lugar en Stony Point, NY. Esta fue una reunión de la Sección de las Américas. Participaron más de 120 amigos. 18 eran de América Latina. Debito a las duras políticas antiinmigrantes de nuestro actual Presidente, nos sentimos muy aliviados de que la mayoría de nuestros hermanos y hermanas latinoamericanos pudieron obtener visas. Los amigos provienen de todas las diferentes ramas de los cuáqueros: evangélicos, conservadores y no programados. Participaron no-teístas y cristianos creyentes en la Biblia. Adorábamos en silencio y también con cantos alegres y sermones. Durante los tiempos de compañerismo y de culto compartiendo en nuestros grupos caseros, llegamos a conocernos y apreciar el uno al otro como amigos.
Un punto culminante de la reunión fue el lanzamiento del nuevo programa de ministerio itinerante del CMCA. Siete Amigos del Norte y de América Latina fueron escogidos para este programa que esperamos nos llevó a conexiones más profundas entre Amigos.
Otros aspectos destacados fueron escuchar un sermón radical de un amigo cubano que trabaja para el Centro Martin Luther King en La Habana. Su reflexión fue tan poderosa que me convenció de que quiero viajar en el ministerio a Cuba lo antes posible y conocer mejor a los amigos cubanos. Jill y yo estamos pensando en ir en diciembre de este año. ¡Por favor, sosténgase en la Luz! También me impresionaron los poderosos sermones de Jonathan Vogel-Borne, un activista Quaker de Nueva Inglaterra, y Carl Magruder, un amado amigo de California que ahora trabaja como capellán.
Hubo muchos talleres que se ocuparon de una variedad de temas. Me sentí atraído por los talleres que se ocupan de la interrupción del clima. Sobre la base de mi experiencia con las reuniones del CMCA en Kenia y Perú, he llegado a ver que la sostenibilidad es tan importante para los cuáqueros como la paz en el siglo XXI. Dado que la alteración climática tiene consecuencias mundiales, afecta y une a los cuáqueros en todas partes. Los que viven en el sur global experimentan más directamente los efectos del cambio climático que los que vivimos en el norte. Las sequías, las inundaciones y la contaminación están causando graves daños a países como Perú, Bolivia y otros lugares donde viven los cuáqueros. Escuchamos sus historias y sentimos la necesidad de redoblar nuestros esfuerzos para trabajar para ser buenos administradores de nuestro hermoso y frágil planeta tierra.
Trabajamos en un addendum al minuto "Viviendo Sustentablemente" que fue aprobado en Pisac, Perú. Nos dimos cuenta de que la declaración de Pisac no incluía elementos importantes como la restauración de la tierra, el apoyo a la resistencia de las comunidades afectadas negativamente por la interrupción del clima y la profundización de la base espiritual de nuestro trabajo.

Ojalá pudiera compartir con ustedes algo de la alegría y el entusiasmo y la esperanza que sentíamos reunidos en el Stony Point Conference Center. Si quisiera que yo viniera a su reunión y hablara sobre el CMCA, estaría muy feliz de hacerlo.

He aquí un informe sobre nuestra reunión en Stony Point: El viernes 24 de marzo de 2017 diecisiete Amigos se reunieron en el Comité Mundial de Consulta de los Amigos para la Consulta (CMCA) en Stony Point, NY, para discutir el minuto de sostenibilidad aprobado en Pisac, Peru. Teníamos tres grupos de trabajo y aquí hay un informe sobre lo que ocurrió. Nos gustaría comenzar con una cita de Isaac Penington:''
"Sumérgete en la Semilla ... y encontrarás por dulce experiencia que el Señor sab
e ... y conducirá ... a la herencia de la Vida".
Poderoso aunque fuera de muchas maneras, sentimos que el minuto de la Sustentabilidad en Pisac trató principalmente con mitigar la interrupción anticipada del clima. Creemos firmemente que los Amigos necesitan ir más lejos. Debido a que la alteración climática ya está afectando negativamente a la Tierra, así como a las vidas de las personas y otros seres vivos, debemos considerar cómo podemos actuar en solidaridad con las comunidades afectadas por la disrupción climática a medida que se esfuerzan por responder, resistir o adaptarse. También debemos considerar formas en que podemos ayudar a restaurar el daño causado a la Tierra. Vemos la necesidad de un despertar espiritual tanto colectivo como personal que conduce a la acción transformadora dirigida por el espíritu. Para ser efectivos, necesitamos expresar alegría en los cambios que hemos hecho en nuestras vidas y compartir nuestra alegría con los demás. Para estar espiritualmente fundamentado, necesitamos profundizar nuestra relación con la naturaleza y conectarnos con la creación de Dios. Sugerimos que los Amigos que viajan en el ministerio a través de FWCC comparten el material de FWCC sobre sostenibilidad y recopilan historias sobre los efectos de la interrupción del clima en las comunidades locales y cómo están respondiendo. Instamos a cada uno de nosotros a llevar a cabo nuestro testimonio cuáquero sobre el cuidado de la tierra y elevarlo a todos los cuerpos de los que formamos parte.   Preguntas:
¿Cómo somos como cuáqueros viviendo nuestras vidas como si la interrupción del clima fuera real y realmente importante?
¿Cómo estamos mostrando solidaridad con los pueblos indígenas y marginados afectados por el trastorno climático?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Hilos invisibles que convierten las paredes en puentes

