Archive for the ‘peace’ tag
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.
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 UN Youth Representative: Tahil Sharma
The United Religions Initiative organized a great panel of activists and ambassadors who work with communities through URI’s ‘Cooperation Circles’ across the globe to make nuclear weapons a thing of the past. People like Jonathan Granoff, a 2014 nominee for the Nobel Peace prize for his work advocating nuclear non-proliferation, and Dot Maver, an activist within the interfaith and peace-building spectrum, gave a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the potentials of nuclear energy and our current capabilities and uses in potentially destroying our world.
This webinar gave tools to productively say “NO!” to the atom and hydrogen bombs which threaten the greatest potential of destroying our environment and our civilization as we know it.
- Remembering the everlasting impact – Meltdowns like Chernobyl and Fukushima, the obliterating potential of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the continued tests of nuclear weapons has a lasting effect on many people around the world and our environment. Believe it or not, victims of the atom bombing on Japan today face significant social and political stigma. They are stereotyped and treated as second-class citizens, which is preventing them from speaking out about their experiences. Some of the worst discrimination sees forms of insurance withheld that would help to treat ongoing side effects of the blasts. The majority of society apathetically forgets that our current nuclear weaponry has the potential to destroy the world a thousand times over. (Random fact: Japan has set up a stratified system of coverage for those affected by the bombs based on distance, the manner in which they received any form of radiation poisoning, and depending on the age group. Children within the womb during the blast, for example, are not eligible for coverage or benefits.)
- The non-signatories of the NPT – Israel, India, Pakistan, South Sudan and North Korea have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which mandates only the peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the goal of complete disarmament. This plays out as a great challenge for the security and stability of the world, so we continue to find and build movements for non-violence and conflict resolution. Pranab Mukherjee, the then External Affairs Minister and now current President of India, stated in a trip to India in 2007 that “If India did not sign the NPT, it is not because of its lack of commitment for non-proliferation, but because we consider NPT as a flawed treaty and it did not recognize the need for universal, non-discriminatory verification and treatment.” (India Times, 5/23/07) The ambiguity of such a statement can be dangerous, seeing that the continued competition for arms and the instability of peace talks between India and Pakistan could create a sense of discomfort and anxiety in the matter of growing political, social, and economic power. With all of this in mind, the speakers continued to reaffirm our ability as a civil society; as interfaith leaders and activists, we have the power to make a difference and influence the decisions necessary in abhorring and abolishing nuclear weapons.
- Storytelling Holds Great Potential – From the personal stories of transformation of the Hibakusha (Survivors of the Atomic bombs in Japan) to live in the 21st century, to the new generations that demand no harm to any innocent human beings, every story has its potential to change minds, strengthen hearts, and move forward. URI UN Representative Monica Willard made note of such power by reciting the poem 20,000,000 by Justine Merritt. In a few succinct moments, she verbalized the potential of annihilation that a nuclear weapon threatens by enumerating the figure 20 million, accounting for the count of lives in the state of California. How profound and bleak a future sounds when you know it can be obliterated in seconds.
- The Groundswell of the Common Man – There are a variety of ways that we, as individuals, can work together to change the status quo. Consider petitions like the Peace and Planet Petition for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (that will be presented to the United Nations on April 26th), planting A-Bomb Surviving Saplings in your community and hosting A-Bomb photo exhibitions, and believing we have the potential to stand up against the destruction of humanity and the biosphere. We must engage communities and organizations around the world, and collaborate in activism, education, and service, to raise awareness and empathy in friends and strangers alike. “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This same potential can reach the highest levels through encouraging legislators and members of parliaments to join the Parliamentarians for Nuclear non-Proliferation and Disarmament to influence policy and law in the abolition of the nuclear use of weapons.
- Reflecting on the Power In Our Hands – Before we began the webinar, Rt. Rev. Bill Swing, Founder and President of the United Religions Initiative, read a prayer that reminded me of the beauty and power of all faith traditions, secular perspectives, and spiritual practices; it reminded me that the power to create and destroy was in the hands of all human beings. My own faith traditions of Hinduism and Sikhism have always reminded me that every good and bad action is accounted for and that I am immediately repaid through the karma I deserve. If it is not in my mind and heart that I must work to change and save the world in every way possible, I am doing a disservice to myself, the world and to the Divine I eternally devote myself to.
