Thanks to all the Friends in Ireland Yearly Meeting who have supported the students and the school at Brummana near Beirut through our Bursary Appeal.
As Friends will know, the collapse of the Lebanese economy, following on from the country’s long political problems and the terrible explosion at the port, have left the school, its teachers, the 1250 students and their families in a terrible position, at the same time as Covid has hit. Teachers’ salaries are worth very little, and many are struggling to feed their families. It is really hard to imagine the size of the crisis. For the school, essentials such as text books and computers are impossibly expensive, since they have to be paid for foreign currency, and it is difficult even to get petrol for teachers to get too and from school.
Against this frightening situation, David Gray, the Principal, his team of teachers and the Lebanese Board of Governors are doing an incredible job. The school keeps running well, producing great results, and the students are absolutely delighted to be back on campus, learning together. For them, it is a haven in which they can have a childhood that is being stolen from them. As David Gray says, “Education is key, and perhaps the last hope for Lebanon’s long-term future. If our schools collapse the country has no future.”
Many Old Scholars have rallied to support the school, but the school is now digging into its hard-earned reserves to cover deficits of the last two years, $500,000 in 2020 and $750,000 in 2021, and to pay staff a living wage.
At the same time, we in The Quaker International Educational Trust (QuIET) are seeking to get as much support as possible for bursaries, to help keep the finances going. And we know that this is going to have to continue for a long time. Lebanon’s grave problems will take years to address.
We in QuIET, and the school, have now launched the “Friends of Brummana”, to Quakers and others interested in the future of the school, and supporting the progressive younger generation in the Lebanon. Recently over 20 Quakers, through Zoom, held an inaugural meeting. Each “Friend of Brummana” will use their time to address local Meetings and research other sources of funding, to ensure that this Quaker school survives.
Would you like to join this group, joining the online meetings, hearing who is happening in Brummana, meeting teachers and students on line, and seeing how you can support the school? If so, please email me at email@example.com and I will link you in.
In doing so you would be in a long tradition of Irish Friends. In 1869 as the school started to develop, four Quakers visited Beirut to see how they could support. Two of these were for Ireland – Richard Allen and Charles Wakefield. Further, three of the school’s Principal, Robert Davidson, John Henry Turtle and Kenneth Clay – who together led the school from 1932 to 1947 – came from Ireland, all with very strong links to Friends School Lisburn. And as a Jane Richardson, a Moyallon Quaker, wrote, during her visit in 1887, the people of Brummana “like the Irish, are kind-hearted, generous…; very clannish among themselves, but always hospitable to strangers.”
It is so important that we continue and deepen this relationship, at this terrible time. As David Gray recently said, “BHS is a school which celebrates freedom of thought and expression and lays the ground rules of any happy, prosperous society. It must continue to do so and to send out its students in the future as leaders of countries and professions as it has done in the past.”
Ireland Yearly Meeting Education Committee (IYMEC) is responsible for holding the list of vetted Leaders who volunteer/work with children and young people.
Friends and Attenders who would like to volunteer are appointed as Leaders by IYMEC and also go through the PSNI/Garda vetting process. Although PMs appoint and keep the list of their own Junior Meeting/Sunday School volunteers, they too need to be vetted if they engage with children on a regular basis. Under our Child Safeguarding Policy all Leaders who wish to continue in the role need to be re-appointed every four years. PSNI/Garda vetting through Friends currently needs to only happen once.
The existing Leader Database includes the names of many Friends and Attenders who we know are no longer involved with Friends and/or volunteering with young people; furthermore almost all those on the list need to be re-appointed by IYMEC. Rather than contact each person individually Education Committee is encouraging those interested in volunteering to seek appointment. With the recent welcome appointment of Alex Collins, our Youth Support Worker, and the possibility of organising in-person events we would really encourage you to apply to become a Leader and to engage with our young people in a range of very rewarding activities.
Smith and Pearson Ltd. An Irish engineering company in theearly years of the State
The Friends Historical Committee’s most recent publication, Irwin Pearson’s account of the family firm of Smith and Pearson: Smith and Pearson Ltd. An Irish engineering company in the early years of the State, tells the story of a firm whose name became almost a household word.
Founded at the beginning of the 20th century by the North of England Quaker John Biglands Pearson, the company initially produced agricultural buildings, gates and fences, but went on to become contractors for structural steel for power plants and other major building projects. In the 1950s they added a division for steel windows which they supplied to the American Embassy, RTE and many private homes. During the second World War steel became unavailable in the Free State, but the British Admiralty gave the company a contract to supply landing craft – an unusual commission for a Quaker firm. Smith and Pearson opened a shipyard at Warrenpoint and the first craft was completed in record time, but this was already too late for the D-day landings. Like many family-owned businesses, Smith and Pearson fell victim to the changes of the 1970s.
This intriguing personal account is available from the Friends Historical Library, Stocking Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16 at €15 (postage included).
Every year, the first Sunday of October is designated World Quaker Day. This year, World Quaker Day is October 3, 2021, and the theme will be “Resilience and hope: drawing strength from our Quaker faith”.