Anthony leyendo una poesía de Yevtushenko

Cuando hice esta reflexión en ICUJP, la traduje al español porque una mujer cubana estaba presente y quería que se sintiera incluida. Espero que los lectores de habla hispana disfruten de esto y envíen sus comentarios.
Si desea leer el original en inglés, vaya a este enlace:

Hoy en ICUJP quiero hablar de un poeta ruso que odiaba fronteras y muros y amaba construir puentes de entendimiento y conexión a través de su poesía. Su nombre es Evgeny Yevtushenko y murió recientemente a los 84 años, el 1 de abril de este año. Era de muchas maneras el Bob Dylan de la Unión Soviética, un apasionado defensor de los derechos humanos y la libertad. Se hizo mundialmente famoso escribiendo un poema llamado Babi Yar que denunció el antisemitismo. También denunció el estalinismo, la guerra y todo lo que sofocó el espíritu humano. Mientras estaba ayudando a editar una colección de poesía y ficción inspirada por los cuáqueros en la era de Reagan, llegué a viajar a la Unión Soviética y visitar a Yevtushenko en su casa de verano, su dacha, en Peredelkino. Me gustaría compartir con ustedes un poema que escribió en 1984, durante el período conocido como Glasnost. El poema se llama "En las fronteras".
Antes de hacerlo, quisiera decir algo sobre mi propio viaje y cómo me llevó a la Unión Soviética. La poesía fue mi entrada en el movimiento pacifista de la paz. He amado la poesía toda mi vida, pero no fue capaz de conectar con la paz hasta que me mudé a Filadelfia en 1984 y se involucró con los cuáqueros. Me atrajo un proyecto de libro que iba a ser editado y publicado en ambos países como una forma de superar los estereotipos mostrando que los estadounidenses y los rusos no son enemigos sino seres humanos. Esta idea me intrigó y me convertí en uno de los editores y publicistas del libro.
Yevgeny Yuvtushenko amó la idea de nuestro libro y estaba impaciente para encontrarnos con nosotros los cuáqueros, como eran muchos otros escritores soviéticos. Y estábamos encantados de encontrarnos con él desde que era una especie de estrella de rock. Cuando dio lecturas en este momento, decenas de miles de personas se presentaban, animándolo violentamente.
Yevtushenko publicó su primer libro de poemas cuando tenía sólo 19 años y sus primeros trabajos ganaron admiradores en Occidente que incluía a Robert Frost. Pero lo que lo hizo famoso fue Babi Yar, un poema que lleva el nombre de un lugar en Ucrania donde más de 30.000 judíos fueron masacrados.
Cuando Yevtushenko visitó a Babi Yar, se indignó al descubrir que ningún monumento conmemoraba esta terrible matanza. El antisemitismo fue desenfrenado en Ucrania y en Rusia, y algunos ucranianos colaboraron con los nazis para matar a los judíos. En este poema, Yevtushenko se identifica con aquellos judíos que fueron asesinados y perseguidos. El escribio:

"Yo mismo soy un grito masivo, silencioso
Sobre los mil mil enterrados aquí.
Yo soy cada hombre viejo aquí asesinado a tiros.
Soy todos los niños muertos aquí.
¡Nada en mí nunca olvidará!
La "Internationale", que es el trueno
Cuando el último antisemita en la tierra
Está enterrado para siempre.
En mi sangre no hay sangre judía.
En su furia insensible, todos los antisemitas
Debe odiarme ahora como judío.
Por eso, soy un verdadero ruso!

