26 May 2011

Lighting another candle in the dark

Power of Goodness: endpaper with Stephen Grellet's quotation.

Earlier editions of Lighting Candles in the Dark: (left to right) 1964, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting;
1992, Friends General Conference; 2001, Friends General Conference.
Lighting Candles in the Dark is adapted and supplemented with new material for Power of Goodness.
If you go to the "Recent Grant Program Award Recipients" page of the United States Institute of Peace Web site and scroll down to the entry entitled "HUNTER, CHRISTOPHER, Centre for Peacebuilding and Community Development, Bude, United Kingdom," you'll read about a peace education and community mental health project that's a direct descendant of the famous Quaker book for young people, Lighting Candles in the Dark. [Link is archived but no longer points to the right year.]

The story of this book's connection goes back to the work of a small group that was once known as the Quaker US-USSR Committee, who gathered back in 1983 with a concern to develop spiritual linkages with the people of the Soviet Union. (Janet Riley, one of the group's founders and its leading activist even today, remembers hanging wallpaper in the home of Jay and Carolyn Worrall near Charlottesville, Virginia, and talking with Jay about this vision. This was mere months after Judy and I had left Charlottesville for Richmond, Indiana, delaying my first meeting with Janet for about five years. But I vividly remember the Worralls' home and can well imagine how fertile a place it would be for a new concern.)

Among the committee's activities was publishing Friends material in the Russian language and recovering the longstanding connection between Friends and Russia. Parallel to the work of this committee, and linked to it by personal relations among Friends who had a love and concern for Russia, was the group that eventually founded Friends House Moscow in 1996. At some point I found myself in both groups.

The story of the Quaker US-USSR Committee and its publication activities is told here on the Friends International Library's Web site. On the same site, you can read the history of Lighting Candles in the Dark, which we published in 1997 in a Russian-English bilingual edition. In 2005 we changed the name to Power of Goodness, added the Chechen language, and added several new stories from Chechnya--but kept the children's art that was one of the 1997 edition's outstanding features. New pictures by Chechen children were included.

That same page, toward the end, explains the Chechen community mental health connection. Ever since the 1964 edition, this Candles / Goodness book has been a wonderful resource for peace education, drawing upon world literature, history, and contemporary testimonies to bring nonviolence and ethical behavior to life for young readers. In 1994, Janet Riley spent a school term in Novgorod, Russia. There she found that these stories had cross-cultural appeal for her pre-teen students--and thus was born the vision for the bilingual and trilingual books, with the addition of art and stories directly linked to the cultures of the newly-included languages.

(In another testimony to the power of story to convey values, Janet found that John Woolman's Journal had similar cross-cultural power for young people and adults alike--and, as a result, we began one of the most rewarding collaborations I've ever been involved with, the publication of Woolman's Journal and Plea for the Poor in Russian. Russian Friend Tatiana Pavlova, a historian in the Russian Academy of Sciences, translated Phillips P. Moulton's edition of the Journal with just enough hints of archaism in the language to evoke a parallel with Woolman's English. In her own voice, she also wrote an introduction that provides an extraordinary account of Friends, and our faith and place in the Christian world.)

Back to Power of Goodness and the concern for Chechnya.... Chris Hunter, a former worker for Britain Yearly Meeting in Russia, had set up an organization to provide community mental health care for children traumatized by civil war in Chechnya. He and his mental health partners were among those who received copies of the 2005 edition, and they quickly realized the healing and encouraging power of the stories. Many hours of discussion and consultation resulted in a manual of discussion questions and teaching resources for mental health workers and teachers. The grant from the United States Institute of Peace will go into training and organizing for the use of these materials directly with children and their teachers, and to raise awareness around specific psychosocial challenges faced by children in the Chechen context.

When we adopted the name Friends International Library, we were not signalling an abandonment of our concern for Russia, but we were recognizing that the project that has become our central focus, Power of Goodness, might have a powerful ministry in other parts of the world--particularly where cycles of violence make it hard for children even to imagine what nonviolence and peace might concretely look like. Can we imagine an Arabic/Hebrew edition? What about an edition for Cyprus or Sri Lanka? Where else?

I've been involved now for twenty years, and Janet for nearly 30. Our tiny group currently includes Misha Roshchin of Moscow Meeting, Sylvia Mangalam of Canadian Yearly Meeting, and Chris Hunter of Britain Yearly Meeting, and treasurer Lynn Kamplain. It's clearly time to build a larger group--and to expand the donor base as well.

Of course we realize that such a group will not only have to test new cross-cultural leadings, but sooner or later they'll also have to replace us! Last week we (Janet, Misha, and I) had a wonderful conference call with about six people in the Baltimore-DC area of the USA, who were interested in this work. If you are intrigued, let us know--we'd love to give you more details. [UPDATEThe project's new home.]

I'm a bit scared to attempt a list of all the people who've been involved with Friends International Library and its publications over the years--it's very possible I'd leave someone out. But I think I should make a start, if only to find out where I've gone wrong. (I'll reserve the right to add to this list.) Janet Riley, Jay Worrall, Kent Larrabee, France Conroy, John Barlow, Matthew Roazen, George Hughes, Toby Riley, and Ann Treveranius are names I associate with the original concern. Nadya Spassenko, Mary Moehlman, Anthony Manousos, Wayne Copenhaver, Anne Friend, Janet Chapin, Misha Roshchin, Jay Worrall III, Shirley Dodson, Tatiana Pavlova, and Dale and Von Keairns were involved with Russian-language publications (and Janet Chapin, Sergei Kazantsev, and Gennadi Samokhodkin were particularly involved in the project to gather children's art).

My diaries, now located in safe deposit boxes half a planet away, record the names of the people who met at our committee gatherings and retreats twenty years ago--if you were there, raise your hand.

[NOTE: This listing was corrected on Friday 27 May, 2011. It predates the transfer of the project to its new hosts and developers, Friends Peace Teams.]

Here are two PDF-format articles that add more to this history:

Chuck Fager's A Friendly Letter, no. 70. Scroll down to the article about Janet Riley.

Friends Journal, France H. Conroy, "A Call for Spiritual Linkage."

And here's a link to Peacebuilding UK, who were awarded the U.S. Institute of Peace grant.

In other righteous links,

"Dorothy [Day] in Love."

Alert--please don't let this happen!--"Killing Fulbright-Hayes". (Note that the United States Institute of Peace is another major American peace asset in danger of budgetary strangulation.)

"Liberal Quakerism: 'Profession' without 'Possession'?" "I think what Doug [Gwyn] is saying is that, by abandoning the original Christian and biblical framework for our tradition while continuing to use the vocabulary, we end up talking jive."

"Moscow's Hidden Secret."

Jackson Lears on "The Same Old New Atheism."

A report on a program whose name achieves a new height of bureaucratic lyricism: the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

"Up Above My Head," there is music in the air.


Bill Samuel said...

Unfortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday to revoke the authorization for the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Anonymous said...

Article: http://vdovlatov.livejournal.com/110799.html

Please help spread the word. It's kind of not okay when Edinaya Rossiya membership automatically grants one rights to consume illegal drugs and publicly admit that they 'should have run over that miserable old lady' when she suddenly appeared in front of their car. Boasting about this in their livejournal while swaying their party membership card in front of the camera is simply outrageous.