Letter from John Munson, Clerk 
Pacific Northwest Regional Executive Committee

Dear Friends: 

At AFSC Board Meetings in Philadelphia - most recently in mid-September - I worship with people from all over the United States and the world - people of many colors, nationalities, cultures and faiths. Young, old, gay, straight. What we have in common is a dedication to our neighbors by working for peace and against injustice, and advocating for the poor, the
marginalized, the oppressed - the “other”. We share a belief that all women and all men are creations of God, and that by recognizing and ministering to that of God in others, we ourselves become closer to our Creator.  And so we sit in silence together, we open our hearts and souls and minds together to the Holy Presence, to God’s love for all people and to a hope for justice and peace in the world. When we do this together, for me the power and the love of the Holy Spirit are transforming. 

These are people that I am excited to work with. Their diversity is one of the greatest resources of the American Friends Service Committee, and it is replicated, however imperfectly, throughout all of the regions of AFSC. 

In our own Pacific Northwest Region, it is the people who are our greatest resource. Our staff is as talented as it is diverse, reaching people whom we Quakers might not easily reach. Coming out of communities that are too often marginalized in the Pacific Northwest - African-American youth, Native Peoples, Hispanics - some recent immigrants, some with old roots in the United States - immigrants from other parts of the world; gay, lesbian, and transgendered youth. Many of us know that these people live in our communities, but rarely do we encounter them in our churches and meetings, our jobs, our schools, in our homes. We know they suffer high rates of suicide, incarceration, physical abuse, homelessness, poverty, despair. But even with the best of intentions, we too often lack the tools to help in a meaningful way. AFSC, through its diverse staff, community volunteers, and organizational allies, can and does reach many of these people. It reaches them as a Quaker organization committed to peace, non-violence, justice, and the fundamental equality of all of God’s creation.

Consider AFSC programs in the Pacific Northwest:

! Indian Program - Following the lead of John Woolman, and under the leadership of Jeff Smith, a member of the Makah Tribe, works with Native People in the Puget Sound to encourage them to reclaim their history, find their voices, and speak out on issues that affect them.

! Cross Cultural Youth Leadership Program - Dustin Washington, a young African-American, is
developing a multi-racial collective of young people working with a vision to transform institutions of education and juvenile justice. These youth are addressing militarism in the public schools, and strive to reduce military enlistment in the Seattle area.

! GLBTQ Youth Program - One of the most embattled groups anywhere, gay, lesbian, bisexual, 
transgendered and questioning youth are often estranged from families, schools and churches, and are subject to homelessness, poverty, and exploitation. The suicide rate among this group is frightening. Joyful Freeman and Gabriel Foster direct a nationally-known program in Seattle to engage such young people on issues of economic and social justice, to develop leadership ability, and to help alienated youth become a positive force for peace and justice.

! United Voices: The “LAAP Program”, directed by Marco Mejia and Pam Phan, has attracted so many
youth who are not Latin American, Asian or Pacific Islander that it proposes to change its name. United
Voices addresses needs of kids who are marginalized at school, at home, and in the job market. It seeks to combat: “youth alienation stemming from a sense of powerlessness; negative impacts on youth of globalization and militarism; oppression, such as racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism; and the dis-empowerment of youth of color, immigrants, GLBT communities, homeless youth, and young people with low income.”

! Portland Gay-Lesbian Program: Under the direction of Dan Stutesman, this program will provide space for gay and lesbian persons who are excluded from their own religious communities, to create spiritual/activist groups to address homophobia, consciousness-raising about gay lesbian issues, and tapping into religious resources that foster positive identify leading to full participation within the community.

! Alaskans Listening to Alaskans: While the compassionate listening program of Alaskan Friends, staffed by Cynthia Monroe of Anchorage Friends Meeting, is near completion, and has led to some real coming together of potentially violent advocates for and against subsistence hunting and fishing, Alaskan Quakers are working together with AFSC to find opportunities for Peace building, youth leadership development and restorative justice.

! There are several new initiatives under consideration. In these times of fiscal limitations, we cannot be sure to what extent they will be feasible but we are excited that these ideas are being brought forward and we are hopeful that a way will open. 

" An AFRICA INITIATIVE would be part of a nation-wide AFSC response to the enormous needs of a
continent so overwhelmed by war, poverty, and AIDS. Grace Kuto of Portland and Sheri Day of Seattle are working together on a proposal to increase local understanding of issues that cause so much suffering there, and to build bridges between the African and African American communities in the PNW Region. 

" WOMEN AND IMMIGRATION - PORTLAND: Alice Perry in Portland proposes to turn her many years of experience with immigrant women into a full-fledged program to nurture and support the development of immigrant women’s leadership in the PNW Region.

" MAPPING THE DEATH PENALTY DEBATE IN THE PNW: One proposal, from Rachel Hardesty, a Friend not currently serving in a staff or committee role, but with a long experience in anti-death penalty work. In keeping with the Visioning Goal for Justice that Heals Transforms and Liberates, it would study the debate in this region and “uncover Quaker affiliations as a first step to discerning the possible role of the AFSC in the abolition movements of individual states in the region.”

Of course, AFSC can do more. A recently completed regional needs assessment, based on interviews
with Quakers, AFSC staff, and community leaders from the seven states in our region and the nationwide Visioning Process that gathered the opinions of nearly 700 participants, Quaker and staff, are helping us to develop a Regional Plan for the future. The new AFSC Quaker Outreach Committee is contemplating a regional peace conference that could raise the witness of our Peace Testimony. 

Most of all, we need to hear from meetings and churches. We want input from Friends. We need to tell the story of our work. We must find more places for Quakers to witness our commitment to the people of our diverse region who are left out of the American Dream because of prejudice, misunderstanding, racism, poverty and fear. 

Peace and blessings,

John Munson
Clerk, Pacific Northwest Regional Executive Committee
American Friends Service Committee
2003 (?)