Friends’ call toward building a better world originally sprang from our understanding of primitive Christianity revived. Early Friends were active in seeking religious freedom for all, women’s rights, mental health, prison reform, and abolition. All branches of Friends take stands on public issues. Many Friends take on this work individually and often a Friend, or group of Friends, will come to the meeting under “the weight of a concern” where it will be explored and tested. Careful discernment may lead to adoption corporately with a minute that is approved by the worshiping community and to public statements and actions under the care of the meeting.
- Training Vermont Police with the Israel Defense Forces 2/10/2019
- F-35 11/13/2016
- Standing Rock Witness 11/13/2016
- Nuclear Energy 5/15/2011
Minute on Training Vermont Police with the Israel Defense Forces Approved Second Month, Tenth Day, 2019
Since 2002, police departments across the United States have participated in training exercises in Israel, learning from police, state intelligence services, and the Israeli Defense Force. Israeli state security forces claim decades of experience surveilling and controlling the civilian population within Israel and in the Occupied Territories. The full content of this state-of-the-art training is not revealed to the American public but the mission and experience of Israel’s security forces is clear: to dominate and control the 6 million Palestinian Arabs living within Israel proper, the West Bank, and Gaza. To various degrees, the Palestinians in the region under Israeli control are denied the full rights of citizenship including choice of occupation, travel, access to world markets, and equal protection of the law. External control is most complete in Gaza while within the Occupied Territories, Israeli military rule includes cooperation with a Palestinian security service. Within Israel, Palestinians are not secure in the possession of their real property or access to legal protections.
Thus a caldron of grievances roils the Palestinian population, making the region a laboratory for surveillance and security techniques. Israel offers this experience to American police forces as useful for “community policing” here in the United States, calling it the “Leadership Seminar in Israel: Resilience and Counterterrorism.”
Jewish Voice for Peace, Migrant Justice, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, and other human rights groups have called on police organizations in Vermont to cancel any planned training with Israel. Taking lessons from an occupation force in an ethnically divided society is patently inconsistent with Vermont’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy. As Sylvia Knight, member of Jubilee Justice Committee of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington, writes, “Let the decision to not learn from Israeli militarization be a catalyst for incorporating a new paradigm of non-violence in mitigation of institutional racism in Vermont according to our own laws.”
Burlington Friends Meeting joins in this public and inter-religious call asking our police forces to refrain from looking to Israel for lessons in safeguarding our community. We further urge other Quaker Meetings and the New England Yearly Meeting (Quaker) to endorse this call for non-cooperation between our local, state, and federal police forces with those of the State of Israel. Minute of Concern for Palestinians in Gaza Statement of Burlington Friends Meeting, sixth month, tenth day, 2018
Friends concern for the sufferings of all peoples leads us to oppose the recent escalation of violence by the Israeli political establishment against the Palestinians of Gaza. How should we as Quakers respond to this tragedy still taking place along the border of the Gaza Strip?
Gaza contains nearly 2 million residents in an area of 141 sq. miles. Israel imposes an economic cordon sanitaire around the region with the result that its economy is nearly destroyed and 80 percent of residents rely on international assistance. Travel in and out is sharply restricted by Israel and Egypt.
Since March 30, 2018, thousands of residents of Gaza, more than 80 percent of whom are refugees or the descendants of those displaced during the establishment of Israel in 1947, began marching toward the barriers that keep them from work, travel, foreign markets, and their ancestral lands. While still within Gaza, they were met by Israeli snipers who shot into Gaza from embankments across the line. On May 14 alone, 58 demonstrators were shot dead and 1,360 wounded with fragmentation rounds that often lead to amputations and permanent crippling. The dead include 6 children.
As a response to this unarmed, non-violent civilian protest, these premeditated and systematic shootings are a clear violation of international norms which forbid targeting noncombatants and require proportionality in the use of force, even in wartime. Clearly marked members of the press and the Red Crescent have been among the victims. The American Friends Service Committee among other international human rights organizations has been denied entry to Gaza or Israel.
The United States is deeply complicit in these events. Since 1946, the U.S. has given Israel $134.7 billion in military and missile defense aid, $3.775 billion in 2017 alone. The weapons purchased are used to kill Palestinians. On April 6, the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution supporting the right of Palestinians to “demonstrate peacefully” and endorsing Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for an independent investigation into these events.
On the day when 58 Gaza residents were shot dead by Israeli snipers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was welcoming U.S. Middle East Advisor Jared Kushner, his wife Ivanka Trump, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and four U.S. Senators on the occasion of the symbolic opening of a planned United States Embassy in Jerusalem. The embassy will be on land declared neutral in the 1949 armistice agreement and considered by the United Nations to be in occupied Palestine.
