The query “how do the ways in which we choose to use our community’s resources reflect our most deeply held values?” is answered in part by the deep engagement of Richmond Friends Meeting in the first few months of 2009.
During the winter session of the Virginia General Assembly, the RFM community was active in sharing Friends views on legislative issues that impact poverty and social justice issues during Virginia Friends Advocacy Day.
Our mid-February Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business was especially rich because of the presence of Young Friends attending the weekend-long BYM Youth Conference at our Meeting House.
On November 23, Al Simmons from the RFM community and five other human rights advocates engaged in a nonviolent act of civil disobedience to protest the School of the Americas (SOA)/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), by “crossing the line” or trespassing onto the Fort Benning military base in Georgia, where the school is held. The Richmond Peace Education Center, Pax Christi, Midlothian Friends Meeting, and RFM co-sponsored a forum on March 15 to provide information and perspective about the activities at the SOA, a training facility for Latin American soldiers, many of whom have been implicated in the rapes, murders, and disappearances of their own people. RFM, in its March Meeting for Business, approved a minute to de-fund and close the SOA/WHINSEC. We continue to hold Al in the Light as he serves a 60-day federal trespassing sentence at the Butner, NC Federal Correctional Institution.
In March, RFM joined members and leaders of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities in the Greater Richmond area in an Interfaith Commitment for Peace in the Middle East. The multi-faceted statement called on “all parties involved in the conflict to work sincerely and vigorously toward a just and lasting peace that addresses and promotes the national aspirations of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.” Separately, RFM issued a minute calling for the U.S. government to engage in robust diplomatic initiatives for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For complete transcripts of both statements, visit our website at www.richmondfriends.org.
For the fourth year, a Katrina relief group from Richmond Friends spent an April week on the Mississippi coast, assisting with home building and repair projects. A chili luncheon fundraiser in early March raised over $1,000 from our community for travel expenses.
In early April, RFM hosted a forum with Beth Panilaitis, the new executive director of Virginians Against the Death Penalty. Beth discussed the National Coalition to End the Death Penalty and other ways to advance changes in laws concerning the death penalty.
The RFM community gathered on April 24th for the dedication of a Virginia historic roadside marker paying tribute to the early Richmond Friends Meeting. The marker at 20th and Main Street is near the site of the original meetinghouse. Guest speakers were Jay Worrall, author of The Friendly Virginians: America’s First Quakers, and Arnold Ricks, Bennington College history faculty member whose family has longtime roots in the Richmond Meeting.
Getry Agizah, a young Quaker woman from Kenya associated with the Africa Great Lakes Initiative, spoke at RFM on April 26 on grassroots peacemaking in Kenya after the post-election violence in 2008. Getry is responsible for organizing and coordinating the Alternatives to Violence Project and Healing and Rebuilding our Communities workshops at the Friends Peace Centre in Lubao near Kakamega, Kenya.