Friends Meeting in Ramallah Update–May 2016
[Excerpted from the newsletter of the Friends of the Ramallah Friends Meeting, written by Arlene Kelly]
After thirty years of faithful, committed unwavering service, Jean Zaru is stepping down as the Presiding Clerk. I know countless numbers, far and wide, join me in offering a prayer of thanksgiving for Jean –our beloved and faithful Friend– who tirelessly walks hand in hand with us as fellow travelers on the road of humanity toward truth and liberation.
In this letter, we share with you a major transition in the life of Ramallah Friends Meeting. After thirty years of faithful, committed unwavering service, Jean Zaru is stepping down as the Presiding Clerk. I know countless numbers, far and wide, join me in offering a prayer of thanksgiving for Jean –our beloved and faithful Friend– who tirelessly walks hand in hand with us as fellow travelers on the road of humanity toward truth and liberation.
Paradoxically this is, at one and the same time, an event of major significance and an event of minor significance. Jean’s contribution as clerk has been of unquestionable importance. As a Friend who has been involved with Jean and the Meeting for fifteen of those thirty years, I would venture to say that, were it not for Jean’s leadership and sacrifice, there would not today be a meeting. Or if it were there, it would be very different and far less an oasis at the cross roads of a troubled land, one that offers spiritual refreshment for people from the four corners of our globe who come to drink of its waters.
But it is also of minor significance because Jean will continue to make her home in Ramallah, be fully involved in the life of the Meeting and committed to her teaching ministry, receiving groups of theologians, academics, young people and many others who seek conversation about her prophetic, faith based teaching on nonviolence in the face of violence. In many ways, nothing is changing except that Jean will more fully be available to channel her gifts and energy, living into the ministries to which she continues to feel a call.
The Clerk’s mantel did not define Jean, nor empower her; Jean, in living her witness as a child of God, has defined the mantel. Jean spoke to this in a talk given several years ago:
“My outward identity is at all times coupled with the inward knowledge that I am a child of God. This self-understanding has provided me with the necessary sustenance and steadfastness for all of my life’s struggles.
“What a fundamental realization it is –a major re-alignment of sorts– to finally honor that of God inside me, while simultaneously honoring the Light that shines in every other person in the world. I have been sustained by a deeply embedded sense of equality and empowered with that equality in spite of the oppression and structures of domination I face daily which scream at me otherwise.”
With joy, I share with you that the rising Clerk, around whose nomination Friends united, is Saleem Zaru. A 3rd generation Quaker, Saleem is a Ramallah Friends School (RFS) graduate who grew up in the Meeting and then later married under its care. He has served the Ramallah community in several capacities, including as Clerk of the RFS Board of Trustees. Currently, Saleem is Executive Director of the United Palestinian Appeal (UPA). Based in the Washington, DC area, Saleem’s work brings him to Ramallah and the wider region multiple times a year, which may even allow him to revive a direct connection with Brummana Monthly Meeting in Lebanon.
Given Saleem’s lifelong commitment to the Meeting, his strong faith instilled by his parents, Jean and Fuad, and experience in community led development, we are confident that the Meeting and its ministries will continue to be grounded in the soil of the community and led by the Spirit. Saleem will transition fully into the Clerk’s role by mid-2017.