Yevtushenko se veía a sí mismo como un verdadero ruso, y verdadero socialista, porque tenía compasión por los pobres, los oprimidos, las víctimas de la persecución. Para Yevtushenkso, ser un verdadero ruso significaba odiar la guerra y luchar por la justicia. Estoy seguro de que le encantaría haber visitado un grupo como el nuestro.
No era un santo. Era un siberiano terrenal que amaba a las mujeres y tenía muchos amantes y esposas. Cuando lo conocí, se había casado con su cuarta y última esposa, un maestro considerablemente más joven que él. Nos dijo: "Probablemente piensas que ella parece muy joven. Pero cuando esté casada conmigo por un tiempo, no parecerá tan joven.” La forma en que lo dijo con su grueso acento siberiano parecía muy gracioso en ese momento.
También estaba fascinado con la religión. Quería saber todo acerca del Quakerismo y compartió con nosotros cómo se enfermó y visitó una iglesia y pidió sanidad delante de un icono. Este fue un sorprendente y un poco impactante procedente de un poeta que creció en un país comunista donde la religión fue mal visto, pero Yevtushenko tenía una mente abierta
No estaba interesado en la religión organizada, pero ciertamente era una persona espiritual, como el poeta Walt Whitman. Sentía la profunda unidad y conexión entre las personas y toda la vida.
Hoy estoy seguro de que estaría horrorizado por Trumpism y el surgimiento del nacionalismo intolerante en Europa y en Rusia. Yevtushenko amaba y estaba profundamente arraigado en su tierra natal, pero también era un internacionalista. Desde temprana edad expresó su desagrado por las fronteras. En 1958, cuando tenía 25 años y hubo severas restricciones de viaje a los rusos que viajaban al extranjero, escribió este poema sencillo, sincero y divertido:


Todas estas fronteras,
¡molestarme! Nada
Lo sé
De Buenos Aires, o
Nueva York
-Y yo debo
¡saber! Debería poder ir
a Londres
Y caminar alrededor,
Y hablar con la gente,
Incluso si no puedo hablar tan bien,
solo caminando
alrededor. Como un niño
Quiero montar en un autobús
A través de París
Alguna mañana
Y quiero un arte
eso es algo
De lo contrario, es un emocionante sonido-
¡como yo!

La poesía de Yevtushenko tenía un sonido único, descarado, tierno, ingenuo, mundano sabio, apasionado, divertido, el sonido de la sensación a veces chocantemente honesta, como la poesía popular de Bob Dylan. Los poemas de Yevtushenko hablaron a una generación creciente de rusos que estaban enfermos de muerte de la Cortina de Hierro y todo lo que representaba. Se hizo tan popular que las autoridades no sabían qué hacer con él, si lo encarcelarían o lo aclamarían como un símbolo de la Unión Soviética post-stalinista. Algunos disidentes radicales lo consideraron una venta por no ser más franco. Pero Yevtushenko no temía correr riesgos; Defendió a los disidentes y se alineó con los del cambio radical del cambio social en su país. Era un soñador, un visionario.
Y su sueño de superar las fronteras se hacen realidad. Durante su carrera viajó a más de 92 países para dar lecturas de poesía. Y llegó a enseñar en un lugar que amaba: Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sí, prefería Oklahoma a Nueva York, probablemente porque le recordaba la pequeña ciudad donde creció en Siberia-Estación de Zima. Yevtushenko amaba a la gente, tanto a los estadounidenses como a los rusos ...
Por eso elegimos este poema para presentar nuestra colección llamada "La Experiencia Humana".

Es un reto leer uno de los poemas de Yevtushenko y hacerlo justicia. Un poeta que oyó a Yevtushenko leer en Madison, WI, escribió:

Olvídate de tus slams, de tu rap, de tu Bukowski fumando borracho en el escenario. Echa un vistazo a Yevtushenko si alguna vez tiene la oportunidad. Él trajo toda Rusia, poesía, historia, cultura, su vida al escenario. Gritaba, susurraba, cantaba a las vigas, se reía, parecía humilde, agresivo, desafiante, agitaba los brazos, paseaba por el escenario, incluso entraba en la audiencia, como el viejo Phil Donahue, recitando sus poemas de corazón a la gente , Especialmente. Bueno, no voy a ir tan lejos, pero voy a usar mi sombrero ruso y haré todo lo posible para leer como un ruso, y espero que te dé una idea de cómo es este poeta ruso único.

