ACTION for peace & justice

A vision for peace with justice
Approved May 11, 2024

At a Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business May 11, 2024, TCFM endorsed a statement on the Middle East jointly drafted by a eight Quaker organizations. Those initial signers appear on the statement reprinted below; updates can be found here, on the American Friends Service Committee website. Other Quaker groups are invited to visit that site to endorse the statement.

A Different Future Is Possible
Quaker organizations share a vision
for peace in Palestine and Israel

April 12, 2024

For centuries, Quakers have worked for peace. This mission is a practical expression of the nonviolent message of the gospels and the teaching reflected in the many religions around the world: love your neighbor as yourself.

Quakers believe in the inherent worth of every individual and have a history of supporting both Palestinian and Israeli communities in the region. One of our organizations, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), established the first refugee camps in Gaza in 1949 and continues to work in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel today. Indeed, we have a longstanding presence in what is now Israel and Palestine, dating back to the 1800s. Quakers established the Ramallah Friends Schools over 150 years ago, one of the first institutions to educate Palestinian women. Palestinian Quakers continue to worship at the historic Friends Meeting House in Ramallah.

With these deep roots, we speak with firsthand knowledge. In a context where entrenched inequality, violence, and injustice have persisted for decades, we anticipated that desperation would eventually boil over - and sadly, it has. The last six months have been marked by constant grief. The devastating attack by Hamas on October 7th in Israel claimed the lives of 1,163 Israelis and resulted in over 250 people being taken hostage. As of early April 2024, Israel's subsequent attacks on Gaza have killed at least 33,000 Palestinians, with thousands missing and presumed dead under the rubble.

Since October 7th, over 7,500 Palestinians from the West Bank and thousands more from Gaza, including children, have been imprisoned, many without charge or trial. Shockingly, more than 40 percent of those killed in Gaza have been children, surpassing the global count of child casualties in all other conflicts from 2019 to 2022. Countless children have been orphaned and maimed as a result.

In Gaza, hospitals, schools, universities, aid distribution centers, mosques, and churches have all been bombed and destroyed, leaving no safe space. Over 70% of homes have been damaged or destroyed, with more than 1.9 million people displaced.

Essential systems such as healthcare, water, and sanitation have collapsed, leading to preventable deaths, surgeries without anesthesia, and pregnant women giving birth in tents and without proper care.

AFSC staff in Gaza have shared horrendous accounts of starvation used as a tool of war. Children in Gaza are starving to death. The World Health Organization predicts that up to 80,000 more lives will be lost to disease and starvation if no immediate action is taken. This crisis surpasses anything many of us have witnessed in our decades of responding to disasters worldwide.

The continued restrictions on aid access and Israel's failure to respect and protect humanitarian workers have created an environment where it is nearly impossible for organizations to provide assistance. This dire situation has pushed the Gaza population to the brink of extreme food insecurity and imminent famine. Hundreds of local and foreign aid workers have been targeted and killed, and AFSC's relief staff continue to face extreme insecurity, sharing with us that they are “still alive by chance.”

Disturbingly, instead of increasing aid provisions, major actors such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and other members of the international community have cut off or delayed funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Unproven Israeli allegations linking UNRWA employees to the October 7th attack have had severe repercussions on the welfare of the most vulnerable population the agency serves.

Immediate action is needed so that killings and suffering can end. That starts with a permanent ceasefire, the release of hostages and prisoners, and unrestricted humanitarian access in Gaza.

In January, the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel's actions in Gaza might constitute genocide. Regrettably, Israel has taken no steps to change its behavior since this ruling, ignoring the court’s provisional measures. Western governments, especially the United States, the United Kingdom, and key European states, continue to provide arms and support to Israel. Their complicity, along with unilateral vetoes preventing repeated ceasefire resolutions at the UN Security Council, raises concerns about international commitments to multilateralism and respect for international legal frameworks.

Finally, Western leaders must look beyond this moment and work towards achieving a just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel. Violence is not limited to Gaza. More than 500 Palestinians, including more than 100 children, have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and settlers since October 7. Settler and military violence has resulted in the complete depopulation of 16 Palestinian villages, causing fear and tension to permeate the whole population. Restricting worship and access to mosques and churches further infringes on freedom of worship and exacerbates tensions.

Over the last several years, a growing number of international human rights organizations have recognized Israel's treatment of Palestinians as meeting the legal definition of apartheid. In the face of this pervasive injustice, Quakers stand firm in our witness, as we have throughout history against racial inequality, South African apartheid, and all forms of war.

Even in this time of violence and pain, we hold the belief that a different future, free from injustice and violence, is possible. Lasting peace and reconciliation will be realized when both past and ongoing injustices are acknowledged and addressed, ensuring freedom, dignity, equal rights, and justice for all people living in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Let us work together to make this vision a reality.

