As the U.S. grapples with how to respond to Syrian refugees, a group of pacifists known as the Philadelphia Granny Peace Brigade is reaching out to women still inside a country torn by civil war.
Gloria Hoffman is one of the founding members of the group, which has been protesting war for almost a decade. Eleven of them were arrested once during a demonstration against the Iraq war at a military recruitment office in Center City.
Recently, they wrote a letter addressed “to the Grandmothers of Syria,” women living lives very different from their own. In it, the grannies expressed their opposition to U.S. air strikes on the country and their support for diplomatic efforts.
“We wring our hands in frustration over current indications that not only peace is a dream, but that the violence continue to increase,” they wrote.
“I think of a woman who’s living in a city that’s pretty much bombed out,” Hoffman said, “Where there may not be water, where there’s very little food, where she’s afraid to go outside because there could be bombing at any time … and how distressing the whole thing must be seeing your country destroyed.”
Another granny, Zondra Price, reached out to a Syrian refugee named Youssef Abbara, who fled his hometown of Homs and arrived in Philadelphia last year. Price met Abbara at a Quaker meeting she attends and asked if he would be willing to meet with the grannies. He did and offered to translate their letter into Arabic and post it on Facebook.
“Our hope is one grandmother will see it, show it to others and another grandmother would put a message out on Facebook back to us,” said granny Jean Haskell.
Hoffman hopes their message reaches other women and gives them some comfort.
“We can’t completely feel their pain because they’re obviously in a horrible situation, but that there are people rooting for them,” she said.
The Granny Peace Brigade will also be handing out fortune cookies at this year’s Mummer’s Parade with messages of support for peace negotiations in Syria.