Friday, 27 July 2007

Ordinary people

posted by kathy There's a myth that Quakers are extraordinary people.

I'm coming to think that they are actually very ordinary - but some do extraordinary things.

The young man and woman giving the George Gorman lecture (regularly given by young Friends) described a life that was in many respects ordinary. He works for a charity. She teaches in a primary school. These are useful jobs but not unusual. Yet within the space of three weeks he had been deported from two countries, Israel and Russia. Presumably they were suspicious of this young English Quaker because the charity he works for is Islamic Relief. He was aware that his experience was not exceptional - he met others being detained in the Moscow holding cell - and that he was in some ways lucky. People knew where he was and would check on his safety.

An older woman spoke yesterday about her experiences as a volunteer in a Palestinian village. She was there for three months. Her job involved recording what happened as the village farmers, who were Muslim, attempted to reach their fields and olive groves beyond the Separation Wall. They would be stopped at checkpoints and many would be turned away. 75% of their lands are beyond the Separation Wall. Her work also entailed being prepared to defuse conflict non-violently if that seemed necessary. What she had done took courage - but she looked like any woman you might meet in the post office or supermarket queue.

These were not exceptional people but people who took an exceptional path. They tried to see the humanity of immigration officials, prison guards and young Israeli soldiers (just out of school, we were told, and scared of the "terrorist" olive famers). They looked for and found humanity and courage elsewhere - as in the Israeli peace activists who came to harvest the olives for the Palestinian farmers denied access to their groves and livelihood.

We heard too of surprising encounters. Arrested demonstrators at Faslane sat in a police van, glad to be out of the rain. They discussed their plans for the evening. One wanted to see the Michael Moore film Farenheit 911. Another, who had seen the film, was about to embark on an account when the policeman guarding them intervened. "Don't talk about that here," he said. "You'll spoil it for me. I'm going to see it tonight."

None of the Quakers was arrested at Wednesday's Meeting for Worship at Faslane, although some Japanese protestors were taken into custody for their protest. Two coachloads of Quakers - old and young - went to take part in that Meeting. I heard about it from a young Friend who found it a special occasion. That's what she chose to do as her excursion on the free day for fun.

If I'm right - if these are ordinary people who manage to do extraordinary things - that raises a question for me too. I'm asked not only "What canst thou say?" but "What canst thou do?"

1 comment:

Philip said...

I enjoyed coming across and reading your blog, and hope to visit again soon. I also wanted to let you know that the URL for the link to Northern Friends Peace Board is slightly inaccurate and so doesn't work ... it should be http://nfpb.gn.apc.org (the 'c' is missing). But thank you very much for including it!
In Friendship, Philip