Nonviolence, peace, and justice are not utopian dreams but real and practical ways in which humans can affect the world around them.
Earlier this year, I walked into the university classroom where I teach a course in Peace Studies. Seated in a circle around the room were seniors just shy of graduating. They would soon become doctors, social workers, teachers, community organizers, executives, and leaders.
To open our semester together, I wrote a simple, three-word question on the board.
What is peace?
Silence. Stumped by this tiny question, no one spoke. They did not have an answer, and I would later discover why: It was the first time in their life a teacher had asked them to define peace.
Each year in the United States, millions of students graduate from high school and college, their diplomas certifying years spent studying the principles of science, mathematics, literature, and writing. These are the subjects we value as a society, and therefore we insist that our young people develop knowledge in these areas. Imagine if we graduated seniors who couldn’t read, or do simple math, or write basic paragraphs. Outrageous, right?
Yet these very same students will graduate without ever once studying conflict resolution. During their entire academic career, they will never be required to take a course on making peace, building community, or forgiving an enemy. The principles of violence and nonviolence will not be analyzed, the philosophy of Dr. King will not be discussed, and satyagraha—the practice of nonviolent resistance, which Gandhi called the most powerful force in the universe—will remain ignored.
We are neglecting to teach our students the most fundamental and urgent lesson: how to make peace in the world around them. And by forgetting to do so, we are promoting violence. As my friend and fellow peace educator Colman McCarthy once said, “If we don’t teach our children peace, someone else will teach them violence.”
So each day, in the classrooms where I teach middle school, high school, and college students, I work to counter the violence, spark the conscience, and liberate the thinking mind. I teach peace.
Dismantling the Violence
At the most basic level, to teach peace is to teach that violence does not have to happen.
For too long in the West, we have acted as if violence is inevitable, a natural part of the human condition that sticks to us like the skin on our back. Nonviolence is written off as an afterthought—viewed, at best, as do-nothing-passivity and, at worst, as a long-haired fantasy of Woodstock. Responding to violence with violence is seen as the only practical solution, and the result is greater violence.
But this is changing.
Hundreds of colleges and universities across the globe now offer degrees in Peace Studies, with some universities reporting enrollment size doubling in the past few years. At the heart of each program is the declaration that nonviolence, peace, and justice are not utopian dreams but real and practical ways in which humans can live and affect the world around them. Violence and its dynamics are examined alongside the history, philosophy, and principles of nonviolence. The treasure chest of stories is opened, and like some reverse-Pandora’s Box, the ideals of peace-making are unleashed onto classrooms as students study the examples of Cesar Chavez and Vandana Shiva, Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan, Gandhi and Gene Sharp.
From a broader perspective, this academic trend towards peace-making is part of the widespread awakening—what David Korten calls “The Great Turning”—happening in response to the problems of our time.
Those problems are many.
The United States leads the First World in the following categories: prison population, drug use, child hunger, poverty, illiteracy, teen pregnancies, firearms death, obesity, diabetes, recorded rapes, use of antidepressants, income disparity, military spending, production of hazardous waste, and the poor quality of its schools (Paul Hawken, who published this list in Blessed Unrest, also points out that the U.S. is the only country in the world besides Iraq with metal detectors in its schools).
For the peace educator, this list is no surprise. Violence spreads like a virus. Contagious by nature, it follows a spiritual law that says that violence plus violence only equals more violence. Violence can never lead to peace, and the more we respond with violence, the more violence we create.
So teaching peace means dismantling this list. One great crowbar comes simply through asking questions.
To Teach Peace is to Teach Gandhi
“Could nonviolence have stopped Hitler and the Nazis?” I ask middle school students in my U.S. history course. Having already examined the philosophy of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., the students create imaginary European nations whose mission is to develop nonviolent strategies to stop invading Nazis. After they present their plans, I tell them about the citizens of Denmark—so many of them teenagers barely older than my students—who monkeywrenched the entire Nazi plan through nonviolent noncooperation.
During our year together, these 12-year olds have surveyed the landscape of U.S. history. But where most history courses ignore the deep tradition of American nonviolence, my curriculum examines Jeremiah Evarts as well as Andrew Jackson, AJ Muste as well as Harry Truman, Henry David Thoreau as well as Teddy Roosevelt. My course features nonviolence alongside every story of violence. Students develop a long exposure to the people in our history who have resisted violence by following their conscience.