By Abdul Malik Mujahid
Chair of the Board of Trustees, Parliament of the World’s Religions
“We have avenged the Prophet Mohammad,” the gunmen shouted after killing 12 at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, yesterday. The publication is known for lampooning the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.
Well. The Prophet banned revenge as he built his peace sanctuary in seventh-century Madinah, establishing instead the rule of law.
He never killed anyone. Only, after God’s command to defend his peace sanctuary, under attack by the non-Muslims of Makkah, did he picked up arms. These defensive battles lasted a total of six days in his life and the number of dead from both sides was less than 300.
Peace was his goal, which he achieved by developing alliances between Madinah’s non-Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
Violent extremists who accuse others of disrespect, then consider this a license to kill have nothing to do with the Islam taught by the Prophet they claim to be avenging. They have nothing to do with the message of forgiveness and mercy which Allah revealed to the Prophet; nothing to do with the law and order the Prophet established and upheld, which led to him being considered one of the world’s greatest lawgivers by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Muslim love for Prophet Muhammad is unquestionable. God’s peace and blessings be upon him. It does hurt us when people are abusive towards the Prophet.
It is, however, the ignorant, who do not know the loving path of mercy and forgiveness taught by the Prophet; they are turning into violent extremists and committing crimes in his name.
This is not love. This is hate.
The Prophet would be horrified at what is being done in his name to avenge disrespect to his honor.
The non-Muslims of Makkah tortured the Prophet and his followers. He did not retaliate. He preferred to move away, first encouraging migration to Abyssinia, which was ruled by what he described as a “just king”, who was a Christian, Najashi or Negus.
When some tribes agreed, he established the peace sanctuary in Madinah via constitution and consensus. He built a society that promoted inclusiveness, freedom, rule of law, and peace.
Respect for other faiths was a key element of Madinah society. Muslims, are by Scripture and Prophetic practice, ordered to accept God’s revealed books, as well as His Prophets and Messengers. We are also ordered to never insult the cherished beliefs of others, for humor or in retaliatory anger. This is why even today, throughout the Muslim world, you will not find newspapers being disrespectful of other religions. The terrorists are not the norm. They are the exception.
Muslims in France, America, and around the world are sick of terrorists perpetuating violence that is a violation of their faith in their name. We are against war and hate. We are also tired of the abuse of freedom of speech to spew hatred, mistrust, fear, and misunderstanding.
War, terrorism, and Islamophobia are a nexus, connected to each other and condemnable. They feed off of each other, perpetuating violence and fear. We Muslims condemn terrorism, war as well as hate. We must strive against them all.
We need to understand this abuse of the Prophet for what it is: a form of psychological violence intended to hurt and harm. Our response when we encounter such attacks must be to seek God’s forgiveness and respond with what is better: prayers on the Prophet and Duas for him.
Our Prophet was a mercy to all human beings, regardless of their religious, racial, cultural or ethnic background. We, as his followers, must live and spread this message today at a time when hatefulness and ugliness towards each other has become the norm.
It is abusive to partially quote the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, thus distorting what he said.
Rev. Robert V. Thompson, Former Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, considers alternative methods of bringing about peace using creative thinking and being attentive to conflicts at their earliest stages.
This op-ed was originally published in Chicago Tribune on December 5, 2001
Because we Americans are suckers for the quick fix we want to believe the war on terrorism will be won through military action, improved intelligence, stemming the flow of terrorist money and stepped-up national security.
While most of us believe these policies will solve the problem, many of us are plagued by a palpable uneasiness and persistent ambivalence. We are, after all, an intensely empathic people. We care very much about the plight of the Afghan people and it is not OK with us that one more time, innocent people are being offered as a sacrifice on the altar of a just cause. Equally unsettling is the gnawing awareness that terrorism is the face rather than the heart of the problem. If we destroy terrorists in Afghanistan, where do we go next? Is it back to Iraq or on to Indonesia? And it is common knowledge that our war in Afghanistan will likely create hundreds or perhaps thousands of new terrorists. Where will it end?
Bill Ury, author of “The Third Side,” has extensive experience in creative non-violent conflict resolution. Ury says terrorism, for that matter any form of violence, is comparable to a virus. He says terrorism, like a virus, lies sleeping, spreads throughout the body and attacks, as if from out of nowhere. It flourishes when the world’s immune system is weak.
