We are Friends, of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers, and friends of Friends. We began when Alfred Friends Meeting wrote a Travel Minute in May 2005 (updated since) for Nadine Hoover to go to Indonesia to respond to the tsunami of December 2004. We were in the midst of considering the implications of a new revelation for us: The Living Spirit works in the world to bring life, joy, peace and prosperity through love, integrity and compassionate justice among people. We are united in this Power. We acknowledge that paying for war violates our religious conviction. We will witness to this conviction in each of our communities.
This revelation was first realized at New York Yearly Meeting gathering in 1999 as Friends said, "We are being called to something—something historic—but we don’t know what it is." Conscientious objection to military taxation was laid upon us; this is a new and old revelation. The minute above was written in 2001, approved by a group of four—Victoria Cooley, Shirley Way, Sharon Hoover, and Nadine Hoover—at the end of 2003. Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting of western New York approved it in 2005. New York Yearly Meeting, with Friends from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, approved it in 2006; it thereby enters our Faith and Practice of the Religious Society of Friends.
As Nadine Hoover reached out to tsunami survivors, it became clear that most of the people devastated by the tsunami in Aceh, South Thailand, Sri Lanka and Somalia were all suffering war. Acehnese would ask, "Why do people care so much about tsunami victims that were hit only one day, when war hits day after day after day; why don’t they care about conflict victims?"
Nadine’s travel minute includes the passage, "She carries with her our faith in the Living Spirit to give life, joy, peace, and prosperity through love, integrity, compassionate justice, simplicity, equality and non-violent living among people." In 2005, this is what they wanted to talk about most rather than houses, bathrooms and buildings. One week after the peace accord was signed in September 2005 we conducted our first Alternatives to Violence workshop in Aceh. After that we invited teachers from the Al-Falah School to come and teach people in North Sumatra and Aceh about Developmental Play as the foundation of human development for all of us.
In 2007 the Acehnese and conflict refugees talked most about being abandoned by the world during the war, the nightmares that don’t go away and a sense of exhaustion and depression. The lethargy, inability to articulate, lassitude, concrete thinking, indecisiveness and learned helplessness observed among our friends are all indicative of pervasive, systemic trauma. As we reflected on our selves in the U.S. we discovered that we are being traumatized as well by our public and private lives. Therefore we began to organize Trauma Recovery workshops for all of us to grief, mourn and recover together.
Alfred Friends Meeting cared for this work from 2005 – 2007. In November 2007, this work was taken under the care of Friends Peace Teams. Spiritual companions who form a working group in Friends Peace Teams for the Indonesia Initiative come from New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, California, Virginia and London.