“Which is stronger: love or hate?” I ask high school students in my Democracy Studies course. We’ve already finished the biography of Gandhi, discussing at length the ideas behind satyagraha. Gandhi is the Thomas Edison of nonviolence—he switched on our understanding of this universal force more than anyone prior, and to study and teach peace is to study and teach Gandhi.
Gandhi was skilled at civil disobedience, but he was even better at promoting practical solutions. Gandhi resisted injustice by creating alternatives, what he called “constructive programmes.” His favorite was the spinning wheel, which allowed Indians to forgo British cloth while actively spinning their own.
With a nod to Gandhi’s idea, I ask my students to create their own constructive programmes. Find a problem in the world around you, I tell them, and then create its solution. Further freeing them from traditional academia, I liberate the grade book and allow them to assign themselves a grade. They dive in, and create some powerful actions.
- One student handed out copies of Gene Sharp’s revolutionary (and in some countries, illegal) 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action to people on the streets.
- One student created dialogue between two opposing groups—the mayor and some frustrated citizens.
- One student served vegetarian pizza to the homeless community in town.
- One student planted a garden.
- One student began providing food and clean water to migrant workers crossing the brutal desert. She was arrested for her work.
- One student began collecting long-distance phone cards for U.S. troops overseas.
- One student forgave her enemy.
- One student began to pray and meditate regularly.
Schools do not have to create a formal Peace Studies course. Just like writing or note-taking, it is an academic skill that can be infused into almost any current course.
But when schools do formalize a Peace Studies program, the door opens wider. At the university where I teach Peace Studies, students read a biography of Gandhi and then Michael Nagler’s formative The Search for a Nonviolent Future. We spend many days wrestling over the practice of forgiveness before measuring the effect inner peace has on external circumstances. Understanding the practice of war-making consumes several weeks, as we examine the media’s role in promoting war, the reasons why war gives us meaning (in the words of Chris Hedges), and also a presentation from local U.S. Army colonels.
Peace Studies does not shirk away from opposing viewpoints. It does not practice partisanship. The study of peace is radical in that all are welcome, for peace is about more than politics. I can teach for months without ever speaking about George Bush and Barack Obama or red and blue states. Peace Studies gets underneath the surface, going deeper into what it means to be human.
And that’s why so many students cram into my classroom to take these courses. Not because of me, but because they are so hungry to study peace.
“I Understand What Making Peace Is All About’’
A few years ago, a student of mine who delved as deeply into understanding peace as anyone I’ve ever taught was participating in a march for reproductive rights in Washington. Thousands were there, including the counter-protestors shouting from the barricaded sidewalk. One man in particular caught her attention.
“Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!’’ he shouted, staring right at her.
Breathing deeply, she put down her sign (it read: “Equal Rights for All”) and walked over to him, smiling softly. She put her arms around him and hugged. Then she walked back, picked up her sign and kept marching.
The story does not end here. Months later, at another march, she spotted him again. Again, she was marching, he was shouting. But their eyes locked, and in that moment, all the animosity melted away. He stopped shouting. He softened. He may have even smiled.
“It was in that moment that I understood what making peace was all about,’’ she later told me.
And that is why I teach peace.
David Cook wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. He lives with his wife and two small children in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he teaches courses on Peace Studies, Democracy Studies, and American Studies. He received his masters degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College, and his work has been featured in The Sun, Geez and truthout.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Huff-Post Religion Uncovers ‘The Surprising Sacred Gathering Spaces That Are Moving Into Your Neighborhoods’
Published with permission from Huff-Post Religion. By: Jaweed Kaleem
Twice a week, every Sunday and Monday night, around a dozen New Yorkers gather in long, candle-lit studio apartment nestled between a hair salon and some warehouses in one of Brooklyn’s latest hip neighborhoods. They’re actors, singers, seminarians and new parents, and they sit in groups of six around tables in one of the simplest and most untraditional Christian worship spaces the city has to offer.
St. Lydia’s Church has no pews, no altar, no vestments, no band or choir, and little formality of any kind. Instead, church means drums and chanting, with frequent references to Jesus; breaking bread and drinking communion grape juice; and a long, three-hour homemade vegetarian dinner punctuated by Bible readings, a sermon and frequent talk of what it means to be a young spiritual seeker in Brooklyn. The pastor is ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but the members themselves range from atheist and agnostic to evangelical, Catholic and Episcopalian.
