Day 38: Andy Shallal

Today’s Peacemaker is DC-area artist, activist and entrepreneur (owner of Busboys and Poets) Andy Shallal. Anas “Andy” Shallal was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1955. While serving as the Ambassador of the Arab League, his father moved the family to the US in 1966 but as the Ba’athists and Saddam Hussein seized power through the ’70’s, the family could not return. Andy got a degree from Catholic University and enrolled in Howard University medical school. He also worked as a medical immunology researcher at NIH before returning to the restaurant business that his family had entered.

andyshallal (1)After opening and running three successful restaurants with his brothers in DC, he sold his interests and opened the first Busboys and Poets in 2005. Now with 6 locations in the DC metro-area, these are more than restaurants; they are bookstores and market-places that promote social awareness and justice causes, and where fair-trade products are sold, and where organic, earth-friendly food and beverages are promoted. These places also are gathering places for community events that promote dialog and understanding. These efforts to promote healthful and sustainable practices has gained recognition by the US Healthful Food Council. Shallal is also one of the co-founders of Think Local First, promoting and supporting local business owners and sustainable practices.

In addition to the businesses, Shallal has been active in a number of political and social justice causes (among his teachers was Colman McCarthy). He is a member of Restaurant Centers Opportunity United that promotes good wages and working conditions for restaurant workers. He has been active in numerous peace movement organizations, including Iraqi Americans for Peaceful Alternatives, and the Peace Cafe that promotes Arab-Jewish dialogue. He participated in many events protesting the second Gulf War, and spoke at the “counter-inauguration” of GW Bush in 2005. He also catered Cindy Sheehan’s anti-war camp/vigil outside Bush’s Crawford Ranch.  He has received the UN Human Rights Community Award, the Mayor’s Environmental Award, the Mayor’s Art Award, the Washington Peace Center’s Man of the year, and numerous leadership awards in employment and sustainability practices. His artwork can be seen in all of the Busboys and Poets locations as well as other places throughout DC.

As he has become successful, he has also recognized the tension that comes with advocating for equality while being rich. In 2013, he stated “I am increasingly uncomfortable with my comfort.” He has spoken out for higher minimum wages, and raised concerns about the difference between healthy communities and gentrification. He was outspoken in advocating that Walmart stores opening in DC pay decent wages and provide for worker rights.  In addition, despite his financial success, his two daughters attended public high schools and colleges.

For today, here are two quotes of his that reflecting the spirit of Shallal:

“Every culture from around the globe contains an infusion of food culture that is relative. So we all have something to share.”

“If we continue to think of ourselves as color-blind, then I think we’re always going to be tripping over ourselves.”

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Day 18: Lothar Kreyssig and Action Reconciliation Service for Peace

Lothar Kreyssig (1896-1986) was a German judge and the founder of the organization Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (“ARSP” or in German: Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste EV.). After his graduation from high school, Kreyssig applied to the military in 1916 to join World War I voluntarily.  His two years of war experience brought him to France and Serbia. When the war was over, he studied law in Leipzig, a city in what became East Germany.

KreyssigWhen the third Reich took over the country, Kreyssig refused to join the NSDAP, which was Hitlers party. When he found out that the Nazis killed several people, he sued the party and tried to actively fight against the regime. He was the only judge to try and stop the Action T4 euthanasia program, for which he was released of his judicial duty. The SS later tried to send him to a concentration camp but he disappeared.

After the war, Kreyssig was nominated for several awards for fighting against the Nazi regime. He decided not to work as a judge anymore and between 1949 and 1961, was a member of the Council of the Evangelical Church. Even though his beliefs were not supported by many people, Kreyssig had a big impact on the evangelical church. In 1958, he founded the organization “Aktion Sühnzeichen Friedensdienste EV” (ARSP) with a commitment to send voluntary young German people to former “enemy-countries” (like Israel at that time) to ask for forgiveness and build for peace.

When the Berlin Wall was built to divide Germany into two parts, Kreyssiger was in East Germany. He handed over his position with ARSP  because he was cut off from all the international activities. He then built up the same organization in East Germany. In 1971, he was able to move to West Germany and in the year of 1986, he died.

ARSP still sends out over 150 students all over the world every year, with a commitment to building foundations and bridges for peace. There are 22 students stationed in the USA right now, 4 of them in Washington, DC (including Hans Gunther, the writer of this piece, at William Penn House and Capitol Hill Group Ministries).

For today, take a moment to reflect on the timelessness of his words written as he tried to stop the euthanasia in Germany: “What is right is what benefits the people. In the name of this frightful doctrine — as yet, uncontradicted by any guardian of rights in Germany — entire sectors of communal living are excluded from [having] rights, for example, all the concentration camps, and now, all hospitals and sanatoriums.”

Check out the organization’s website here: http://www.actionreconciliation.org. And join us at William Penn House Sunday, April 3 as we welcome many of the US-based volunteers at our monthly potluck to talk about their service and hear more about the program.  

(This post submitted by Hans Gunther)

Day 38: The Southeast White House

“Welcome home.” Two simple words that can bring so much comfort. I recently heard them from Sammie Morrison while attending the semi-monthly community fellowship lunch at the Southeast White House in DC. William Penn House staff and interns were first invited to these lunches over 3 years ago, and the relationship with this wonderful place has become a vital part of our connection to the community. The Southeast White House primarily flows from some folks with a deep evangelical/Trinitarian faith – not something that is very familiar or initially comforting to many of the secular/humanist/Universalist individuals and groups that come to William Penn House. But what is so moving and inspiring about the Southeast White House, for those of us who have the great fortune to spend time there, is what they practice. All are truly welcome, and the depth of faith allows for taking many leaps of faith – going as “way opens.”

southeastwhitehouse

The nuts and bolts of what they do: semi-monthly lunches and weekly prayer breakfasts, after-school and tutoring/mentoring programs for neighborhood youth, and regular parent/family support programs. This list does not begin to capture the true spirit and energy of welcome that they practice. At the lunches, the mix and diversity of people and the welcoming spirit are something I know Quakers and so many others aspire for, and here it is. From Sammie, Scott and Baxter G, to Kathy, Tina, Ernest and Joel, to pretty much everyone you meet there, you quickly bypass “stranger” and go right to “guest” and then “friend”.  “Come as you are” and “We are a house for all people” is a constant message, and once you truly get that when others speak their own and beliefs, it is not a mandate to accept it, but rather an invitation to share yours, it is transformative. If you are ever in DC on a Tuesday morning, or a first or third Wednesday of the month at 12:30, you, too, are welcome.

In recognition of and gratitude to the Southeast White House, take a moment to reflect on the words of 20th century pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick:

Peace is an awareness of the reserves from beyond ourselves, so that our power is not so much in us as through us. Peace is the gift, not of volitional struggle, but of spiritual hospitality. 

In what ways can you practice greater hospitality today as an expression of your own beliefs?

(The Southeast White House is located at 2909 Pennsylvania Ave. SE).

Submitted by Brad Ogilvie