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Birmingham Friends Meeting on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Minute passed by Birmingham Friends Meeting (PA) on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

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National Field Organizer

The Friends Committee on National Legislation seeks an experienced organizer and advocate to direct, inspire, and manage our fast growing network of grassroots advocates building deep relationships with members of Congress and their staff. Today, FCNL’s dynamic network of nearly 100 Advocacy Teams includes some 1,500 people in nearly 40 states who regularly meet with members of Congress and their staff, and publish letters to the editor and op-eds. These teams are also thought leaders for FCNL as we develop and workshop new tools and approaches to citizen engagement with Congress.

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Congress Can Act to Prevent Genocide and Atrocities

With the recent escalation of the war in Syria, it is clear that Congress needs to demonstrate their leadership and pass the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (H.R.3030; S.1158).

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75th Anniversary Celebration

Join FCNL for a weekend of events as we celebrate our 75th anniversary, honor the work of those who came before us, and look forward to the years ahead as we continue working towards the world we seek.

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Members of Congress Demand Vote on Syria War

We applaud members of Congress of both parties for calling for a constitutionally-mandated debate and vote on use of force in Syria.

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Update: 88 Reps Tell Trump to Seek Authorization Before Further Escalation in Syria

UPDATE: Thanks for all who called your reps to sign on! Eighty-eight members of Congress signed the Lofgren-Amash-Lee-Massie letter to President Trump, urging him to seek authorization before further escalation in Syria.

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Inside the Greenhouse

Inside the Greenhouse is a monthly newsletter that provides insight into FCNL’s environmental work, discusses opportunities to engage members of Congress on environmental issues, and shares stories of your work around the country. This year, our climate team is joined by FCNL’s Advocacy Corps, a group of 20 young people nationwide, in working for congressional action on climate change.

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Right of Refugees, Right to Demonstrate Peacefully, Right to Dignity

FCNL has joined other faith-based organizations in condemning the Israeli government’s recent violence against Palestinian civilians.

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FCNL Submits Comment to USDA on Proposed Work Requirements for SNAP

FCNL submitted a comment to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) about a new rule that was recently proposed. The rule would place new requirements on Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) within the SNAP program, and would place restrictions on their access to SNAP benefits.

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FCNL Sends Letter Urging Senators to Oppose Haspel for Director of CIA

On April 3, FCNL’s Executive Secretary Diane Randall sent a letter to the Senate urging them to oppose the nomination of Gina Haspel for Director of the CIA.

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2018 Blue Ridge Gathering

Christine Ashley, Quaker Field Secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation, presents ways that Friends meetings can work with FCNL on legislative advocacy.

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Tennesseans and Bob Corker can help prevent global genocide

Thursday is Yom HaShoah – or Holocaust Remembrance Day – which honors the memory of the six million Jews who perished during World War II. The remembrance of this genocide underscores that there is much more we need to do to make good on our commitment “never again” to allow such atrocities to take place.

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Call TODAY: Urge Congress to Stop Unlawful Escalation in Syria

A bipartisan group of representatives is leading a letter to President Trump urging him to seek authorization from Congress before further U.S. military escalation in Syria. More U.S. bombs won’t stop the bloodshed, and risk further escalating the crisis. This letter could close as early as TODAY (Thurs 4-12), so call your member of Congress ASAP.

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Members of Congress Speak Out Against Syria Escalation

We applaud members of Congress of both parties for calling for a constitutionally-mandated debate and vote on use of force in Syria.

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Call TODAY: Urge Congress to Stop Unlawful Escalation in Syria

A bipartisan group of representatives is leading a letter to President Trump urging him to seek authorization from Congress before further U.S. military escalation in Syria. More U.S. bombs won’t stop the bloodshed, and risk further escalating the crisis. This letter could close as early as TOMORROW (Thurs 4-12), so call your member of Congress ASAP.

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A sanctuary atmosphere: creating safe, emotional and mental space for people in solitary

Ending mass incarceration Sanctuary Spaces

Note: In a very honest conversation, AFSC Prison Watch Coordinator, Bonnie Kerness, explores the different ways she believes one can experience sanctuary: in isolation, in groups and from within.

What is sanctuary, what is the definition? For me part of it is recognition. It is not only that we are housing an individual, it is that we recognize that individual. More broadly, it is about providing a safe space for impacted communities, including those inside prison. It is about giving them that space to speak, and giving them that personal recognition. 