“Growing up, I was really sure in my faith in God and in going to Episcopal church — I loved the liturgy — but my sense was that I would never invite a friend of mine to this kind of worship service because it felt like there were so many barriers everywhere, from the look to the feel to the sounds of the place,” says Emily Scott, 34, who founded St. Lydia’s dinner church five years ago at a friend’s apartment (it more recently settled into its new home in Gowanus). “We try to practice the most basic form of Christianity: bread, wine — grape juice in our case — water, a meal, singing and a community relationship and connection. I preach, but so does everyone else. We learn from each other.”
As fewer Americans identify with traditional religion and more people check the “none of the above” box when asked about their faith, a host of creative, nontraditional spiritual spaces are popping up across the country. They include religious communities that worship and mingle in bowling alleys and cocktail bars, or multi-faith worship centers that intentionally group Muslims, Jews and Christians together. Houses of worship are rebranding, too, hiring architects to design new campuses to appeal to the future faithful.
Traditional churches still dominate the American landscape, but what religious space looks like is undergoing a subtle, gradual shift, with some of the most celebrated new religious communities arising in cities and college towns. The church steeple in the American town square hasn’t gone, but it’s got some company.
“The declining participation of young people in formal religion has led to there being a pressure on elders — and young leaders themselves — to try new things,” said Duke University sociologist Mark Chaves, author of the National Congregations Study, which in its latest 2012 survey found that 9.3 percent of American congregations met in a building other than a church, mosque, synagogue or school — a 1.5 percent increase over 14 years. “There has always been some innovation happening in American religion, of course, but people are trying new things these days.”
Here are a few of the ways the future of faith is playing out in religious spaces.
By Parliament Staff
The Parliament of the World’s Religions stands in awe over the collaborations of faith communities in helping the people of Nepal. Our prayers are with the nation now and always.
In the aftermath of the devastating April 25th, 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal, faith communities are stepping up to coordinate relief efforts. Stories emerging on the first days of recovery illustrate the possibility of human compassion on a mass scale.
Nepalese member of the Parliament’s Ambassador program, Dadhiram Khanal, reports by e-mail that his community is safe after one week without electricity. Over the past few days, Khanal and his family have been collecting relief funds through Alliance for Peace, Education and Development (APED) around the country and elsewhere.
News of faith communities uniting demonstrate how widespread the service of religion can be in times of disaster; Kathamandu’s Buddhist nuns are gaining international attention for employing ‘kung-fu’ to salvage monastic grounds, while Vatican Radio reports that Nepal’s religions are “united for earthquake victims” and exemplifying interfaith values:
The Venerable Renchen, representative of the Buddhist community, and Manohar Prasad Sah of the Hindu community said: ‘We are doing our best, and when religions come together they can meet the basic needs of the people. Solidarity, peace and charity are concepts shared by all.
Love and Assistance Pours in from Global Faith Neighbors
Providing meals to those unable to secure food and water continues pose a significant challenge. To aid earthquake victims, Sikh leaders from The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India are distributing one hundred thousand food packets. Taiwan’s Buddhist leaders have donated food, blankets, and other items to those displaced by the disaster. Meanwhile, Singapore masjids are collecting money to send to Nepal and Iran’s Red Crescent Society is sending 40 tons of relief supplies including tents, blankets, dishware, and moquette to the region. Lutheran World Relief, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Catholic Relief Services, and Gospel for Asia have sent volunteers to assist crews on the ground in Nepal while World Jewish Relief has announced an emergency appeal campaign for survivors.
The United States government has already pledged $10 million in relief. Nonprofit organizations like Save the Children, The American Red Cross, and others continue their appeal for more donations to send to the region.
At this stage of response, workers of municipal agencies are attempting to recover as many ancient sacred artifacts as possible from the rubble of leveled temples and World Heritage sites in the region, NPR reports.
The disaster is garnering global support, with both faith-based and secular organizations making major strides in providing aid for survivors. The outpouring of monetary donations, relief supplies, and on-the-ground rescue volunteers demonstrates the compassion embedded in all faiths. These efforts represent only the initial steps in providing necessary relief to Nepalese communities, giving a glimpse at what the coming months will hold as the nation moves forward in rebuilding after the tragedy.
Parliament Communications Staff Nafia Khan contributed to this article.
