|substantial Quaker communities and we never think about them?” Mary Lord then spoke up and said, “What do you want to do about that?”
I proposed that Friends Peace Teams send a delegation to visit Friends and others in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi for the following purposes:
1. To find out how the various wars and genocide were affecting the Friends
2. To find out what peacemaking activities they were doing
3. To see if there were ways to partner with the African Quakers in their peacemaking work.
After I received approval, I wrote to all the African Yearly Meetings plus any other peacemaker that I could find. Many immediate replies came back. We sent a delegation of seven people. I went to Rwanda and Burundi. In Burundi I had an experience which mirrors Woolman’s visit to the Indians.
There is a saying in Kirundi (the language of Burundi) “A real friend comes in a time of need.” I visited Musama Friends Church. It was up-country perhaps five miles off the main road on a very rugged, gutted dirt road. We went to visit this church because the youth of the church—meaning those under 35 years of age—had identified 97 vulnerable families in the community—the elderly, the blind, women without husbands. They rebuilt their houses when they were destroyed in the fighting. We stopped at the house of a blind man whose home had been rebuilt by the group four times. This was all done without outside support belying the common belief here in America that things only happen in Africa when funds are pumped in by us from the wealthy countries. They showed me their church and the clinic which was no more than a few poles and some plastic sheeting and spoke of their hopes for a better future.
But the important point was that they were so pleased that someone from the outside had come to visit them! They felt that someone recognized and remembered them. This gave them hope. I myself never did so little—all I did was look around, ask a few questions, shake hands with lots of people, and show some interest in their existence and well-being. The lesson here is that when there are conflicts in the world, we must be real Friends (capital “F”) and visit in the time of need.
The second lesson is that we ought not to let danger deter us
Woolman’s journey to the Indians was considered dangerous—as least by his fellow Quakers in the Philadelphia area. The late night meeting was to inform Woolman of recent massacres in the area he was going to visit. Lest you think this is ancient history, a similar event occurred in the summer of 2005. AGLI introduced the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in Bukavu, eastern Congo. There has been a war going on since 1996 which has killed about 4,000,000 people—more than any other war since the Second World War. Mary Kay Jou, from here in New Jersey, was one of the AVP facilitators and wrote about the practice workshop they were doing with the newly trained Congolese facilitators:
On the morning of the day that we were scheduled to leave for the basic apprentice workshop in Bunyakiri, we received word that there had been a massacre there recently and six people were dead and many wounded. After much research and a visit to the local hospital where the wounded were brought, we found out that the massacre had taken place a week before and was in a village 12 kilometers away from