From equality and inclusion to letting out rooms
Equality and inclusion
This year’s Yearly Meeting epistle urges us to see one another whole and make eyeball-to-eyeball contact as the way to build true community. At Area Meeting, following a reading of this, there was an invitation to turn to a neighbour and look them straight in the eyes.
The image and the exercise are meant to include everyone equally. It doesn’t feel that inclusive if, like me, you have been registered blind all your life. It’s not comfortable if ‘eyeball’ reminds you of recent visits to ophthalmology clinics and desperate surgery to save the last of your dwindling vision. It was clear I didn’t belong. It hurt, and I left the room.
There must be countless ways to talk about recognising someone’s full humanity. The Hindu greeting Namaste means, I understand: ‘The divine in me salutes the divine in you.’ What’s wrong with that? Why are so many Friends drawn to eyesight images, even though these exclude and cause pain to their visually-impaired comrades?
Surely, Friends aim to be fully one community. We all belong equally. Don’t we want to make that clear in everything we say and do? We would never dream of using racist, sexist or ageist language. So, why speak in our most public statements as if disabled people don’t belong?
I hope the revision of Quaker faith & practice will include some Friends with disabilities to help ensure it makes us all fully welcome.
Friend, whoever and however you are, the divinity in me salutes the divinity in you.
Charitable and cost-efficient
We in the UK are lucky we live in a country that provides the minimum wage, sickness pay, pensions and the NHS. For millions of people living in the world’s poorest countries their only hope of survival if they are ill and when they get old are their children.
Looking back at the recent history of the United Kingdom, my mother was one of nine siblings – not unusual for the early twentieth century. The advent of smaller families in the UK can be directly linked to the increase in wages, healthcare and human rights.
Parents living in developing nations will limit their families when they get similar benefits. Charities like Christian Aid are working with local organisations in Africa, Asia and South America to enable this to come about. When families feel confident that enough of their children will survive to adulthood they will be open to adopting the concept of family planning.
Large charities handle tens of millions of pounds of our donations. I would be very wary of donating if they did not have professional staff. Raymond Hudson (1 June) should spend a few more minutes on the internet to see just how cost-efficient charities are compared to large commercial companies.
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