PRE-PARLIAMENT GIVEAWAY IN MAY
Pre-Parliament Event Host Approved in May are Now Eligible to Raffle One
to the world’s premier interfaith event
the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City!
Attract Guests to your Pre-Parliament Event by sharing that Parliament registration:
Is valued up to $475 USD
Includes Access to All Parliament Programming and Plenaries, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dozens of Luminaries Championing Interfaith around the World
May qualify for free homestay in Salt Lake City per financial requirements
Is a life-changing experience providing critical training, as well as culturally enriching programming and movement building networking with 10,000 people from 50 faith communities and 80 countries
Grants access to the Inaugural Women’s Assembly for Global Advancement, the first platform on a global scale to raise the voices of women in the interfaith movement
Seed a Fundraiser for Your Interfaith Organization
The Parliament encourages hosts* who are qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations or student/university groups promoting interfaith community, peace, justice or sustainability efforts to raffle the complimentary registration as a small fundraiser for your event (up to $10 per ticket).
*Individuals hosting private events are asked to donate raffle proceeds from free registration to support your local interfaith community organization.
One complimentary registration will be honored for each event which is submitted and approved by the Pre-Parliament Coordinator by May 31, 2015, and are scheduled to be held by July 30, 2015.
What to do?
To participate in the May Giveaway, first submit your event for approval by emailing email@example.com before May 31, 2015.
To qualify for one complimentary 2015 Parliament registration, your event should host a minimum of ten guests who become new subscribers to the Parliament’s e-newsletter, InterfaithNow. Pre-Parliament event guests should subscribe to the Parliament email updates and newsletter at your event.
The Parliament does not sell the personal information of our registrants or subscribers to any other entities. Access to personal information without obtaining advanced written consent is prohibited by the Parliament.
Once your event concludes, submit photos of the event and the name of your chosen winner to Pre-Parliament staff. The Parliament will register the winner by phone once all steps are validated and approved!
For events of 75 attendees or more, follow the same guidelines for TWO free Parliament registrations!
Promotion Rules: Your friends and networks already subscribed and registered as 2015 Parliament Attendees will not qualify in the May Pre-Parliament Promotion. The Parliament will automatically enter 2015 Parliament registrants for exciting Parliament contests coming this summer! Complimentary Registrations may not be sold at any financial gain and are eligible only to raffle winners of approved pre-Parliament events. Hosts who attempt to sell pre-Parliament promotional registration will forfeit participation in the May giveaway.
We Look Forward to Seeing You and Your Community at the 2015 Parliament in Salt Lake this October 15 – 19 to Reclaim the Heart of Our Humanity!
By Jon Ramer
Shared with permission of CompassionGames.org
Baltimore’s riots this week have highlighted the growing unrest and injustices across America. Many are being forced to rethink assumptions we’ve made about race, power, civility, and compassion. We seem to have forgotten concepts like fairness and justice as a nation. Without this moral compass to guide us, what’s left?
As video after video surfaces of young black males being brutally treated by police, it makes us wonder if racial discrimination and police brutality can now be tolerated in our society. Empathizing with the police and continuing to ignore the root causes of these problems is all too easy. Mainstream media seems to cater to our worst fears and instincts by amplifying the inexcusable behavior of a few.
From the New York Times:
The Rev. Jamal Bryant, delivering the eulogy of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, spoke of the plight of poor, young black men like Mr. Gray, living “confined to a box” made up of poor education, lack of job opportunities and racial stereotypes — “the box of thinking all black men are thugs and athletes and rappers.”
“He had to have been asking himself: ‘What am I going to do with my life?’” Mr. Bryant said. “He had to feel at age 25 like the walls were closing in on him.”
As his voice rose to a shout, and the cheering congregation rose to its feet, Mr. Bryant said that black people must take control of their lives and force the police and government to change.
“This is not the time for us as a people to be sitting on a corner drinking malt liquor. This is not the time for us to be playing lottery,” he said.
“Get your black self up and change this city,” he said. “I don’t know how you can be black in America and be silent. With everything we’ve been through, ain’t no way in the world you can sit here and be silent in the face of injustice.”
What a powerful call to justice. However, it isn’t just a call to African-Americans. If we see ourselves as one multi-cultural society we need a collective action that will lead to effective change. What is society’s role in providing a way out of the poverty, hopelessness and despair that these young men seem to be stuck in?
