“Faithful Action in Time of Conflict”

Report on the Friends Committee on National Legislation Annual Meeting:
“Faithful Action in Time of Conflict”
by Jo Schlesinger
Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) is a lobbying organization in the public interest founded in 1943 by the Religious Society of Friends. It has the largest team of registered peace lobbyists on Capitol Hill.
I, along with Kathy Stackhouse, attended this year’s Annual Meeting whose theme was Faithful Action in a Time of Conflict. Held in Washington, DC November 3-6, 2011, it started with lobbying visits. Kathy and I rushed from the Megabus to meet with Senator Casey’s Legislative Aide. Later in the day, more Friends met with Senator Toomey’s Legislative Correspondent. We spoke about the Complex Crises Fund, preventing genocide and cutting the Pentagon budget. And then we listened.
Having attended the Friend’s General Conference Workshop this past summer on “Building Relationships with Legislators (especially those with whom we often disagree),” I was eager to build on that experience.
The weekend officially started with the new Executive Secretary Diane Randall who gave a talk on “Inspired Faith” to over 200 Friends from 34 states. She urged us to be “bold, strategic and relentless to realize the world we seek.” Darcy Green, clerk of the annual meeting, read a welcoming letter from President Obama. There were lots of gray-hair people (I was right at home) and lots of young people.
Each morning we were split into worship-sharing groups to consider queries such as “What is the connection between my understanding of community and my actions in the public sphere?” or “What of God do I find in the legislative process?” As a first-timer, I was offered a ‘buddy’ to navigate the weekend. Kathy aptly served that role. Many issues were offered in workshops such as Ending Oil and Gas Subsidies, Lobbying on Immigration, a Native American Program, Using Social Media to Engage Young People in Lobbying, etc.
Kathy and I participated in a large group from Pennsylvania who met with Margaret Mansfield (Mt. Holly Meeting) and Tim Barner, FCNL staff formerly from Pittsburgh. We shared strategies, ideas and ways to work with our common elected officials. Other highlights included Jo Comerford, Executive Director of the National Priorities Project and FCNL Legislative Director Ruth Flower; Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) who received the Snyder Peace Award and Jim Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute who spoke on “The Arab Spring: Non-Violence and U.S. Policy.”
Part of the General Committee’s Annual Meeting each November is to have Meeting for Worship for the Conduct of Business. This includes establishing legislative policy and priorities. It also sets forth policy objectives for public policy and includes a statement of legislative priorities from which the staff uses to focus its time, energy, and resources. The General Committee sets new priorities every two years, as a new Congress takes office. Starting in January, they will be asking Meetings all over the country, including ours, to participate in determining new priorities for the coming 2 years.
I left convinced that we all have the capacity to be citizen lobbyists. Here are some ways to grow your activism:
1. Continue to write letters, emails, etc. to your elected officials.
2. Participate in FCNL priority setting in early 2012.
3. Consider joining the Spring Lobby Weekend, March 17-20, 2012. Young people (18 and above) are especially encouraged to attend and there are monies in the Quaker Community Fund to help. Watch for more information.
4. Attend a lobby training coming soon to a Meeting near you.
Check out www.fcnl.org.
See PFM Friends Meeting web page at www.quaker.org/pghpamm

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