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AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE19 WORLD-WIDE WORK OF THE AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE By Rufus M. Jones THE American Friends Service Committee was born to meet a supreme crisis in the life of the Society of Friends. Consistent Friends could not take part in the World War nor could they withdraw into a calm retreat and refuse all responsibility for the tragedy that was going on before their eyes. If Quakers had a faith worth preserving they were bound to demonstrate their faith in action and do something with it. Soon after the formation of the Committee, on April 30, 1917, doors were opened for a unit of relief workers in the war zone of northern France and in central Russia. In both fields American Quaker workers were joined with English Friends who were previously engaged in tasks of relief. The work in Russia was primarily concerned with helping to care for refugees from Poland who had fled before the oncoming armies of the Central Powers. In France the types of work were multifarious but in a general way the work was what we now call rehabilitation. But from the very beginning the Service Committee was much more than an agency of relief. It was then, is now and always has been, engaged in the interpretation of a way of life. It met the violence of war and destruction with a service of love and creative good-will. It confronted the ruthless destruction of homes, the breakup of family life, and the wreckage of neighborhoods , with the rebuilding of homes, the reorganization of families, the reconstruction of community life and the tender nurture of little children. AFTER the armistice came Friends were asked to stay and L reconstruct the destroyed villages of the Verdun district. This extensive work was carried through in 1919 and 1920 and a splendid maternity hospital was built at Châlons-sur-Marne and presented to France. Meantime the Service Committee had sent a unit of workers into Serbia for similar reconstruction and rehabilitation work there. 20 BULLETIN OF FRIENDS' HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION English and American Friends under the joint cooperation of their respective Committees were the first to bring relief and guidance to the sorely distressed citizens of Vienna. They bought cows in Switzerland and Holland and took them to Vienna to supply milk to the children. They brought in coal in their Ford cars from Hungary and kept the fires burning in the hospitals, and thus began a work of friendship in that city which still goes on. When the Polish refugees got back to their old regions—one cannot say "homes"—from Russia, they found desolation everywhere . Bushes had grown up in their fields and they were unable to plow them. They sent out a letter addressed to "Quakers, America," which finally came to the Service Committee office in Philadelphia. A unit was sent out with tractor plows, and another piece of rehabilitation was carried through there, with the more serious and sacrificial work of fighting typhus fever. For four years a vast child-feeding program was carried through in Germany by the American Friends Service Committee , covering the entire Reich and reaching at the peak a million two hundred thousand children, and employing 40,000 Germans working through the Quaker Committee. TT proved to be impossible to come away from Europe and¦*¦ drop the lines of fellowship and service that had been formed. As a result centers of a more or less permanent nature have developed in Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and Geneva, and for a period there were similar centers in Moscow and Warsaw. The Service Committee took the initiative in the construction of a model village for laborers in Shanghai, China, and made the first contribution of $1,000 toward it. In the period of strain after the ban on the immigration of Japanese to this country the Service Committee inaugurated the intervisitation of Japanese and American students which did something toward the diffusion of better international feeling. The formation of the Peace Section with its caravans, its international Institutes, its multitudinous activities, is a story of its own. Hardly less important has been the work of the Home Service Section, which...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 19-21
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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