The pathway out used to be as simple as getting a good education and hard work that might ultimately earn you a fair shot at the American dream. But with the rise in the cost of education and the lack of decent paying jobs, this no longer seems like a winning strategy. We need to do better as a society, even if it’s more difficult. We need to relearn how to respect our differences and work together: to address these challenges with effective policies, solutions, and on the ground actions that change lives.
The Power of Compassion and Our Interrelatedness
According to Navajo Medicine Woman Patricia Anne Davis, “the word ‘compassion’ can best be translated into English using the word ‘proxy’, meaning that another person can experience another person’s experience because we are all related by our inherent divinity given to each person equally. It is an all-inclusive experience where there is unity in the natural order and everyone is interconnected.”
We are interconnected to the youth and to the police. Can we find compassion for the police officers who are upholding the law and for the black youth who have the cards unfairly stacked against them?
The challenges we face are personal and spiritual as well as economic, cultural and political. Compassionate action can build this bridge. The role of compassion is not only vital in our lives, it is a key to understanding the circumstances of every perspective and finding a way forward that is just and can heal the rifts in our communities.
In Detroit, Michigan a team called #MetroDetroit participated in the Compassion Games “Love This Place! Serve the Earth Week” Coopetition from April 18 through April 26.
We recently wrote a news post about the organizer of the team Reverend Jim Lee of Renaissance Unity Church titled “Love The Hell Out of Metro Detroit: From the Blame – Shame Game to the Compassion Games.”
Lee is “rewiring the cellular memory to a place of forgiveness so his city can thrive – so the beloved community can emerge.” Rev. Lee wants to be very clear, “Forgiveness is not about forgetting the past. It doesn’t change what happened. What changes is the interpretation and perception with a new quality, a new tone can emerge to heal us today, so we can move on to the beloved community.”
Lee believes that his community can revitalize and empower itself by bringing the power of love and compassion to bear on their everyday life. Lee says he wants to “Love our way through the pain. Let’s make the pain the lesson, not the reason.”
The #MetroDetroit team committed to participate in the Love This Place! Story Mapping challenge and set out to identify many of the places in Detroit that they cherish and love. The goal was to heighten appreciation of their physical environment, their sense of social cohesion, and their experience of safety and peace within their neighborhoods.
We are happy to report that team #MetroDetroit posted more photo stories than any other city in the world! Congratulations #MetroDetroit! You can see all the story photos here.
We can learn so much from this remarkable team and their accomplishments. We can come together to make just and lasting change by building cultures of compassion and kindness. There are over 300 cities around the world that have embarked on compassionate city campaigns. As people of this remarkable time – filled with great challenges and surprising opportunities – what do we choose?
The Compassion Games supports communities committed to creating cultures that are safer, kinder, and better places to live. You can find out more here www.compassiongames.org Game on!
Jon Eliot Ramer is an American entrepreneur, civic leader, inventor, and musician. He is co-founder of several technology companies including Ramer and Associates, ELF Technologies, Inc., (whose main solution, Serengeti, was purchased by Thomson Reuters) and Smart Channels. The designer and co-founder of several Deep Social Networks, he is the former Executive Director of the Interra Project, and a co-founder of Ideal Network, a group-buying social enterprise that donates a percentage of every purchase to a non-profit or school. Ideal Network is a certified B-Corp that was recognized as “Best in the World for Community” in 2012 by B-Labs. He is also the designer and co-founder of Compassionate Action Network International, a 501(c)(3) organization based in Seattle, that led the effort to make the city the first in the world to affirm Karen Armstrong‘s Charter for Compassion. Most recently, Ramer conceived of and produced the “Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest.”
By Parliament Staff
Homelessness remains a pressing issue in America. According to the most recent data available, at least 100 million people around the globe are considered homeless. More than 3.5 million people residing in the United States are homeless and 25% are under the age of 18. Whereas homelessness is rooted in poverty in countries like India, Nigeria, and France, the U.S. has seen an increase in homelessness due to a variety of factors. They include – but are not limited to – veterans returning from armed conflict overseas, the 2007 housing crisis which left thousands of families without homes, and those suffering from mental illness without access to housing and necessary treatment.
Homeless prevention legislation in America has yielded mixed results. Cook County (IL) Sheriff Tom Dart halted foreclosure-based evictions during the winter of 2008 to protect rent-paying tenants, consequently compounding problems by making lenders less likely to extend loan payments to the most vulnerable.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, an alternative method was employed. The city provided its chronically homeless individuals with housing and counseling, saving the state an average of $8,000 per homeless person. By utilizing this program model, homelessness in Salt Lake decreased by 72% between 2005 to 2014.