Every Quaker Meeting and Church around the world is invited by the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) to mark World Quaker Day in whatever way they may choose (see https://fwccamericas.org/_wp/event/world-quaker-day-2021/) . This gives an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the rich diversity of Quaker traditions practiced around the world and the deep spiritual connections linking us all.
There are many ways to celebrate World Quaker Day, such as holding a candlelit Meeting for Worship, holding a discussion on a Quaker theme, organising a childrens’ activity about Quakers around the world, opening your Meeting House to the public, to name just a few. You can see how various Meetings celebrated World Quaker Day 2020 on this reports page. Ireland Yearly Meeting is part of the Europe and Middle East Section (EMES) of FWCC, which will be hosting an hour of unprogrammed worship on World Quaker Day (see https://fwccemes.org/calendar/world-quaker-day-2021 ).
Do consider marking World Quaker Day, be it in person or online. You won’t be alone – thousands of other Friends around the world will be with you!
At its Annual Meeting, Friends in the European and Middle Eastern Section of FWCC were very moved by the powerful presentation about Friends in the Lebanon, and about Brummana High School, given by Sami Cortas, Clerk of Brummana Meeting – known to Irish Friends – and David Gray, the school’s Principal.
Founded in 1873, with Irish Friends at times on its staff, it has long been a beacon of light in times of perennial crisis in the country, attracting students of all faiths and background. This diversity and its promotion of tolerance and peaceful resolution have been central to its academic excellence and pastoral compassion. Principal David Gray emphasises that these Quaker values continue to guide its response to the struggles today and its pivotal importance for the future of an ailing country.
David writes, “The August the 4th explosion in Beirut, which ripped out the heart of the city, rendered 300,000 people homeless and killed and maimed thousands, brought to the attention of the world a country which was floundering amidst a sea of troubles. Little Lebanon, surrounded by war torn and impoverished Syria, from which it has received over a million refugees, and Israel, did not have its problems to seek.
In the past 12 months the Lebanese Lira has lost 90% of its value, inflation is rampant, unemployment runs at 50% and 60% of the population lives below the poverty line. And of course, COVID-19, which has raged out of control in a country which has operated without a government for over a year, has taken its toll on a weary, exhausted, and despairing people. Businesses have closed, schools are physically closed, and those who have had the capacity to leave the country have done so for a better life elsewhere.
Yet Lebanon is a beautiful place and a jewel in the Middle Eastern crown, once the home of Middle Eastern banking and free enterprise and still a champion of education as a means to prosperity and to success. At the centre of this jewel lies Brummana High School.
Today it is running a comprehensive education and welfare programme online for its 1250 strong population, aged three to 18, continuing to promote its Quaker values and striving to provide for its families who have been hit hard by all of Lebanon’s woes, through its beleaguered, financial aid scheme.”
Senior BHS students have also commented in recent weeks. Head Prefect Kelly Kanaan emphasised how, despite extremes challenges, “BHS has navigated the world of online education this year, generated successful student-led projects (in April the online Model United Nations Conference hosted 170 student delegates from six countries and 26 schools) and built international bonds and relationships with students abroad.” Yet, as Francesco Jarjoura, Student Council President, said, “Help is now needed to support the school families struggling due to the multiple crises.”
The projected school shortfall this year is £750,000. In July, the Quaker International Education Trust will be running a campaign to raise money to support. Last year QuIET raised £30,000 from its summer appeal. this year we need to double that. An Appeal is going out in The Friend, and brochures distributed. Please think about how you or your Meeting can assist the school by making a donation which will, however small, help to save the education of a child whose future depends on your generosity and who will, through the Quaker education provided, be able to begin to mend the broken society which is so desperately evident in the country today. Without your support, many children who could do much will miss out and flounder where otherwise they might flourish.
EcoQuakers Ireland sent the following letter to Irish newspapers in May 2021. It was published in The Irish Times and The Irish Examiner:
Sir, – The Religious Society of Friends in Ireland has great concern regarding the Ceta (EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) trade agreement. The ISDS clause (investor-state dispute settlement) element of the agreement would allow foreign investors to sue a nation state for amending legislation that would infringe on corporate profits. The tribunals in which the ISDS process is adjudicated are a private procedure, without any system of appeals, in which the potential lost profits are the central subject of focus.
The EU intends to update this process by making it public and calling it the investor court system (ICS). In the ICS, however, the tribunal can still be held in private if the investors insist, thus calling this a “court” is misleading. A court of law would balance the lost profits against the public good, but the ICS will not. It is worth noting that 90 per cent of the largest recent ISDS suits have amounted to more than $1 billion each and have been taken by fossil fuel and mining industries against countries that have endeavoured to make moves towards a more sustainable future.
Quakers hold that we are all equal, and that sustainability and care for God’s creation is of vital importance for our common future. We view that the creation of a separate court system for corporations, where profits are seen to be more important than the wellbeing of a nation’s children, is incompatible with Christ’s teachings, and the ISDS element within international trade agreements is morally indefensible.
By contrast we hold the vision for a better future that allows for the evolution of national legislation to help create a more equitable, sustainable and beautiful world, where both trade and international cooperation are founded on a firm base of mutual respect and care. As such we must drop the ISDS clause from Ceta and other international agreements. – Yours, etc,