American Friends Service Committee

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The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was organized in 1917 by Friends who were deeply concerned for the spiritual values endangered by the World War. Young Friends and others desirous of making a constructive, nonmilitary contribution to the world through relief and reconstruction activities in devastated war areas offered their services to the committee. Among the 600 men and women who were engaged in this kind of activity in France during and after World War I were a considerable number of Mennonites, who either were released from military service for this activity or volunteered directly for it.

Mennonite relief work in Spain, 1937-1940, under the Mennonite Relief Committee (Elkhart), and in France 1939-1941 under the Mennonite Central Committee, was carried on through the good offices and administrative channels of the AFSC who gave the workers technical AFSC appointments and handled all shipping of goods and supplies as well as the transfer of funds.

Between the two wars, Mennonite cooperation with the Friends was continued through meetings of the Conference of Pacifist Churches and later through the sessions of the Conference of Historic Peace Churches. With the coming of the military draft in the United States preceding World War II, the American Friends Service Committee, the Brethren Service Committee, and the Mennonite Central Committee assumed the leadership in organizing the National Service Board for Religious Objectors (NSBRO). Although later the Friends withdrew from active support of the NSBRO, cooperation between the Mennonites and the AFSC, particularly in matters pertaining to the draft of conscientious objectors and the planning of relief projects, continued. In 1947 the American Friends Service Committee, along with Friends Service Council of London, received the Nobel Peace Prize for their work among refugees during World War II.

Although the AFSC and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) no longer share the close working relationship of earlier years, when working in areas of international conflict, the organizations still tend to cooperate. During the Nigerian Civil War AFSC and MCC jointly administered a project in Biafra (1969-1971). Field staff of both organizations have assisted each other in logistics and planning in postwar Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) and the war-torn Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia) during the 1970s and 1980s. CDH


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Gingerich, Melvin. Service for Peace, Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee, 1949.

Hershberger, Guy F. The Mennonite Church in the Second World War. Scottdale, PA, 1951.

Pickett, Clarence E. For More Than Bread. Boston: Little, Brown, 1953.

Forbes, John. The Quaker Star under Seven Flags, 1917-27. Philadelphia: U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1962.

Weisbord, Marvin R. Some Form of Peace. New York: Viking, 1971.

Jonas, Gerald. On Doing Good. New York: Scribner's, 1971.

Yarrow, C. H. Mike. Quaker Experiences in International Conciliation. New Haven: Yale U. Press, 1978.

Author(s) Melvin Gingerich
C. Douglas Hostetter
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Gingerich, Melvin and C. Douglas Hostetter. "American Friends Service Committee." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 19 Jun 2024.

APA style

Gingerich, Melvin and C. Douglas Hostetter. (1987). American Friends Service Committee. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 87; v. 5, p. 20. All rights reserved.

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