In other states, some governments are criminalizing the homeless by passing reactive legislation. The cost of enforcing the criminalization of homelessness costs more than housing the homeless. The practice spars public outcry because it is ultimately worsening the situation. This is why community groups and interfaith leaders are stepping in to help fill the gaps.
Interfaith groups have provided social services to assist the homeless through food banks and food drives, soup kitchens, shelters, and even counseling and rehabilitation. In order to address the issue proactively, interfaith groups are now also working to prevent homelessness. An interfaith group in St. Petersburg, Florida is finally able to launch a rotating shelter for homeless families after establishing the program within the last several years. In Fayetteville, North Carolina, community leaders held a forum between the homeless community and residents that want to help them. By opening the dialogue in this manner, both homeless advocates and those they serve have a voice.
Without discussion and brainstorming, problems like homelessness cannot be successfully addressed. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs donated $3 million to Interfaith Community Services to further the organization’s mission of erasing veteran homelessness. Right now, an Interfaith Resource Center is planning the construction of a year-round overnight shelter for the homeless in Columbia, Missouri. Additionally, a couple in Athens, Georgia is hosting a week of fun activities and learning opportunities to help raise funds for Interfaith Hospitality Network Athens, a nonprofit organization that assists the homeless.
Helping the homeless remains a major priority for faith communities. Although homelessness may continue to be a problem in the future, the call to “live compassionately,” as Karen Armstrong says, means one should remain uncomfortable so long as his or her fellow brother or sister is suffering. Interfaith cooperation can achieve a sharp reduction in homelessness if communities continue to think and act together. All faith traditions are called to serve the needy in their doctrines and teachings. Presently, tracking homelessness remains a challenge for agencies and governments. But with the assistance of faith communities’ cooperation, effective and innovative models for eradicating homelessness can be implemented.
Parliament interns Shani Belshaw, Nafia Khan, and Daniel Wolff contributed to this article.
By: Parliament Amabassador Aamir Hussain. Originally published on Huffington Post
This past week, I joined 11 other medical students from the University of Chicago in volunteering at a Lakota Native American reservation in Rosebud, South Dakota. We spent some of our time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, and some time shadowing physicians at the local Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital. This experience was a great opportunity to not only learn about health care challenges on reservations, but also to reflect on the intersections between religion, service, and medicine.
Aside from astronomically high rates of chronic conditions such as Type II Diabetes, obesity, depression, and alcoholism, patients at the IHS clinic often lack access to cancer screenings because the small facility does not have the resources to provide those services. As a result, it is not uncommon for treatable conditions to cause life-threatening complications. I was shocked to learn that some patients suffered from tuberculosis, a disease that I thought had been mostly eliminated from the United States. Finally, patients routinely resort to using the emergency room often need to be air-evacuated to other hospitals for minor complaints that cannot be addressed on the reservation.
However, there were also several positive aspects of the IHS. First, The primary care doctors I shadowed were able to spend lots of time with her patients, talking through diagnoses and medications at length. Second, the reservation community was very close-knit, and physicians (even those who lived outside the reservation) were well-acquainted with Lakota traditions and had a strong desire to be part of the local culture. Finally, although the IHS is woefully under-funded (annual health spending per person for the overall U.S. population is over $9000, in comparison to about $2400 per person in the IHS), it is still a single-payer system that guarantees coverage to all Native Americans with documented membership in a federally-recognized tribe. Although IHS insurance may be less effective outside IHS facilities, this federal program ensures that virtually everyone on the reservation is insured.
While learning about Lakota history, I was intrigued by the changing roles of religious groups over time. Until the mid-20th century, many Western churches saw the Native Americans as “savages,” and many priests sought to “educate” the Lakota in such a way that they would forget their old ways and completely adopt Western customs. Fortunately, there now seems to be more mutual understanding between different spiritual traditions. Christian institutions provide a large number of social services, and serve as community centers for various activities. Churches and religious leaders now run many charities, including the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. However, many Lakota traditions such as sweat lodges, vision quests, and Sun Dances are also practiced, and some reservation residents observe Christianity alongside the traditional Lakota religion.