I asked Ury what might have been different had we had a strong global immune system prior to Sept. 11. He said, “Witnesses might have informed us of the terrorists’ plans. Peacekeepers the world over might have frustrated the terrorists and taken them into custody. Healers would have been healing the wounds of the Islamic world. Mediators would have been working hard to resolve the obvious conflicts like that of Israel-Palestine. Teachers would have been at work teaching other ways of dealing with differences and about the tragic futility of violence. Providers would have been addressing the conditions of poverty and oppression that often breed terrorism. Bridge-builders would have been building bridges between the Islamic and Western world. Arbiters, equalizers, referees would all have been at work.”
Every person has a role to play in strengthening the global immune system. Every human being can become a peace keeper, healer, mediator and teacher of non-violent conflict resolution. We can do this in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, religious communities, nation, and around the world. This is an infinitely greater challenge than flying a flag or singing the national anthem on key. We are now being called to this greater patriotism. One like that envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “No nation can live alone . . . we are tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”
This wisdom, this greater patriotism is the awareness that a healed and renewed America cannot exist apart from a healed and renewed world. And history has taught us that if the people will lead, the leaders will follow. Copyright © 2001, Chicago Tribune
Rev. Robert V. Thompson – Parliament Chair Emeritus. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Bob Thompson graduated from Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (Graduate Theological Union) and was ordained an American Baptist minister in 1973. He served American Baptist Churches in Kansas, Ohio, and for 30 years, as Senior Minister of the Lake Street Church in Evanston, Illinois. During the 1980′s Thompson became an activist pastor focusing on issues such as homelessness, racial reconciliation and advocacy for LGBT rights. He is the author of A Voluptuous God: A Christian Heretic Speaks (CopperHouse, 2007) and a contributor to the book for preachers, Feasting On the Word, Westminster John Knox Press.
Fifty peacemakers joining from Israel and Palestine have just completed a five-day “Vision Camp” the organizers say responded to the violence “exploding through the Middle East.” The West Bank-based camp reported through Facebook (and supported by a vocal campaign on Causes.com) sharing a culmination statement declaring “We refuse to be enemies.”
Over the week the activities captivating a mass following on social media inspired countless shares, likes, and comments to stand against a growing vitriol polarizing Jews and Muslims by stating #JewsandArabsRefuseToBeEnemies. Like organizations connected promoting moving images of demonstrations held in other Israeli locations.
The 50 campers speaking boldly for peace were moved to assemble stating, “today, in this turbulence, peace workers from Israel, Palestine and other countries are beginning a five-day vision camp in the West Bank. In the middle of the war they hold a peace vigil and create a frequency of calmness in which mutual perception, sharing, deep listening, clear thinking and vision building is possible. They say, “We refuse to be enemies.” And, “Together we can give a clear sign to end the war.”
As peaceworkers from Israel, Palestine and various other parts of the world, we have been holding a peace vigil in the middle of a war in the West Bank over the last several days. We are gathering here under very simple conditions, creating community life, sharing from our hearts, in silence and in tears, in the midst of shootings and bombings. We are bearing witness and trying to stay in Grace. We have been faced with this senseless killing every day. There have been more than 1000 human victims during the last three weeks. In the last days three Palestinians were shot in the village near the place where we are staying. In these days, we have been faced with untold pain, suffering, desperation and speechlessness; we are also coming face to face with many different opinions and inner and outer struggles.
What we all agree on is: Enough! Stop this killing. No solution can come from war! Each innocent victim of this war is one too many! We refuse to be enemies. We are calling out to all parties: Stop this war! Our feelings are beyond words, but we can no longer be silent. The civil population is being lied to on both sides, and the world is mostly silent and misled by the media. It does not take much political education to recognise the injustice of this war. Many countries are delivering weapons and enriching themselves through the war. But who sits next to the beds of the injured children and crying mothers? Who feels empathy with their bleak destiny? Who heals the wounds, dries the tears and eases the pain of all those who have lost family members or beloved friends?
We, as members of humanity during this vision camp in the midst of the war zone, are striving to convert trust, peace, justice and compassion into realities rather than mere words. This makes us feel like new children from a new earth where war does not exist.
