Letters - 11 November 2022

From Pressures in speaking out to Meeting houses

Pressures in speaking out

Working with Palestine and for justice for its people is a difficult and taxing path to choose. Many within Quakers, along with ourselves, have been led to this work through a diversity of experience and insights given to us by others. We are twinned with a small Palestinian village where we engage closely with the women’s cooperative there, helping develop a more sustainable economy through a za’tar production project and also in supporting the village school.

It has taken a decade of visits to help build up vital levels of trust with the women and men of the village so that they feel able to share their fears, anger and despair as well as their joys. Twelve years on, we are privileged that we are regarded as family by our friends there.

As many who also have experience of working in this region know, every visit is part of a steep learning curve and so little of that at the moment is positive learning. It is rare that one can visit Palestine without witnessing yet another tragedy arising out of the occupation. It is sometimes strangely life-affirming and it is often stressful. Those of us who have now committed to supporting and upholding the Palestinian people in their struggle, also find ourselves absorbing some of their pain. We have found that this emotional pain can be exacerbated by feeling unable to speak freely in our communities, Quaker and otherwise, as to what we have heard and seen.

We appreciate that this occupation has now continued for such a long time that people not engaged directly with it, feel they need to turn attentions elsewhere. For those of us who have now invested love and energy into wanting to see a fair and just outcome for Palestinians, all we ask is to be heard in love, even if what we say has been recounted many times before over the past seventy years and even if it is difficult to hear. We are more than willing to continue working as part of our chosen Quaker way of life but we can do this with so much more vigour if we are allowed to speak for those Palestinians who feel voiceless.

Lynn and Dave Morris

Picture imperfect

I was disturbed to see, on the front cover of the Friend of 28 October, a photograph of the interior of Jordans Meeting House with a ‘For Sale’ stamp superimposed. This will have distressed many Friends who will not have realised that this was meant as an imaginary illustration of a fictional article rather than a factual statement. It will have revived memories of 2005, when the seventeenth-century Jordans Meeting House was badly damaged by fire; the nearby Old Jordans Hostel was sold out of Quaker use, and there were fears for the future of the Meeting House itself.

Happily, the Meeting House was restored and a new annexe was built; it remains much loved and well used for worship and other activities by Friends, and is visited by many Quakers and other groups.

Jordans was not even an appropriate choice to illustrate the theme of the article about selling unneeded Meeting houses fifteen years in the future to generate funds for reparation and innovation. The article imagines that, while some 200 Meeting houses would have been sold by 2037, around 150 would still be in use, including the most beautiful and the seventeen listed buildings, of which Jordans is one. I hope the Friend will in future be more sensitive in its choice and signposting of illustrations.

Michael Phipps

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