Now is the time for action. As Quakers and as peacemakers we are called to actively live into our testimonies of equality and peace. To this end, we urgently put forward these calls to action:

To the Israeli government:

  1. End attacks on Gaza, commit to a permanent ceasefire, withdraw from reoccupied areas of Gaza,and end the Gaza blockade.
  2. Cease settler and military violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
  3. Guarantee uninterrupted, unconditional, swift, and adequate humanitarian access in Gaza and open land crossings.
  4. Hold accountable those who have violated the law or committed human rights abuses, including settlers.
  5. Release Palestinian political prisoners and hostages and provide fair trials following international standards free from coercion, torture, and abuse.
  6. Guarantee the self-determination of Palestinians by ending its occupation of all Palestinian territory and ensure Palestinians and Israelis share equal human, political, and civil rights currently denied under Israeli Occupation.

To Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups:

  1. Release Israeli hostages.
  2. Commit to and maintain a permanent ceasefire as a long-term, just, and sustainable peace is sought.
  3. Hold accountable those who have violated the law or committed human rights abuses.

To Western leaders and the US and UK governments in particular:

  1. Urgently press for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and Israel.
  2. End complicity in Israeli human rights violations and exert levers of power with immediate economic and political pressure on the government of Israel, including imposing an arms embargo.
  3. Actively work to ensure uninterrupted humanitarian access in Gaza, especially through ground entry points, and commit to funding and protecting UNRWA.
  4. Hold accountable those who have violated the law or committed human rights abuses.
  5. Uphold international law, demand equal accountability for State and non-state actors, and enforce the ICJ provisions imposed on Israel.
  6. Support an end to Israel’s occupation and equal protection and rights for all.
  7. Ensure an inclusive political process for peace that incorporates all voices, perspectives, and political factions, especially those marginalized or acting as potential spoilers and those most affected by injustice and violence.

As Friends, we will continue to support the global community of Quakers to:

  1. Urgently call and fervently work for a permanent ceasefire and amplify our voices in our communities and at the local, state, and national levels.
  2. Encourage decision-makers calling for a ceasefire and working for peace. Organize and participate in teach-ins, actions, and protests until a ceasefire and a just and lasting peace are realized.
  3. Actively support an end to Israel’s occupation and equal protection and rights for all people living under Israeli control and commit to actions as meetings/churches until this reality is realized.
  4. Divest from corporations profiting from militarism, including the occupation of Palestine.
  5. Support those in Israel and Palestine who are working for peace.

Signed,

American Friends Service Committee
Canadian Friends Service Committee
Friends World Committee for Consultation
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Quakers in Britain
Quaker Council on European Affairs
Quaker Peace and Social Witness
Quaker United Nations Office

The above Quaker organizations jointly drafted this statement. We invite all Friends meetings, churches, schools, and organizations to join us in endorsing this call for peace with justice. Sign onto the statement by following this link: www.afsc.org/visionforpeace.

 

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At the January 13, 2024 Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, TCFM approved a new Minute on the Middle East, which includes updated information and additional proposed action (see also the Minute approved December 9, 2023, below). As before, Friends are encouraged to individually contact their U.S. senators and representatives on this issue using the Friends Committee on National Legislation's electronic letter toolkit linked here.

Minute on the Middle East

Approved January 13, 2024

Twin Cities Friends Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) calls for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East, an end to the United States providing weapons of war, and swift action to ensure urgently needed humanitarian assistance.

We have witnessed violence and terror caused by Hamas’ attacks killing over 1200 Israelis and the inhumane treatment of civilians, including taking hostages with 150 still held. Since October 7, 2023 and at the time of this writing, the Israeli response has claimed the lives of more than 23,469 Palestinians, 40% of them children.  Another 10,000 Palestinians are estimated to be buried under rubble.  Over 1.9 million people have been displaced from their homes, and over 60% of homes in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed. The United Nations warns that half of the population of Gaza is at risk of starvation.

More armed conflict and weapons won’t bring peace. In the face of growing violence, lawmakers must:

  • Publicly call for a ceasefire, de-escalation, and respect for international law.
  • Protect lives, including hostages, all civilians and members of the military.
  • Stop providing military aid in the Middle East.
  • Greatly expand funding and access for humanitarian aid, including rebuilding Palestinian infrastructure.
  • Address the root causes underlying this explosion of violence.

Quakers have a long history of testimony against all war. We recognize that the seeds of war are sown long before military conflict begins, and that peace requires justice. To that end, we urge the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

 

*  *  *

Minute:
The U.S. Must Act to De-Escalate the Violence in Israel and Palestine

Approved December 9, 2023

At the December 9, 2023 Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, TCFM approved a Minute regarding the conflict in the Middle East. TCFM is sending the following Minute to each United States senator and representative representing our members and attenders. Friends are encouraged to individually contact their U.S. senators and representatives on this issue using the Friends Committee on National Legislation's electronic letter toolkit linked here.