Indeed, I was struck by the contrast between hopelessness and optimism on the reservation. On one hand, unemployment is well over 70 percent, the life expectancy can be less than 50 years, suicide rates are extremely high, and families are often trapped in cyclical poverty. On the other hand, reservation residents speak fondly of Sinte Gleska, an accredited Lakota university that provides a wide array of degrees, and cheer for their young students who have won full scholarships to major national universities like Stanford and Dartmouth. Others express hope for the in-progress Crazy Horse Memorial, and how it can someday stand as a symbol of the unvanquished Native American spirit for generations to come.
Through my conversations with the people of Rosebud, I was constantly reminded of a verse from the Quran that speaks of resilience: “Verily, with every difficulty there [comes] relief” (Quran 94:6). Throughout my life as practicing Muslim, I always took this verse for granted; whenever I struggled with something, I found comfort in the fact that relief would eventually come. However, this past week has shown me that for many people, hardship can often be followed by an even greater hardship. Finding any “relief” can be very difficult, and it can be tough to persevere when faced with such overwhelming odds.
I have been inspired by the various people I have met on this short trip, from the recent high school graduate who strives to learn at least “one new fact” every day and someday teach English abroad, to the tireless educator at Sinte Gleska University who motivates her students to follow their dreams, to the hospital worker who speaks fluent Lakota with local elders, keeping an ancient language alive.
These friends I made, and many others, illustrate my religion’s core tenets of humility, service, resilience, and community engagement. As a result, I have become more motivated to reflect on my own practice of Islam, and will strive to exhibit those virtues throughout my medical career.
Before we left to return to Chicago, our Rosebud host told us, “It doesn’t matter if you never return here. Just promise me this: never forget us, and never forget what you learned here.”
That is a promise I intend to keep.
Join the Parliament and Salt Lake Officials Saturday for a Preview of the Biggest Global Interfaith Event Coming to Utah this October
The unforgettable, life-changing Parliament event is bringing the global interfaith community to Utah, and we’re coming to meet you this weekend!
Join the Parliament, the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable and your neighbors in attending a free to the public interactive preview event of the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions this Saturday, April 25 from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
The afternoon program will feature opportunities to engage in global dialogue as well as performances and prayers from representatives of Salt Lake faith and indigenous communities. Enthusiastic remarks from officials and media personalities will say why Utah supports the Parliament! RSVP to reserve your spot at utah.parliamentofreligions.org.
At the Podium:
- Utah Officials Including Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, Governor Herbert’s Representative Pamela Atkinson
- Emcees Carole Mikita of KSL and Robert Kirby of Salt Lake Tribune
- Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable Leaders Incl. Bishop Rev. France Davis, Bishop Hiyashi
- The International Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions
- Salt Lake Representatives of Parliament’s Women’s, Indigenous and Youth Initiatives
- Utah ticket-holders and interested participants of the 2015 Parliament
The Interactive Preview of the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions April 25, 2015 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. will be held in the Salt Palace Convention Center, Room 255. Come and get to know Utah’s interfaith community leaders, public officials and media personalities as we present a public preview of the world’s premier interfaith event, the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Exclusive opportunities to volunteer and register for the October event at a 40 percent discount will be available on site.
This October, we hope you will be with us as Utah’s communities of faith join in showcasing their commitments to a more compassionate world alongside global luminaries and Nobel Peace Laureates like the Dalai Lama and Costa Rica’s two-time President, Oscar Arias. Utahns will significantly number among 10,000 participants from 80 countries and 50 Faith traditions sharing practices.
Come find out what the global interfaith movement is all about! Space for Saturday’s Program can be reserved here at Utah.ParliamentOfReligions.org.
From the Desk of the Board Chair
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid
Dear Friends of the Parliament,
The news from the interfaith movement across the globe is increasingly positive and ever more promising. And I am extremely pleased and proud that the Parliament of the World’s Religions is at the very center of this historic movement that is building momentum day by day.
Thank you for your support, confidence, and prayers.
We have some exciting news of our own about the Parliament that I want to share with you. After a period of developing organizational focus and strength, and proceeding with a careful and lengthy selection process, we are thrilled to announce and welcome our new Executive Director, Daniel Hostetler.
Daniel, we are confident, brings the kind of experience, abilities, and commitment that we believe is required to lead both the Parliament and the wider interfaith movement to new levels of visibility and relevance.
