Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Summary of May and June meetings

Your moderator has been remiss in not giving fuller summaries of some of the very interesting talks we have had recently at regular meetings.

In May we had Jane Best who is director of Refugees International Japan. Founded in 1995 by expats RIJ surprisingly is not part of a large network but works alone, although the founder on returning to the states has set up a RI lobbying NPO in Washington DC to promote awareness of refugee issues.


 Jane has been involved with  RIJ since 2002 and became the director (a tiny  office) a few years ago. She  has been a long term resident of Japan going way back to friendship (through the restaurant she owned for years) with our Fellowship's founder, Ken Woodroofe.

Jane gave a brief overview of the horrendous refugee problems we face today noting that over 80% of refugees (let alone IDP's) are in developing NOT richer nations.

 She pointed out that one of the best solutions to many problems (from adequate food and housing to preventing despair)  is to let  refugees work in their new communities. Mostly this does not happen.

 RIJ recently has focused on 5 main projects (three along the Thai/Burma border) which she discussed and showed slides about. RIJ's programs are small but have made tremendous differences in peoples lives. Well managed,  truly most of the donated funds to RIJ (according to the figures she showed) are going to the people in need (not administration). All are different but all are fulfilling requests by the people involved-- not ideas imposed from above.

 RIJ is in need of donations and introductions to possible corporate sponsors.

 Our June speaker was Vivek Pinto, whose correct title is research fellow at the Institute of Asian Cultures, International Christian University. He has spoken to the fellowship several times in recent years. This  includes in  January 2017, on the interesting British educator and student of Indian religion, William Winstanley Pearson, who in the early years of the 20th c became Tagore's secretary and translator.

June's talk focused on the influence of Thoreau on the early thinking of Gandhi.

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