Sanctuary in isolation

AFSC publishes "Survivor’s Manual: Surviving in Solitary,” – which was written by and for people living in isolation and which includes letters to AFSC. The manual represents an opportunity for those currently in prison to read political analysis, and through the words shared in these letters, to see that they are not alone in their struggle. 

We are one of very few organizations in the country who take the words of prisoners, the wisdom learned from what they go through, and how they survive, and then place them into a survivor’s manual. We send hard copies to prisoners for free, and share the links with family members and volunteers, other advocate agencies and students. It’s parents, the loved ones of prisoners and people inside prison themselves who find sanctuary from this and a level of peace within themselves. I’m reminded me of a quote: “They may have my body, but they don't have my soul and they don't have my mind.” To push through legislation on isolation is one thing, but to hear the voice of someone who is going through it share their survival strategies with another prisoner, another family -- there's a bridge there, something unifying that happens between people.

Some of the most brilliant submissions to the Survival’s Manual were literal instructions: When you wake up, you spend an hour working out, then you turn on your radio and listen to National Public Radio for an hour, then you write letters. The prisoners advise to stay street oriented by getting a subscription to a newspaper through a family member. There are instructions for Tai Chi, meditation and more. The folks inside are reading about the experience of others inside and how they survived – there is such a strong a level of community there. This very same dynamic comes through in all of AFSC's publications that contains the voices of those inside.

Sanctuary in groups

Sanctuary becomes a way to grow, a way to gain skills, especially when you have sanctuary with one another. We had a youth group that was very much sanctuary oriented in that the young people had a place to come three days a week after school. It ended up being that they were there five days a week – they didn’t want to be on the streets; they wanted to be safe. They wanted, even when there was no programming, to be there learning computer skills and about non-profits, advocacy and organizing. In one case it even led to these young people organizing about the quality of school lunches. Sanctuary is having a safe space and being able to communicate with people who "get you.”

Sanctuary within

I'm looking at a thesaurus: asylum, refuge, shelter, haven, safety, protection, immunity, place of safety – and that very much describes what happens internally to people who want to stay healthy inside, while they're in prison.

There is a man whose family comes from the United Arab Emirates. He was arrested in Pakistan and charged with terrorism. During sentencing, he received 45 years and he will do them in isolation. We first heard about him through his father who was highly upset and agitated when he reached out to every group he could think of in the United States: Human Rights Watch, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights. AFSC was the only one who responded. The man’s father maintained contact with us, and we did all we could to comfort him. 

When the man’s mother came here for the trial and the sentencing, one of our volunteers accompanied her to court. Each time she came out to the office she saw the kind of work that we were doing and engaged with the students. For her to be able to speak, to share with students and volunteers her story, to be in a non-judgmental space, is sanctuary.

We attempted to get the Survivor’s Manual into this young man’s hands a number of times through the lawyers, but he never received it. Eventually, by talking with the prison authorities, we were able to send it directly to him. He had been in isolation for four years and felt that the thoughts he had meant he was losing his mental abilities – he thought he was going crazy. It wasn't until after he had read the words of all the other prisoners who had been through this that he felt comforted. He felt equipped to provide for himself. The manual helped him look in healthy directions inside himself. He said he felt more at peace than he had in years. That to me is sanctuary. 

Prisoners in women's institutions, students, and volunteers – many of whom are recently released women are now working on "From Her Mouth to Your Ears: A Survivor's Manual by and for Women in Prison." This is a community of people who know how important sanctuary is. 

And I believe that sanctuary can be individual, it can be group based, it can be an atmosphere. Sanctuary doesn’t have to be a physical space. What AFSC is transmitting is that sanctuary can also be an emotional and mental space.

I can remember being impressed with one prisoner; he was just so mentally healthy considering he had been abused - something happened with a guard. We were talking about anger, and he said one of the things that AFSC has taught him is that to be angry at a guard is a waste of energy; it's the system that is causing this, not that guard. And I thought to myself, wow, that's something we taught, and we didn't even know we taught it. In our writings, the literature alone is sanctuary. Not just the survivor’s manuals, but all the literature that AFSC produced historically, are treasures. 

Read the Survivor’s Manual.


Related posts 

Sanctuary Spaces: An introduction  

Sanctuary Spaces: A place for healing from incarceration - part 1

Sanctuary Spaces: A place for healing from incarceration – part 2

Sanctuary Spaces: Pushing back oppressive systems from the inside out - part 1

Sanctuary Spaces: Pushing back oppressive systems from the inside out - part 2

Longing to be free: Speaking up for Gaza during the Great Return March

Building peace Ending discrimination Palestine-Israel

Note: This action event in Chicago was organized in three days and supported by these Chicago area organizations: American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Middle East Task Force/Chicago Presbytery, US Palestinian Community Network.

