| A Time For Quiet - A Time To Testify
by Dana Kester-McCabe
On the eve of war is probably the worst time and yet the best time to talk about getting Quakers to bear witness in the world to their peace testimonies. It is perhaps a bad time because it is could be seen as preaching to the choir. In fact, some Friends may have a sense of failure, disappointment or discouragement. Those voices, which have been calling out for many years, have been ignored. But at the same time it is the most urgent time to renew our commitment to doing God's work to make the world a better place. We have great challenges ahead of us. We need to remain faithful to our convictions to help all those who might suffer in a terrible attack. We also need to be aware of the people in our own community. There will be a diversity of voices accompanied by a diversity of silences.
Sunday night Friends from my Meeting (Wicomico River Friends Meeting, Salsibury, Maryland) attended a number of candle light vigils that were held in conjunction with gatherings all over the world. This was organized in less than a week through email and the website: moveon.org (Where, by the way, you can see pictures of vigils around the world.) The vigil I attended was in a small town of two to three thousand residents. We expected to see maybe ten to fifteen people. The town is around three hundred years old and (as far as we could tell) there had never been a peace demonstration there. Fifty-four souls came out in the rain and kept their candles lit for an hour. Most had heard about it online and had never met each other before. If ever there existed a mass medium that brought people closer together and helped empower people it is the Internet. For all its faults and wild places, it has the capacity to do amazing things. Seeing the pictures of gatherings all over the world (see the link below) is truly amazing. This outpouring of solidarity and friendship should light the fires of hope in our hearts that a peaceful world is possible.
On Monday several members of my Meeting met with our Congressional representative's aide to express our concerns about military action that seems destined to take place within days. She was quite polite and asked a lot of questions about Quakerism and the Religious Society of Friends. We were happy to answer and were able to stay on point while finding some time for silent worship as well.
At both gatherings I found myself in situations that allowed me to do a little Quaker outreach, to share about the practices of Friends. I suspect that this will happen frequently as I attend more public gatherings and get to know other folks who share the same concerns. Eventually it all comes down to one on one contact: two souls sharing their journeys. Even though difficult times and mass media may bring us together, when we look each other in the eyes Love must be there. For when we meet, we are indeed connecting with that of God in each other.
It might be a good idea to write down talking points ahead of time. Even if you do not actually refer to them, it will help you to crystallize your thoughts - allowing you to speak more clearly. You might also take a handful of brochures, especially if you are uncomfortable with being perceived as trying to convert folks. If someone wants to know more about your faith, keep your answers brief though amiable. Offer them a brochure and the invitation to talk more later. Explain that you hope to stay focused on the issues of the assembly. Most important is to be clear ahead of time about why you are attending a demonstration - even if the reason is that you are trying to find out more information.
For Friends working in the media this continues to be a time of testing. Balanced reporting will be crucial to audiences and so Friends will need to be above reproach in their reporting process. More and more our news media are becoming celebrities. Their elevated social status can affect their ability to remain unbiased. Great amounts of prayer are need by and for them. We might also hold other media artists, entertainers, in the Light who are sticking their necks out for Peace. The press loves to hate them when they do. Friends like Bonnie Raitt and Judi Dench, among others, have participated in public demonstrations for peace. Their well-established careers allow them the freedom to risk losing financial opportunities from those who might disagree with them. But more importantly their well-established witness and integrity serve as inspiration for many people. It is important outreach work that is greatly appreciated.
Regardless of who we are, how old we are or what kind of work we do, now is the time to choose our form of witness: to testify in a manner that is considered, prayerful and loving and to learn peace forever more.Some intersting links:
See pictures of the Global Vigil of March 16,2003
Pushing for peace on the Net
Being Prepared for reporters questions
Learn Reporters' Strategies
Dana Kester-McCabe is a freelance graphic artist, writer and designer from Bishopville, Maryland.
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