Friends are witnesses to these horrific events. Unless we speak out forcefully in protest, we will also be complicit. Removal of people from their land, their confinement in what amounts to a concentration camp, denying them sanitation, adequate health services, and employment, and then systematically killing then when their despair boils over into nonviolent protests all work against the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth. Quakers must protest this occupation by demanding that the U.S. government end all military aid to Israel and support international efforts to immediately end the illegal blockade of Gaza. We urge each Monthly Meeting to address this crisis through internal discernment and public activism. Nuclear Weapons Statement of Burlington Friends Meeting, sixth month, eleventh day, 2017
Members of the Religious Society of Friends are opposed to all wars and preparations for wars. Wars kill and maim the body and spirit of both aggressor and victim. Nuclear weapons have raised the threat of potential destruction to a new level: the end of human civilization and the extinction of countless species of life.
- 132 nations of the United Nations General Assembly are meeting this year from June 15 until July 7 to finalize and vote on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
- Nine nations have a total of about 15,000 nuclear warheads; The US military wants to spend $1 trillion to “modernize” weapons over the next three decades; hundreds of nuclear weapon “accidents” have occurred, and each new nuclear weapon raises the odds that a devastating one will occur.
- The modernization of nuclear weapons makes them more useable, thereby destabilizing the current balance of terror and initiating a new nuclear arms race.
- The growth and sophistication of terrorist groups, along with the continued proliferation of nuclear material increases the ability of non-state actors to steal, buy, make, and use nuclear weapons.
- Most non-nuclear states point to our current danger. Unfortunately our government and that of other nuclear weapons states do not support these negotiations, claiming that the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is sufficient to show their commitment to nuclear disarmament. The slow progress under that treaty is not sufficient to counter the grave threat we face.
We of Burlington Friends Meeting urge support for the United Nations negotiations toward a treaty banning nuclear weapons as an important step in the elimination of this threat to life on our planet.
F-35 Statement of Burlington Friends Meeting to New England Yearly Meeting, November 13, 2016
Over the 50 year life span of the F-35, America’s newest warplane, we will spend $1.4 trillion on production and maintenance of this one weapons system. That is enough to feed all the world’s hungry ($30 billion per year) and provide everyone on earth with safe drinking water ($11 billion per year). Even short of provoking war, its production and deployment misdirects vast amounts of precious metals and fossil fuels. But this stealth airplane is specifically designed for offensive use. It can carry the B61-12 nuclear weapon deep into foreign territory undetected, making its first-strike use more likely.
Here in South Burlington, Vermont, nearly 200 houses have been designated as unsuitable for residential use due to their proximity to noise exceeding 65 decibels generated by an existing fleet of F-16 fighter planes. An F-35 fleet scheduled to take their place is four times as loud meaning the cone of health-impacting noise will be wider and more intense. According to the Federal Aviation Administration there is no effective noise mitigation for these modest, owner-occupied dwellings; they are being demolished. A primary school is also in the >65dB noise zone, subjecting children to risks of hearing loss and cognitive impairment. http://www.who.int/ceh/capacity/noise.pdf; http://www.euro.who.int/_data/assets/pdf_file/008/136466/e9488.pdf. Residents here formed Save Our Skies (SOS) five years ago and were joined by area religious leaders who urged the cancellation of this basing decision. http://saveourskiesvt.org/letter-from-our-religious-leaders/) Government officials did not respond and legal remedies for noise, toxic fumes that a plane crash would engender, and negative impacts on property values have been exhausted. (http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=stop+the+f-35%2c+save+our+skies&qpvt=stop+the+f-35%2c+save+our+skies&FORM=VDRE)
Now SOS has joined forces with RootsAction to launch an international campaign to apply political pressure on governments around the world to cancel the production and purchase of this aircraft. Concerns have broadened from local noise and flight safety to the moral distortion associated with the production of this plane.
Some argue that since our economy is bound to the fortunes of the military-industrial complex, we need this plane to generate jobs. To garner political support its manufacturer, Lockheed-Martin, located the fabrication of components in many congressional districts and foreign countries. But war production isn’t efficient. Researchers at the Univ. of Massachusetts found that when the same amount of money is returned to tax payers or spent on clean energy, healthcare, or transportation, each billion dollars generates 4,000-16,000 more jobs than building arms (http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/published_study/PERI_military_spending_2011.pdf
The F-35 is a weapons system that jeopardizes peace, impairs the health of those living near its bases, and is something the world can’t afford. It weakens our ability to address human needs and heightens the risk of war. Burlington Friends Meeting urges the New England Yearly Meeting to ask Congress and the President to abandon this ill-advised and unethical investment, publicize this action, and urge Friends throughout New England to join with RootsAction and sign their petition calling for a cessation in spending on the F-35 (https://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_..).
Minute Regarding the Standing Rock Sioux Dakota Pipeline Witness
The following minute was passed on 13 November 2016
Rarely have issues of racial and social justice, our colonial past, and the climate crisis combined and so powerfully called for a response by Friends. Since Spring 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe along with official representatives from 200 other Indigenous nations from across the Americas, have converged at Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota to protect their sovereign lands and water from destruction by the fossil fuel industry. As a result the largest gathering of Indigenous people in over a century has joined the Standing Rock Sioux to help save their land, water, and the environment.
