Quakers and Social Justice
Quakers’ belief in the equality of all persons is at the heart of our historic and contemporary advocacy for the rights of minorities and other marginalized people. Friends’ core beliefs have always led us to advocate for the rights of women, African-Americans, and other disenfranchised minorities. In spite of our small numbers and lack of political power, American Friends played a major role in the movements to abolish slavery and for equal rights for women and freed slaves in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Today, Friends are in the forefront of efforts to provide equal access to education, housing, food, and other basic rights to marginalized people here and all over the world. In the US we have taken a particularly strong role in movements to secure civil rights for sexual minorities, prisoners, and the poor, as well as efforts to protect our environment.
Our belief that a spark of the Divine dwells in each person also motivates us to work for nonviolent solutions to conflict, and to oppose the use of war and violence. Our approach to conflict, from a community dispute to war, is to avoid taking sides, and to provide support and help wherever a need is found.
Many Friends meetings are actively involved with local efforts to help our neighbors who are suffering from poverty, discrimination, homelessness, and other social ills.
Doylestown Food Pantry
An estimated 14.5 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 5.4 percent with very low food security—meaning that the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food.
Doylestown Friends have collected hundreds of pounds of non-perishable food items which have been donated to the Bucks County Housing Group’s food pantry to help feed the homeless and food insecure in Bucks County. For further information, visit their website.
In the fall of 2007 Doylestown Friends joined with many other meetings in Bucks County to begin the process of sponsoring a family of refugees from Iraq. During that fall and the winter of 2008 we planned, fundraised, searched for an apartment for them and collected household items they would need to set up their new home in their new country of residence.
We raised over $16,000 to help get them situated in the Bucks-Montgomery County area and be able to pay their rent and living expenses for six months to a year after their arrival. Several of us from Doylestown Meeting trained and became certified to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) so we could tutor them in English.
When the family arrived from a Jordanian refugee camp in March of 2008 they were warmly greeted at Philadelphia airport with Welcome signs in Arabic. They stayed with a local family for a few weeks until they were comfortable enough to move into an apartment in Lansdale.
The family has moved several times in the past few years in order to be closer to the parents’ workplaces. Both parents work and each family member has obtained a green card. The children are thriving in school, having easily adapted to a new language and culture. Several meeting members keep in close contact with the family and the relationships that have formed are authentic and mutually enriching. We discovered that, when you come from the heart, all superficial differences of religion and ethnicity fall away.
In addition this experience brought our community closer together and united us with our neighboring Bucks County Friends. Quakers have a history of working together to achieve peaceful solutions to personal and global conflict. Our testimonies of peace, equality, and community were foremost in our minds and hearts as we all worked together to give this Iraqi family the opportunity to create a new life of hope and abundance far from the war torn Middle East.