En las fronteras
Un verso de "Fuku"

En cada puesto fronterizo
Hay algo inseguro.
Cada uno de ellos
Está anhelando hojas y flores.
Ellos dicen “El mayor castigo para un árbol
Es convertirse en un puesto fronterizo.”
 Los pájaros que se detienen para descansar
En los puestos fronterizos
No puedo entender
Qué tipo de árbol han aterrizado. supongo
Que al principio, fueron las personas las que inventaron las fronteras,
Y luego las fronteras
Comenzó a inventar a la gente.
Fueron las fronteras las que inventaron la policía,
Ejércitos y guardias fronterizos.
Fueron las fronteras las que inventaron
Aduanas-hombres, pasaportes, y otras mierdas.
Gracias a Dios,
Tenemos roscas y hilos invisibles,
Nacido de los hilos de sangre
Desde las uñas en las palmas de Cristo.
Estos hilos luchan a través,
Desgarrando el alambre de púas
Amor principal para unirme al amor
Y la angustia de unirse con la angustia.
Y una lágrima,
Que se evaporó en alguna parte del Paraguay,
Caerán como un copo de nieve
Sobre la mejilla congelada de un esquimal.
Y un rascacielos de Nueva York Con moretones de neón,
Llorando el olor olvidado de los arados,
Sueña sólo con abrazar una solitaria torre del Kremlin,
Pero lamentablemente eso no está permitido.
El telón de acero,
Desgraciadamente gritando sus cerebros oxidados,
Probablemente piensa: "Oh, si yo no fuera una frontera,
Si las manos alegres me separan Y construir de mis restos sangrientos
Carruseles, guarderías y escuelas ".
En mis sueños más oscuros veo Mi antepasado prehistórico:
Coleccionaba cráneos como trofeos En las sombrías bóvedas de su cueva,
Y con el punto ensangrentado de una punta de lanza de piedra
Marcó la primera frontera Sobre la faz de la tierra.        
Era una colina de cráneos.
Ahora se ha convertido en un Everest.
La tierra fue transformada
Mientras que las fronteras siguen estando
Y se convirtió en un lugar de entierro gigante.
Todos estamos en la prehistoria.
La historia real comenzará Cuando todas las fronteras se han ido.
La tierra todavía está marcada,
Mutilado con las cicatrices de las guerras.
Ahora la matanza se ha convertido en un arte,
Cuando una vez fue meramente un oficio:
De todos esos miles de fronteras
Sólo hemos perdido el ser humano,
La frontera entre el bien y el mal.
Pero mientras todavía tenemos hilos invisibles
Uniéndose a cada uno
Con millones de seres,
No hay verdaderos estados de superpotencia.
Cualquier alma frágil en esta tierra
Es la verdadera superpotencia.
Mi gobierno
Es toda la familia del hombre, a la vez.
Cada mendigo es mi mariscal,
Dándome órdenes
Sólo reconozco una raza
La raza de todas las razas.
¡Cuán extraño es la palabra extranjero!
Tengo cuatro millones y medio de líderes.
Y yo bailo mi ruso, Mi danza desafiante a la muerte
 Sobre los hilos invisibles
Que conectan los corazones de la gente.

Convertir el Cortina de Hierro en un patio de recreo parecía una fantasía de poeta en 1984, pero eso es, en realidad, lo que sucedió con el desmantelamiento del Muro de Berlín. La Guerra Fría terminó en parte gracias a soñadores como Yevtuskenko y pacificadores como los cuáqueros e innumerables otros. No sólo soñamos con acabar con la Guerra Fría, también nos arremangamos las mangas e hicimos todo lo posible para que esto sucediera. Como dijo Yevtushenko,

"Mi generación de poetas hizo muchas cosas para romper la Cortina de Hierro. Herimos nuestras manos rompiendo esta Cortina de Hierro con nuestras manos desnudas. No trabajamos con guantes.

Creo que podemos aprender mucho de este evento extraordinario. Hoy necesitamos usar las mismas herramientas para romper los muros de Trumpism. Necesitamos imaginación y trabajo duro, necesitamos poetas y activistas, trabajadores y soñadores, maestros y estudiantes, gente de fe y gente de conciencia, madres y padres, una coalición de todos los colores, etnias y orientaciones sexuales, todos trabajando juntos para derribar Muros de temor y construir puentes de paz y entendimiento. Como dijo un poeta estadounidense Robert Frost: "Algo hay que no ama a un muro, eso lo quiere abajo." ¿Puedo obtener un Amén?