Let me explain. The interfaith movement has tripled in size over the last decade. With that growth comes responsibility to be organizationally stronger and well-positioned for the role we are to play in human affairs. That involves developing measurable goals and demonstrating achievements both in mutual understanding and cooperation among faith communities as well as creating a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. Our fiscal foundation for this kind of work must also be stronger if the Parliament and the interfaith movement it is leading is to realize its promise.
Daniel Hostetler is exactly what we need at this juncture.
- He brings a commitment to peace as a Mennonite
- He brings a deep serving culture as Director of Operations & Finance at World Relief Aurora-Dupage
- And he brings a long business executive experience.
Dan co-founded and functioned as CEO of Legacy Analytics which was recognized by Inc.’s Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies. Dan’s experience includes being the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the George S. May International Company Southern European Division (SED) and for ten years lead 300+ employees. He was also Co-Founder of Strategic Business Partners which reached national prominence winning one of the highest awards in the consulting industry.
And Dan is just as pleased to join the Parliament as we are to have him:
“I am extremely excited to have been selected as Executive Director and for the opportunity that lies before us! When I moved out of my for-profit business background and into the not-for-profit world, I wanted to serve a vision which touched my heart with a worthy mission that I could adopt as my own while working for a just, peaceful and sustainable world. I believe I have found this amazing dream job to which I am ready and willing to dedicate myself to completely. So thank you Parliament for this opportunity to serve.”
Dan will start April 20, 2015.
You can read more about him here.
Dr. Mary Nelson, who has served as Executive Director for the past 2.5 years and chaired the selection committee for the new Executive Director, welcomed her successor with these words:
It is a great delight to welcome Daniel Hostetler as the Parliament’s new Executive Director. He brings skills of management and a heart for the interfaith movement that bode well for the future. As I transition into a consultant role, it is a great joy to have someone so capable of stepping into the leadership role. He will build on a strong foundation of a hardworking and committed staff – which is succeeding in bringing enthusiastic registrants and exciting program proposals for the Salt Lake City Parliament – and a wise and involved board of directors.
I want to express my profound thanks to Mary Nelson for her outstanding service as Executive Director at a crucial time in the life of the Parliament and for chairing our selection committee, constituted by the Rev. Bob Thompson, Chair Emeritus of the Parliament, our two current Vice Chairs, Phyllis Curott and Dr. Larry Greenfield and myself.
Mary herself served as the Vice Chair of the Parliament’s Board of Trustees with me before we requested her to serve as Executive Director while we sought a permanent leader. Mary will be working with Dan as a consultant during the transition phase.
We – the board, the staff, and the volunteers – are so thankful for her leadership and her service to the cause of the interfaith movement. We know you share our gratitude.
Please extend your welcome and support to Daniel Hostetler as he begins his work as our new Executive Director.
Abdul Malik Mujahid
Board of Trustees
P.S. There are six major exciting announcements that are coming about at the Parliament which we will share with you soon, God willing, one at a time.
Daniel Hostetler begins as executive director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions on April 20. Hostetler brings to the Parliament more than 30 years experience in corporate consultancy and non-profit management, most recently directing operations and finance with the Dupage-Aurora [Illinois] World Relief, an international Christian non-profit which supports refugees and immigration issues.
Prior to joining World Relief, Hostetler co-founded and functioned as CEO of Legacy Analytics, which was recognized by Inc.’s Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies. His background includes serving as President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the George S. May International Company Southern European Division (SED,) and for ten years leading 300+ employees. He was also Co-Founder of Strategic Business Partners, which reached national prominence in winning one of the highest awards in the consulting industry.
Another nonprofit organization for which Hostetler holds a board position is the “Jacob Hochstetler Family Association,” which honors his Amish ancestry.
Among his community service activities, Hostetler often volunteers in homeless shelters, hospice, and travels through faith-based initiatives such as Christian Peacemaker Teams.
Hostetler is a devoted member of the Christ Community Mennonite Church in Schaumburg, IL where he finds his call to peacebuilding.
Amish and Hutterite communities across the midwest of the United States see frequent visits from Hostetler, who also travels internationally to perform nonviolent mediation.
Hostetler holds a bachelor’s degree in Business with highest honors from Ohio Christian University and completed an advanced degree in Non-Profit Management at Chicago’s North Park University in 2013.
A raw vegan, Hostetler supports a wide-range of compassionate, humanitarian, and animal welfare efforts. He makes his home in Chicago’s Western suburbs with his wife and is the father of two adult sons and a daughter.