One of our Palestinian participants said, „In 2001, I decided to stop being a victim. We are not two sides; we are one side. We have one common enemy: hatred.” How many more innocent people have to be killed, how many more generations will have to carry guns so their people can feel safe? Are we aware that every killing creates new hatred, new fear and more revenge?
We have decided not to stay silent! We have decided to step out of powerlessness. We have decided to step out of the hypnosis of fear and raise our voices. We have decided to step out of our personal identification and look beyond all the different worldviews towards the fundamental healing of trauma. Compassion is not a question of worldview! Compassion is the emergency call of planet earth and the heart of humanity.
Together, we wish to create a clear and resonant voice, a voice for transformation! Killing cannot lead us to a free or protected land. We are shedding our tears and transforming our pain into a powerful NO! NO to this killing – no tolerance for the violation of human rights, regardless of its source. Israelis will never feel safe, and Palestinians will never be free, unless they begin building mutual relationships of trust and respect. And this land will never be holy while we keep watering it with blood.
Thousands of people are already taking to the streets and demonstrating that they, “refuse to be enemies.” May we grow in numbers and presence! The global system of domination thrives through our powerlessness. We can change this feeling of desperation and powerlessness into readiness for transformation. A true nonviolent revolution starts within ourselves.
We envision breaking the cycle of victimisation, occupation, hatred and revenge. We envision the awakening of the humane heart. We envision millions of people, all over the world, who no longer allow the economically motivated globalisation of war to be carried out on the backs of uncounted innocent women, men and children.
Now, it is our task to demonstrate credible alternatives: stepping out of the system of complicity and stepping into a network of solidarity and compassion. For years now, many of us have been working on new models for living. We are aware that those who are against war need a vision for peace.
This peace vigil is only the beginning. We are committing ourselves. We will dedicate our lives to finding solutions wherever we are.
We love our countries, our homes, and this earth. We declare ourselves to be global citizens for peace! Let us raise our voices: Another life is possible.
We are calling out to specialists from all areas – doctors, water experts, ecologists, technologists, peace activists, decision-makers, spiritual leaders, peace journalists, film-makers, politicians and each and everyone of you: Let us come together and put our wisdom to work! Let us overcome the walls of separation. Together, we will create completely new ways of sharing this planet.
Connect, like, and share: https://www.facebook.com/aVisionCampinIsraelPalestine
Download the statement of the 50 participants of the Vision Camp here:
Originally appeared in Milwaukee Journal Sentinal July 17, 2014, as reported by Annysa Johnson.
More than 100 faithful from a variety of religious traditions gathered at Milwaukee’s All Saints Cathedral on Wednesday to pray for peace in the Middle East, a response to the escalating hostilities in Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“Worshippers sang “Donna Nobis Pacem,” or “Grant us Peace” in Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. And Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Unitarian clergy offered their prayers and insights into what it means to work for and live in peace.
“It was very touching and profound,” said an emotional Mary Kelly of Milwaukee, who is Catholic. “There is just such a feeling of helplessness,” around the issues in the Middle East, she said.
“We have such a long way to go — in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Milwaukee. I’m just happy that this congregation saw the need to pull us all together.
The service was organized by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, which works to find common ground among religious traditions. Like other flashpoints in the Middle East, the Gaza crisis has heightened tensions in Milwaukee’s Jewish and Muslim communities, which tend to view the conflict from different perspectives.
Here are excerpts from the prayers offered Wednesday, in the order they were spoken:
The Very Rev. Kevin Carroll, dean of All Saints Cathedral: “We can pray for peace in far off lands. But our prayers will ring hollow if we ourselves fail to model what peace looks like — in our homes, in our families, in our relationships and in our communities. …Peace starts with prayer. But it also starts right here, right now, with all of us sitting in this room.
Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hying, Archdiocese of Milwaukee: Loving and peaceful God, help us to see ourselves and each other as you see us, beautiful; created in your image; open to love; hearts that are made for peace and good will, sacrifice and generosity. … Help us to love as you love, to forgive as you forgive, to be an extension of your mercy and your peace in this world, and to be signs of your kingdom in our midst.
