Letters - 20 March 2020

From inclusion and diversity to neighbourly cooperation

Inclusion and diversity

When I look around my Meeting I see individuals, friends, people who share with me the experience of silent worship. I do not see a teacher, a retired engineer, an elderly man, a young person. All of those in Meeting are all different, unique, but that does not matter.

However, our Business Meetings and discussion sessions are often being asked to consider ‘diversity and inclusion’. Are we then not getting things the wrong way round? Our testimony is to inclusion (we usually call it equality in the context of testimonies). Yes, we do hope to have more people in our Meetings and we hope that they will increase our range of insight, but we do not label new attenders as they come through the door. So surely our concern should be for ‘inclusion and diversity’, not the other way round.

Words matter, and to start with ‘diversity’ leads us to bring out all the sociological labels we can think of. What we should be doing is looking for the ways of including everybody. We are putting the cart before the horse. The horse is a fine animal that leads us to where we want to go. The cart often contains muck or rubbish. So please let us make inclusivity our priority, and talk of ‘inclusion and diversity’, so emphasising where we are seeking to go, instead of putting diversity first and so giving labels to ourselves and everyone else we can think of.

Hair-splitting? I think not.

Geoff Pilliner

A real living wage

As a group we have been acting under concern and are leading within the Society nationally to promote payment of the real living wage to all Quaker employees. We believe that a fair wage should pay enough to live on.

So we would wish to support Rebecca Fricker’s response (7 February) to Tommy Gee (10 January) about using young Friends as volunteers to run our increasingly complex Society.

Time, energy and money are resources we need in balance to be functional in our current climate. We think it runs counter to our testimonies to equality and economic justice to offer just accommodation in return for work. They will still need to work elsewhere to earn money to pay their bills and put food on their table.

Many younger Friends are already giving service and witness to us and the wider world while struggling to find secure paid work that provides the stability that many of us, who have had free third level education and/or stable employment, have benefitted from in our working lives.

While we may be the group of people who have time, money and energy to be volunteering, appointing us to roles that could be paid denies those who need paid employment an opportunity.

Friends, we need to think carefully about the role volunteering plays in our Society.

The Living Wage Group
Lancaster Meeting, Lancashire

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