The American Friends Service Committee carries out service, development, social justice, and peace programs throughout the world. Founded by Quakers in 1917 to provide conscientious objectors with an opportunity to aid civilian war victims, AFSC''s work attracts the support and partnership of people of many races, religions, and cultures.
AFSC''s work is based on the Quaker belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. The organization''s mission and achievements won worldwide recognition in 1947 when it accepted the Nobel Peace Prize with the British Friends Service Council on behalf of all Quakers.
The AFSC is directed by a Quaker board and staffed by Quakers and other people of faith who share the Friends'' desire for peace and social justice.
Helping Those in Need
The American Friends Service Committee was founded in 1917 to provide young Quakers and other conscientious objectors an opportunity to serve those in need instead of fighting during World War I.
Four decades later, the AFSC and the British Friends Service Council accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of all Quakers. In making the presentation, Gunnar Jahn, chairman of the Nobel Committee, said, "It is through silent assistance from the nameless to the nameless that they have worked to promote the fraternity between nations cited in the will of Alfred Nobel."
Caring for WWI Refugees
During AFSC''s first year, it sent young men and women to France, where they worked in cooperation with British Friends to feed and care for refugee children, found a maternity hospital, repair and rebuild homes, and provide returning refugees with the necessities to restart their lives.
Extending AFSC Service
After the war ended in 1918, the AFSC''s work spread to Russia, where workers helped victims of famine and disease; to Poland and Serbia, where they established an orphanage and helped in agricultural rehabilitation; and to Germany and Austria, where they fed hungry children.
The 1930s brought new challenges. Quaker workers helped refugees escape from Adolf Hitler''s Germany; provided relief for children on both sides of the Spanish Civil War; fed refugees in occupied France; and helped victims of the London blitz.
The AFSC engaged in relief and reconstruction in many of the countries of Europe after World War II, as well as in India, China, and Japan.
Helping Throughout the World
The AFSC mission took Quakers to India in 1947, where they helped resettle refugees who had lost their homes during rioting in the partition of India. The next year, Quaker workers helped Arab refugees on the Gaza Strip.
In response to many conflicts that followed - the Korean War, the Hungarian Revolution, the Algerian War - the AFSC mobilized. In 1966, the AFSC undertook programs of child care and prosthetics for war-injured Vietnamese civilians in the south and provided medical supplies for civilians in the north. During the Nigerian-Biafran War, Quaker workers provided relief for civilians on both sides of the battle.
Promoting Peace Through Programs
In the 1950s, the AFSC increasingly focused on programs designed to relieve the tensions that lead to war. To address the disparity between rich and poor nations, the committee established programs of social and technical assistance in developing nations.
The AFSC also began bringing together mid-career diplomats from many nations in informal, off-the-record conferences. Beginning in Europe, this program has been extended to Africa and all parts of Asia and expanded to include young leaders and professionals as well as diplomats.
Targeting Injustice in the U.S.
Recognizing that most conflicts have their roots in injustice, the Quaker organization has been long concerned with eliminating injustice at home in the United States. This has led to a long history of involvement with Native Americans, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, migrant workers, prisoners, and the poor. The AFSC helps work with people to organize community action to obtain better schools, better housing, and better working conditions.
Also throughout the United States, the AFSC works continually to create an informed public opinion on the issues of war and peace.