The Rev. Craig M. Howard, Presbytery of Milwaukee: Deliver us from the hardness of heart that keeps us locked in violent confrontation with one another. Give to us your spirit of love so that we may show compassion. Teach us to walk in humility so we might live in peace with our sisters and brothers. And most of all, God, change our hearts.
Zulfiqar Ali Shah, Islamic Society of Milwaukee: Almighty God …we are ruthlessly subjugating, terrorizing and killing each other based upon narrow identities. Guide us to stop this needless violence, terror, aggression, cold blooded murders and destruction. … We beseech you to bring an end to this needless bloodbath and wanton destruction.
Rabbi Ronald Shapiro, Congregation Shalom: Teach us to work for the welfare of all people, to diminish the evil and pains that beset us. And to enlarge those virtues we know will bring dignity and peace to all the peoples of the earth. So bless our striving to make real the dream of peace among all humankind. May we put an end to the suffering we inflict upon one another and cherish the dignity of the soul that abides in each human being.
The Rev. Linda Hansen, Unitarian Universalists: We pray for the power to see that we are all connected … and that we ultimately help or harm ourselves in helping or harming one another. Out of this vision, may we have the will and the courage to work for a just and peaceful world in which every individual is treated with dignity.
The Rev. Stephen J. Polster, Wisconsin Conference United Methodist Church: And so we pray as we gather here … that you will strengthen our resolve to give witness to the truths by the way we live. Give to us understanding that puts an end to strife, mercy that quenches hatred, forgiveness that overcomes vengeance. Impart all of us here and everywhere to live in your law of love.
Swarnjit Arora, of the Sikh community: We are children of one God. … Then how can we say one child is better than the other child. All children in your eyes Lord are sacred. … We pray for peace in the Middle East. Oh God … Give us strength to stand up for peace and non-violence in our world. … We pray for chardi kala, the well-being of each and every human being.
The Rev. Jean Dow, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church: Though we come from different places and express our faith in different ways, give us a common concern, that we may share our deep convictions as people of faith and continue to pray and work together side by side, hand in hand. And Let us pray without ceasing for peace first within our own minds hearts and spirits, so that each of us might also be instruments of your peace and bearers of reconciliation in this city, in our neighborhoods, in our families and in our faith communities.
As conflict continues to batter civilians in the Gaza strip after a short ceasefire broke down overnight, Interfaith leaders of Judaism and Islam are calling the masses to stand side by side in prayer today, a joint day of fasting that falls on both religious calendars July 15.
Interfaith activists, please share this urgent call for peace.
- In stating a brave interreligious solidarity, all participating can radiate the power of reconciliation. Religion News Service and other-like media outlets highlighting the interfaith perspective on the Gaza conflict seek angles of human commonality across communities while sectarian media only engulfs masses in biased information. Grieving parents comforting each other on both sides become symbols of forgiveness shared widely on the internet.
The Huffington Post is one of the outlets focusing on the parents. An article about Interfaith prayer for peace today reads, “Sanity must prevail. Inertia cannot take over,” wrote Robi Damelin, in a July 10 editorial in The Huffington Post. Damelin, who lost her son, David, to the conflict in 2002, concluded, “We must come out and demonstrate to the powers that be. Stop the violence. As part of the Parents Circle-Family Forum, Damelin meets with Palestinian and Israeli families who have all lost children in the conflict.”
- The religious definitions of today’s fasting is explored in The Times of Israel article reporting more on the “Choose Life” movement promoting today’s peace demonstrations:
“The 17th of Tammuz, a fast day that commemorates the breach of Jerusalem’s walls before the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70, falls out on Tuesday. It’s the start of a three-week mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av, a more well-known fast day that marks the destruction of the temple.
Tuesday is also the 18th day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast from dawn till sunset each day for the entire month.
The joint fast “is not a sixties anti-war thing,” said Shaul Judelman, one of the Choose Life organizers. ‘It’s coming from a religious place, which is tricky when rockets are falling. But our future seems to be here together, and no one’s going anywhere.” (Read more on The Times of Israel…)
Those in the United States wishing to join a public prayer demonstration and fast, seek opportunities like the following being organized in D.C. and Chicagoland:
- Joint Jewish and Muslim Fast and Prayer Against Violence in Washington, DC : In the past month the Jewish and Muslim communities have been shattered by the terrorist killings of four boys: Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah, and Muhammed Abu Khdeir.