They are demanding that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and Energy Transfer Partners permanently halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP), a 1,168 mile link between the Bakken oil shale field in North Dakota and refineries on the Gulf Coast, a network designed to transport 570,000 barrels a day of highly volatile petroleum to markets abroad. The immediate goal of the witness is to prevent extension of the line under the Missouri River, a move that will endanger the only source of tribal water for drinking, irrigation and livestock. The DAP lines also bisect traditional Native American territory on which are located graves and other sites of cultural importance to the Standing Rock Sioux. A pipeline breach, something engineers consider inevitable over time, would destroy the land, water and the sacred tribal lands of these oppressed people.
The Great Sioux Nation, of which the Standing Rock Tribe is a part, have been oppressed by the United States government for 150 years. Seeking peace in 1868, the Sioux signed the Fort Laramie Treaty guaranteeing them a portion of their traditional homeland in perpetuity. When gold was discovered, Congress ignored the treaty and sent in the army under George Custer, leading to the Sioux defeat of 1877 and the loss of the Black Hills. In 1890 under the Dawes Act, Congress broke up the remaining communal lands and tribal governments, creating individual allotments in an effort to transform a nomadic people into sedentary farmers. Land outside of the allotments was turned over to white homesteaders and the tribal land base shrank again. When the Sioux protested through a religious revival, 300 were massacred at Wounded Knee. The Sioux at Standing Rock endured, building a new life based on orchards, fields, and pastures. But in 1958 the United States seized their land yet again, flooding it to create the Oahe Dam and lake. Now it is Energy Transfer Partner, supported by local and state law enforcement and the Army Core of Engineers, that are pillaging the Sioux lands.
This time they are not standing alone. Their protest coincides with the climate justice movement, a growing awareness of racism in our society, and an emerging Native peoples’ solidarity across the hemisphere. For us as Quakers, it also speaks to:
■ our long-standing historical concern about the integrity of our relationships with Indigenous people;
■ our New England Yearly Meeting’s August, 2016 Minute on White Supremacy calling for our community to engage in introspection of our personal and collective behavior as a colonizing people; and,
■ the November 3rd New England Yearly Meeting Public Statement – A Call for Prayer and Support for Standing Rock (Attached).
In response to the urgency of this situation, the Peace, Justice and Earthcare Committee asks that Burlington Monthly Meeting take the following actions:
1. Establish a Friends Concern to raise funds for the Standing Rock Sioux to help them and the growing number of supporters who have joined them, survive the harsh North Dakota winter;
2. Support Friends from our Meeting and throughout New England Yearly Meeting who are led to go to the Standing Rock Reservation to join the public witness; and,
3. Ask individuals and Meetings to contact local and national legislators and the President now, urging them to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, and ban shale oil extraction.
Our Meeting has become increasingly concerned about the grave consequences of nuclear power for our environment and health. At our May 15, 2011 Meeting for Business, Burlington Monthly Meeting approved the minute that follows. Since then as the scope of the Fukushima nuclear disaster continues to unfold, our concern about our own Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant – operating with an outdated and failing reactor far older than the ones in Fukushima – has redoubled.
Our Governor and Legislature, joined by many Vermont citizens, believe that our state has the authority to regulate the Vermont Yankee Power Plant as it does all other public utilities. With the current plant license expiring in 2012, the company which owns Vermont Yankee has engaged the State of Vermont in a legal battle focused on the Vermont’s right to ensure its people’s safety in the face of grave concerns about the Vermont Yankee plant.
The following minute was approved on May 15, 2011:As members of the Religious Society of Friends, we believe we are called to be good stewards of the earth. In recent times, we have been overwhelmed and even numbed by the growing confluence of natural disasters with man-made catastrophes. Again and again, the fail-safe systems of human engineering are swept aside by the power of a living and restless planet: levees in New Orleans, well-plugs in the Gulf of Mexico, tsunami seawalls in Japan. The persistent arrogance of our belief in the ability of science to understand, manipulate, and ultimately control the forces of Creation is nowhere more evident than in our use of nuclear fission to build bombs and boil water.
After Hiroshima, after Chernobyl, after Fukushima, we must say No. We have seen entire cities destroyed in a flash; seen wind-borne poisons circumnavigating the globe, and seen radioactive waste material created that will bring death to living things for thousands of years.
To say No to nuclear fission here in Vermont is to say Yes to being a different people: to overcome our fear of powerlessness and become hopeful and courageous. It is to become radically more simple in our patterns of living, consuming far less energy and material things.
If we choose to be a different people it will become much clearer what we, as Friends, must do:
Join with those called to public witness, including non-violent civil disobedience, to shut down our own nuclear power plant, Vermont Yankee, and continue to speak to public officials on this matter;
Have Monthly Meetings establish Committees of Concern and other traditional Quaker structures to challenge and assist one another in making the profound changes in consumption that we must achieve to heal the Earth; and
Corporately model simplicity and good stewardship of our meeting houses and grounds through such projects as insulation, solar panels, wind generators, vegetable gardens and fruit trees.
We are made to be an integral part of this wondrous Creation. Let us choose now to take up our stewardship commitment, fully accepting our responsibilities to care for our planet and its peoples. Let us choose now to join with other Friends, and all people of good will and understanding, to move forward through worship and through witness to reach our goals.