“Choosing Love in a Season of Fear”: New England Quakers Respond to the Paris Attacks

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Quaker youth leaders worship in song / Image by Noah Baker Merrill

Nov 16, 2015

The recent violence in Paris again shakes us awake to the horror and chaos that is the routine reality for people across the Middle East, and in so many corners of our world. Growing millions seek safe haven from escalating suffering caused by war, injustice and climate change. We know God loves each of us, even when we are terrified, even when we hate. We know God loves us always, even when we struggle to love each other.

Our hearts are breaking for the peoples of Syria & Iraq; the peoples of Lebanon, Turkey, and France. We mourn the loss of life and livelihood, the shattered hopes of peoples and nations, the brokenness of relationships. We yearn for a world where all people are recognized as beloved children of God.

The Quaker faith communities in the six New England states share in this season of fear, confusion, anger and grief for our world. In our own country, the unrelenting litany of killings of African Americans and our nation’s entanglement with the sins of racism present a convicting challenge to our consciences. Our hearts are also with those struggling for justice and recognition in our own country; our prayers are with all who suffer and are in fear. We grieve that even in our own faith communities we often struggle to speak and work with integrity toward racial justice and healing.

We have no easy answers. New England Quakers recognize that we share in the privilege, separation and inaction that are the potent seeds and sustenance of racism, violence and hatred in our world. Too often we are afraid to do the necessary healing work to confront the prejudice and privilege that corrupts our country. We must renew our commitment to love and to share the Light of God’s Love. We find meaning in the season of Advent, a time when Christians await the birth of new Life in a suffering world. As darkness in our region deepens and the nights grow long and cold, Advent calls us to trust and participate anew in the coming of the Light.

Facing the horrors of war, racism and hatred, the One who is Love calls us to love. A naive hope falls lifeless in the shallow soil of fear, anger and chaos; but we can help each other unearth a different kind of hope – a deep and living hope beyond despair. We can choose to live in the recognition that the wholeness and peace God dreams for our world is already present with us, and is still on its way. Moment by moment, concrete acts done with patience set us free to live in courageous love. As we choose this path, we help release each other from the captivity of hopelessness and fear. This is how the Light is born anew among us; this is how Love triumphs.

In this way, we can be God’s hands in our world.

In this season:

  • We encourage each other and all of our neighbors – especially our fellow Christians and people of faith – to act with simple courage to welcome and accompany immigrants, refugees and the most vulnerable in whatever ways are available to us.
  • We commit ourselves and call on others – especially religious leaders – to counter racist, anti-immigrant and Islamophobic speech, policies and acts with words and deeds that strengthen relationship, understanding and partnership in our communities. When we encounter fear and anxiety in our workplaces, our homes and our schools – with every person we meet – each of us can choose to respond with that love that casts out fear.
  • We commit ourselves and encourage others to sustained and increasing advocacy to oppose further violence and military action by our own country in the name of security, and to pursue effective peaceful means to bring an end to suffering and to address injustice. The current chaos and deepening tragedy across the Middle East arises from the undeniable failure of war and violence to bring lasting peace. We encourage Quakers and others to support the work of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (fcnl.org(link is external)) and the American Friends Service Committee (afsc.org(link is external)) toward creating shared security.
  • We urge our federal, state and local governments as well as humanitarian aid organizations to significantly increase efforts to aid and accompany refugees and immigrants in our communities, and to offer sanctuary to those fleeing war and chaos. We have a responsibility to support those with such desperate needs at this time, even as many public voices call for increasing isolation and distrust in the name of security, building walls and acting out of fear.
  • We call on public officials and candidates for public office – especially all candidates for the office of President of the United States – to search their hearts and consciences for ways their voices can bring people of diverse faiths and backgrounds together, rather than dividing and isolating communities from one another. When we sow the wind with fear, we reap the whirlwind of insecurity, suffering and chaos. Our world needs a harvest of hope.

In this season, may we remember that the choices we make between love and fear truly matter.

Fritz Weiss, Presiding Clerk
Noah Baker Merrill, Yearly Meeting Secretary

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

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