For this issue I wanted to have articles about equality. It is a core testimony of Quakers, and also an issue which has been in the news lately. What could economic equality look like? How do we achieve racial equality, especially with First Nations people? Will we ever have real gender equality? During the pandemic we sometimes had flashes of hope for equality, but have there been any substantial changes?
The first articles to arrive showed that Friends have been reflecting on many things – how does our use of language unite us, or does it in fact divide us? What do we mean by God? What does it mean to believe or not believe in God? I recall a Uniting Church minister who taught the prayer: “Help me to leave behind the God in whom I no longer believe, and to find the God who believes in me.”
There were articles about war, about how Quakers reacted to the Boer war, about how to heal the ongoing trauma of acts of violence committed in the name of nationalism.
And finally we received some very thoughtful articles about equality. The QSA notes tell of the deep thought that goes into designing a program that promotes equality. Evan Gallagher writes of enabling equality for LGBTIQ people. Kenise Neill writes of the struggle to meet Aboriginal people on an equal basis. Helen Webb reflects on the effects of COVID in both bringing people together and keeping them apart. Which brings us back to technology. A great gift, or a real curse?
So finally a reminder that Yearly Meeting will again be by zoom. A great benefit to the environment, and to isolated Friends. A financial benefit to the society, and an opportunity to those who found Yearly Meeting too expensive. But to many Friends, also a loss. We live in interesting times!
for the AF committee
Jan de Voogd, a Member of NSW Regional Meeting who died recently, left a number of typed reminiscences in his flat. This is one of them:
On Being Paterns and Examples
I want to tell you a story of what happened to me in Sri Lanka some 15 years ago. I was accompanying a Roman Catholic Priest, Father Sarath. Peace Brigades was concerned he would disappear or be abducted if he returned to Sri Lanka. As he was a committed peace and social justice worker I was very happy to accompany him. As I travelled with him in Sri Lanka I was increasingly concerned at the risks he was taking. How could I protect him if he behaved like that? I shared my concern with Father Aloy where we were staying. One day Father Aloy said mass for a small group of us. When he said, “this is my body broken for you” he did not go on to say “do this is remembrance of me”, instead he said “let this be an example unto you”….”This is my body broken for you. Let this be an example unto you.” While I knew that followers of Gandhi and Christ need to have faith and be fearless, I was not ready to accept that Father Sarath should risk his life while I was responsible for his safety. I know now that I was wrong. He was being led by his love for the oppressed and powerless. As a follower of Christ he had little choice.