Barbara Graves served in Europe, too, as head of Quaker missions in Germany for five years beginning in 1948. At the time, the American relief effort was shifting from direct aid to teaching Germans self-sufficiency. She oversaw several programs that trained Germans in how to sew, knit, make shoes and master other skills. The experience there, and earlier wartime service with the American Red Cross in England, filled her with pressing questions about the rationality of war, she said.
"The so-called face of the enemy was not in the kids and the hungry people in rags; the enemy is violence," Graves said. For her, a saying of early Quaker William Penn that inspired her European work is equally apropos today: "Let us then try what love can do: For if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us."
Quaker humanitarianism is based on the belief that all people carry the inner light of the divine, that there is "that of God in everyone."
It follows that no one is an enemy, said Claire Gorfinkel of the service committee office in Pasadena. "If every person carries a divine spark within, it's our job to illuminate that spark and see the best," said the self-described "Quakerish Jew."
The Friends movement arose in England around 1650 as religious and social protest. Members stressed a direct experience of God rather than through mediators, and the equality of all stemming from their "inner light."
The name "Friends" comes from Jesus' words: "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. . . . These things I command you, that ye love one another."
Quakers were mercilessly persecuted, and even executed, but gained a foothold in the Pennsylvania colony founded by Penn. The group later launched many of the first efforts in what were then shockingly radical causes, including Native American rights and the abolition of slavery.
Today, the faith community is small--only about 300,000 worldwide--but its activities are legendary in scope and impact. With offices in 45 U.S. cities and a dozen abroad, service committee programs focus on relief, peacemaking, youth leadership and education.
Said Gorfinkel: "We are hoping to inspire future generations of people who will, at minimum, question the use of military force and the efficacy of war as a way to solve problems."
The free exhibit is at First Friends Church, 13205 Philadelphia St., Whittier, until Oct. 28, noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday; school tours and special hours by appointment. (626) 791-1978.