Why are we here, people ask us?

We are here in the cold streets of Chicago because we are outraged that our elected leaders are silent when Palestinians nonviolently protesting for their rights are gunned down by Israeli snipers and Israeli-operated drones.

For a second Friday in a row, Palestinians are protesting in Gaza as part of a nonviolent protest known as the Great Return March. Seven Palestinians have been killed today and others have been seriously wounded. Palestinians in Gaza have said they will remain on the border and will continue Friday protests through May 15th, demanding action to address Israel's occupation and denial of their rights.

Last Friday, an estimated 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza took part in the protest. The Israeli military responded with a brutal show of force, opening fire on protesters and deploying tear gas with drones.

By the end of the weekend, 18 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli fire and over 1,400 more were injured. Yesterday, the number of Palestinians killed from last Friday’s protest was 22. No Israelis were killed or injured.

Palestinians today used burning tires to protect themselves from Israeli sniper fire as they returned to the Gaza boundary.

Palestinian human rights lawyer Raji Sourani explained that Palestinians in Gaza, "After all this pain and suffering, people wanted to demonstrate for their dignity, for their rights of having an end to this indiscriminate, illegal, inhumane siege."

This year marks 70 years since Palestinian refugees arrived in Gaza, thousands fleeing the war in 1948. Since that time Palestinians have demanded their rights under international law to return to their homes. For Palestinians in Gaza, their home villages and towns are located just over the boundary fence in present-day Israel. The Great Return March highlights the injustice of the unresolved issue of Palestinian refugees. Palestinian writer Saree Makdisi writes today in the LA Times, “Palestinians are not merely a ragtag collection of refugees; they are a people purposefully kept from their homes by an army of occupation.”

Why are we here? Because we believe that people should live in dignity and freedom.

This week we are remembering the life and death of Martin Luther King. In his famous April 3rd speech “I’ve Been to the Mountain top” 50 years ago, Dr. King said:

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee - the cry is always the same: "We want to be free."

Palestinians in Gaza want to be free. They do not want to be a name that we call out in remembrance for their death, or to be represented by a pinwheel in the sands of Lake Michigan, or worse to be a statistic without a name in a news report.

We are in Chicago today, not on a mountain top, but we must use our voices to speak for Palestinians in Gaza – those who have been killed and those who remain alive and steadfast in their desire to be free.

Yesterday a volunteer at AFSC in Chicago called every Illinois Congressional office to see if they have a statement on the killings in Gaza. Not one did.

Israel receives $3.8 billion in U.S. military aid every year, making it the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance. U.S. laws, such as the "Leahy Law," the Arms Export Control Act, and the Foreign Assistance Act, are supposed to prevent U.S. weapons from being used by other countries to commit human rights violations. Countries that violate these laws are subject to penalties, including a cut-off of additional weapons.

The Israeli government must be held accountable for its actions.

We are here today to call on our members of congress to hold Israel accountable for killing Palestinian protesters in Gaza.

As Gaza writer Rawan Yaghi wrote after attending the Great Return March last week, “I left the protest thinking of the rest of Gaza — shellshocked for years, its borders closed and its United Nations-funded infrastructure in decay. I thought of the kids in my neighborhood who play football in what used to be the ground floor of a tall residential building, with bare concrete columns and poking iron rods as their only audience. And I thought: Once again, Gaza the Injured has come out to protest, and to scream for life.”

Let’s hear these screams for life. And act now.

FCNL: Horrors in Syria Demand Diplomatic Action and De-Escalation

FCNL urges Congress to take two important steps to end the Syrian crisis: press the Trump administration to immediately undertake robust diplomatic negotiations and vote to stop the United States from widening this devastating war.

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Congress Needs a Push on Conflict Prevention

This month, Congress has an important opportunity to take concrete steps to bolster our government’s ability to build peace and prevent atrocities against civilians. Early action to prevent violence will reduce the need for late military intervention, protect lives, and save taxpayer money. This is why it’s important for us to take stock, remember the past, and work to prevent future outbreaks of violence. Members of Congress can help support conflict prevention, but they need a push to get there.

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28 Organizations Urge Congress to Fund Conflict Prevention

Twenty-eight national and international organizations urge robust funding for the international affairs budget including programs that prevent violent conflict, mitigate atrocities and protect civilians.

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