Thursday, January 11, 2018

Peace quote of the day: don't pass on violence

"Don't fight like other people fight, returning evil for evil (1 Thessalonians 5:15a). Instead, suffer patiently, refusing to pass another's violence on to someone else." -- From Ch. 4 of the Rule of Saint Benedict (Paraphrase and Introduction by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove)

This seems like a relevant principle and practice for peacemaking - to "refuse to pass another's violence on to someone else."

In how we respond and react to violence, to we contribute to the violence, add to a downward spiral, or do we break the cycle by refusing to pass on the violence?

I'm caught, as I consider this, between what seems like a beautiful ideal, and the realization that this goes against my natural tendencies and response. It seems not human, but supernatural. But then, it is - this is from the teachings of Jesus, and demonstrated by his example. And I am compelled to consider this principle (to not pass on another's violence), and to embrace it, both because of a deep conviction that I want to add to peace rather than violence in this world, and because of my commitment to following Jesus (which, for me, is the only way to live the kind of life I most desire to live).

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Empathy with the "Other" - a Jewish Rabbi's perspective on President Trump's Jerusalem declaration

(I might subtitle this reflection, "Intercultural growth as peacemaking potential - Seeking peace through understanding the narrative of the 'other'")

In IDC (Intercultural Development Continuum) terms, intercultural growth involves moving from an ethnocentric way of relating to others (Denial – being basically unaware of difference, or Polarization – being pushed away by difference / pushing difference away, feeling threatened by it, negatively stereotyping, etc.), i.e., experiencing my own way of seeing things, my own value system, my own interpretations, etc., as the only real and true way of being human (corresponding, simply, to “how things really are”), to an ethnorelative or global perspective on others. As we move into Acceptance and Adaptation (in how we experience difference), we become open to difference, curious about it, respectful of it. We come to see things from the perspective of others, and to be able to appreciate those different perspectives, to see them as real; and to see those different others as equally (though differently) human.

A great example of this, I think, is reflected in the writings of Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, including this recent reflection on the declaration of intent of President Trump to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem -

Rabbi Hanan demonstrates the intercultural (which you could also simply call human or interpersonal) skills of empathy, ability to see things from the perspective of the other – the ability to understand and reflect and even accept a different narrative of how things are.

Rabbi Hanan reflects a deeply held, deeply felt Jewish perspective on Jerusalem (see the article for details), concluding with the words,

“For most Israelis, the refusal of the world since 1949 to recognize Jerusalem as our capital has been a bewildering affront to our dignity, our identity, and our sovereignty. Many would attribute it to irrational vestigial anti-Semitism. United States president Donald Trump is to be commended for finally correcting the painful and unjust slight and doing justice to the Jewish State. We are deeply thankful and we feel vindicated, as the greatest power on earth has recognized the truth at the foundation of our millennia-long identity.

At this point you think here’s one more person “taking sides” in the deeply polarized non-dialogue about the status of Jerusalem. But this is not the end of the article. Rabbi Hanan proceeds to say,

"I write the above words with fervor and conviction. It is all true. But it is only a part of the truth. There is another truth as well, and there will never be peace as long as we hang on to only part of the truth as if it were the full truth."

And he then lays out a Muslim Palestinian narrative of (perspective on) Jerusalem, in terms which I think most Muslims would recognize and agree with; and he concludes that section of his reflection with these words about President Trump’s declaration:

"From this perspective, President Donald Trump’s momentous announcement was a prodigious slap in the face. Its various caveats did little to soften the sting of humiliation. It gave a piece of the greatest prize to Israel, while the Palestinians still have nothing. Blatantly violating international consensus, it stole from the Palestinians and from the Muslims their last remaining sliver of dignity and hope. It recognized reality indeed, the reality of Israeli’s usurpation of their holy city. It gave the ultimate seal of approval to injustice after tragic injustice perpetrated against the Palestinian people and the Muslim religion."

He goes on to conclude,

"We have here two truths. Both are valid, reflecting part of human reality. Each, however, becomes false when they separately present themselves as the full truth, the only truth. If we want real peace, we must take both into account (emphasis added).  If we really want peace, there is no room for the blind hubris of exclusivity. We must work it out together. There is no place for unilateral measures. We must not lend a hand to any move that triumphantly tramples the last shred of the other side’s dignity. We must make our music heard in harmony with the concert of nations."

"I am deeply torn between (a particular) truth and (a mutual) peace, but if I must decide between them – and indeed I must – I will come down on the side of a mutual peace."

This is all the more remarkable because of the deep and deepening polarization between the Palestinian and Israeli sides in their conflict, where neither listens to the other (there’s plenty of shouting at each other, though), and in fact, where there is hardly any relationship or contact between those on the two basic sides of the conflict.

Rabbi Hanan represents the human potential to understand the different “other” (even one with which our own people are in conflict), to meet the other as a fully human being, to enter their world and empathize with their perspectives and values. And this not only represents a positive model of “intercultural” growth and development, but also shows how this growth can be relevant to peacemaking in a situation of intractable conflict.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Peace quote of the day - seeking connections

“Peace is not won by those who fiercely guard their differences, but by those who with open minds and hearts seek out connections.” - Katherine Paterson

I see this as a good "intercultural" quote, as intercultural relations are about, are based on, seeking connections with the "different other." In other words, good intercultural work is good peace work.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Peace Film: One Day After Peace

Robi Damelin is one of my peace heroes. The documentary of her story is now out. Here's the blurb and the link:

Can the means used to resolve the conflict in South Africa be applied to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? As someone who experienced both conflicts firsthand, Robi Damelin wonders about this. Born in South Africa during the apartheid era, she later lost her son, who was serving with the Israeli Army reserve in the Occupied Territories. At first she attempted to initiate a dialogue with the Palestinian who killed her child. When her overtures were rejected, she embarked on a journey back to South Africa to learn more about the country's Truth and Reconciliation Committee's efforts in overcoming years of enmity. Robi's thought-provoking journey leads from a place of deep personal pain to a belief that a better future is possible.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Peace Post of the Day: Richard Rohr on Nonviolence

"Nonviolence does not come easily or naturally. Even peace work can be a cover for a dark warrior, and I have met 'peace and justice people' who've never faced their needs for power and control. I've known military men more in charge of their aggressiveness than are many church folks and peaceniks. This is why we all need to do our spiritual work, and why spirituality is much more demanding than merely adopting a positive image, title, or job description, such as peace worker..."
Richard Rohr
On the Threshold of Transformation

This is one more testimony to the fact that true work for peace begins with "inner work" - becoming people who are at peace within ourselves, whose inner reality flows into outward peacemaking. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Parker Palmer on 9/11 - Might it have been different?

Sometimes our instinct to resolve tension quickly is played out on a much larger stage. When it became clear what had happened on September 11, 2001, the people of the United States were caught in a tension between the violence that had been done to us and what we would do in response. Of course, the outcome was never in doubt. We would respond by wreaking violence on the perpetrators – or on the stand-ins who could be made to look like the perpetrators – because that is what nation-states do.

But we had an alternative: we might have held that tension longer, allowing it to open us to a more life-giving response. If we had done so, we might have begun to understand that the terror Americans felt on September 11 is the daily fare of a great many people around the world. That insight might have deepened our capacity for global empathy. That empathy might have helped us become more compassionate and responsible citizens of the international community, altering some of our national policies and practices that contribute to the terror felt daily by people in distant lands. And those actions might have made the world a safer place for everyone, including us.

Had we held the tension longer, we might have been opened to the kinds of actions proposed by William Sloane Coffin – actions that place us in the gap between reality and possibility:

'We will respond, but not in kind. We will not seek to avenge the death of innocent Americans by the death of innocent victims elsewhere, lest we become what we abhor. We refuse to ratchet up the cycle of violence that brings only ever more death, destruction and deprivation. What we will do is build coalitions with other nations. We will share intelligence, freeze assets and engage in forceful extradition of terrorists if internationally sanctioned. [We will] do all in [our] power to see justice done, but by the force of law only, never the law of force.'

Instead of holding the tension and being pulled open to options such as these, we allowed ourselves to be caught on the horns of the 'fight or flight' dilemma. Since 'Americans never turn tail', we fought and, as of this writing, are still fighting. But we do not feel any safer today that we did on September 12, 2001. We have simply acquiesced to fear.”
Parker Palmer
A Hidden Wholeness

I like Palmer's reasoning, and I agree with him. I always felt that the U.S. responded to the attacks of 9/11 in a way that has worked against fighting terrorism (and promoting U.S. interests). (Note: I was living in Cairo on 9/11/01, and had been living in the Arab world for 18 years at that point.)

The question is, was the American government (or any government), and the American people (or any people) capable of the kind of restraint, foresight, life-giving and hope-giving response, that Palmer envisions? I would like to think so, but I have deep doubts...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Peace Post of the Day: Parker Palmer on the "Third Way"

Parker Palmer, building on the previously quoted perspectives on violence, advocates "a 'third way' to respond to the violence of the world, so called because it gives us an alternative to the ancient instinct of 'fight or flight'. To fight is to meet violence with violence, generating more of the same; to flee is to yield to violence, putting private sanctuary ahead of the common good. The third way is the way of nonviolence, by which I mean a commitment to act in every situation in ways that honor the soul."

"As we create a safe space for each other's soul, we discover what it means to live nonviolently, and we develop a vision of how we might live that way in daily life."
Parker Palmer
A Hidden Wholeness

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Peace Quote of the Day - Parker Palmer on Violence

'I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse: therefore choose life' (Deuteronomy 30:19)

“Yet when we 'choose life', we quickly confront the reality of a culture riddled with violence. By violence I mean more than the physical savagery that gets much of the press. Far more common are those assaults on the human spirit so endemic to our lives that we may or may not even recognize them as acts of violence.”

“Violence is done when parents insult children, when teachers demean students, when supervisors treat employees as disposable means to economic ends, when physicians treat patients as objects, when people condemn gays and lesbians 'in the name of God', when racists live by the belief that people with a different skin color are less than human. And just as physical violence may lead to bodily death, spiritual violence causes death in other guises – the death of a sense of self, of trust in others, of risk taking on behalf of creativity, of commitment to the common good. If obituaries were written for deaths of this kind, every daily newpaper would be a tome.”

“By violence I mean any way we have of violating the identity and integrity of another person. I find this definition helpful because it reveals the critical connections between violent acts large and small from dropping bombs on civilians halfway around the world to demeaning a child in a classroom.”

“Even if we do no more than acquiesce to small daily doses of violence, we become desensitized to it, embracing the popular insanity that violence is 'only normal' and passively assenting to its dominance.”
Parker Palmer
A Hidden Wholeness

I like Palmer's perspective on violence, because if we are going to work for peace in the world, we have to start with an integrated, holistic perspective on what peace (and violence, lack of peace) is; and we need to become people who recognize and work against violence in all forms, at all levels of life (beginning with my own interactions with everyone I meet).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Israelis speak about the urgency of reaching a two-state solution

Here are a number of Israelis, on the J Street website, advocating a two-state solution.

I'm not sure whether a two-state solution is possible or desirable. Is anyone considering the possibility of changing the program for a "Jewish" state (given, for example, the conflict between being "Jewish," on the one hand, and being "democratic" on the other), and going for a one-state solution, with full equal rights for all citizens, Jewish and Arab, Jew, Muslim and Christian?