 

The letter to Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar follows.

Dear Senator Klobuchar:

Twin Cities Friends Meeting presents this Minute for your consideration as a reflection of your constituents’ values and concerns. Twin Cities Friends Meeting includes about 140 adult members and attenders in Minnesota.

The following Minute was approved at our Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business on December 9, 2023:

“The U.S. Must Act to De-Escalate the Violence in Israel and Palestine.

Our Quaker commitment to nonviolence calls us to speak out following the recent violence in Israel and Gaza. As Quakers, we deeply mourn the loss of all lives and pray for those who have lost loved ones due to this latest escalation.

More war and weapons won’t bring peace. In the face of growing violence, lawmakers must:

    • Publicly call for a ceasefire, de-escalation, and respect for international law.
    • Protect lives—those of the hostages and all civilians.
    • Address the root causes underlying this explosion of violence.

We urge Congress to call for an immediate ceasefire, de-escalation, and restraint to prevent further civilian harm in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, are part of an international religious community who seek to facilitate the creation of a peaceful, equitable, just world, and an earth restored.

Minutes are a way that Quakers communicate actions we have chosen to take as a meeting, or worshipping body. They are vital to the Quaker community as a way to formally record a way forward and exercise faithful actions in the world.

We encourage you to act on the concern we raise in this Minute and look forward to hearing your response.

With respect,

 

Peter Rode, Clerk, Twin Cities Friends Meeting

Mary Ellen Shaw, Clerk, TCFM Peace and Justice Committee

COMMUNITY

TCFM Committees

Since we are an unpastored meeting, volunteer committees make up the organizational backbone of our community, coordinating worship, social events, activism, and pastoral care. Click here to view the roster of TCFM committees and their members.

These groups meet at or around TCFM on a monthly basis

Note that during the COVID-19 pandemic, some meetings have moved online while others have been canceled. To get an update on a particular group, contact the person listed. The weekly announcement sheet and monthly newsletter include updates about groups like these and their meeting plans. To get on the email list, contact office@tcfm.org.

Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business (MWB): Held on Zoom on the second Saturday of the month at 9:30 a.m., with virtual fellowship starting at 9:00. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to take part, especially newcomers.

Old Friends, a group for seniors, meets on the first Monday of the month at TCFM for a potluck and program (restarted in April 2024 after a hiatus).

Needleworkers Anonymous meets the first Friday of every month on Zoom. All are welcome, with or without a project! Contact Anne Holzinger for more info: anneholzinger@hotmail.com.

Young Adults (generally 18-35) typically meet on a quasi-monthly basis. During the lockdown they have organized some socially distanced get-togethers. If you would like to get on the email list, contact: yaf@tcfm.org.

Quakers Without God meets regularly on the fourth Monday of each month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The group aims to provide friendly and inclusive fellowship for people who have varying views of spirituality. All are welcome. For further information contact Dave Crawford, grownativeplants@hotmail.com.

Friends With Nature meets monthly on 4th Saturdays. Weather permitting, meetings are walks at natural areas around the Twin Cities.  Zoom conversations instead if weather or other conditions make this advisable. Nerd out about nature, with spiritual interjections as Spirit may lead us. Please email Dave Crawford, grownativeplants@hotmail.com, to RSVP for each meeting and to get details of the location for the month.

Toward Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples (TRRIP) are people moved to take collective action regarding Indigenous concerns. Our purpose is to listen to and act in solidarity with Indigenous peoples to work towards the world we jointly envision. We are open to ways that Friends can act in support of the immediate needs and long-term aims of Indigenous peoples, as expressed by Indigenous organizations and leaders.

We also participate in the work of these local and national organizations:

Loaves and Fishes: Together with other Metro area Friends, Ismaili Community of Minnesota, and the Mayim Rabim Congregation, we help to serve a meal at Holy Rosary Church in Minneapolis four or five times a year on the fifth Monday of the month. Volunteers are always needed to help prepare food, serve the meal, and clean up afterward. Greg Leierwood coordinates: email him at leie0002@umn.edu to learn more about volunteering.

Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS): We and the other Twin Cities meetings support a QVS house in Minneapolis. QVS Fellows are provided with room and board and do volunteer work in the local community for a year. > learn more.

Friends for a NonViolent World (FNVW): FNVW pursues the Quaker vision of removing the causes of war, through programs that bring Friends together in common cause. > visit FNVW. The organization is currently focused on just policing through their Bridging the Divides Program program.

American Friends Service Committee: The Saint Paul office of AFSC is focused on restorative justice practices and anti-racist education, and leads a Freedom School program for local youth every year.
> visit the national website for AFSC
> visit the Saint Paul AFSC website