In response, Jewish and Muslim clergy of the DC area are joining together as part of an international effort by religious leaders to pray for an end to the violence. On Tuesday, July 15th the Jewish and Muslim calendars are united in a day of fast: the fast of 17 Tamuz, and the fast of Ramadan. For both traditions this is a day designated for soul-searching, an opportunity for people to take responsibility, and for self repair, communal purification, and repentance.
As we join together we hope to direct the consciousness of both peoples to this day as a “peak day” – a day in which each man and woman will be invited to take part, to fast in solidarity with the suffering, violence and pain of self and others, to ask how to end the cycle of bloodshed and draw a horizon of hope and vision.
Please join Maharat Ruth Friedman and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue, Rabbi Etan Mintz and Chava Evans of B’nai Israel Congregation, and Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center on Tuesday, July 15th at 5pm in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC to offer prayers for peace and comfort. Leaders and members of all faith communities are encouraged to attend.
- JEWISH-MUSLIM FAST FOR PEACE, JULY 15 - Fountain Square, Evanston, IL 6:00pm
Friends – In response to the current violence in Israel/Palestine, Jews and Muslims in Chicago will join in a collective fast on Tuesday, July 15, when our two calendars converge:
The Fast of the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz (for the Jews this is a fast commemorating the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem before the Temple was destroyed) and the middle of the Fast of the Muslim Month of Ramadan.
Chicagoland Jews and Muslims will meet in Evanston, at Fountain Square (corner of Sherman and Davis, just steps from Davis CTA and Metra stations), at 6:00pm.
We will show empathy for each other’s pain and share in a collective prayer for peace, and a better future which our peoples deserve.
For both traditions, this is a day dedicated to taking an accounting of the soul, to taking responsibility, for correcting and purifying, to turning in repentance. The plan is to direct two peoples on this day to a kind of summit, during which everyone is invited to take part, to fast in identification with the suffering, the violence, the pain of one’s self and the other, to ask how we will break the cycle of violence and to create a vision of hope.
As one author (who lost his son in war) recently said: the situation is too desperate for us to drown ourselves in despair.
Global Interfaith Movement Acts for Kansas on Holy Weekend
We, the global interfaith community, cherish the principle of shared humanity and champion the Golden Rule as the guiding principle of each of the world’s great spiritual and religious communities. We unite as neighbors in our call for harmony, compassion, and peaceful relationships everywhere.
Sunday’s tragic hate shootings in the Kansas City area urgently signal why interfaith cooperation must become stronger to ensure all people are exposed to the beautiful lessons we learn from each other in diverse communities.
We invite all people to join with the United Religions Initiative (URI) and the Parliament of the World’s Religions in coming together to amplify action for peace:
“The hearts and prayers of our interfaith and inter-cultural family go out to those affected by this terrible tragedy,” said the Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian, Jr., Executive Director of URI. “Around the world, we affirm our promise to cultivate peace in the midst of difference, to promote enduring interfaith cooperation, and to show love in the face of hate. May peace and healing find those shaken by this loss.”
Dr. Mary Nelson, Executive Director of the Parliament concurs, “in the face of violence and hate, we people of spirit and faith are challenged to proactively reach out in love and reconciliation. Now is the time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
From Thursday April 17 through Sunday, April 20, we call for #LoveAlert messages to spread the goodness of interfaith cooperation around the world.
Please post photos and messages of solidarity for Kansas City, and for all communities enduring hate.
On Sunday April 20, join us in supporting the Greater Kansas City area by participating in the GLOBAL PRAYER FOR COMMUNITY PEACE.
Ways to observe your solidarity include: Fasting, lighting candles, and inviting your neighbors to your interfaith community events.
Use our tools to overcome hate! The Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate webinars train interfaith advocates and URI’s Talking Back to Hate campaign’s toolbox is full of effective best practices in a variety of materials.
Interfaith cooperation is happening; we as partners in the movement for peace affirm that deep interfaith relationships bring everyone closer together to overcome fear and embrace others as neighbors.
By bravely speaking out and acting together, we at the Parliament and URI invite all to work with us to correct injustice and make peace possible for all.
Mahavir Jayanti is a holiday celebrated by Jains (Jainism is an ancient Indian religion) to observe the birth of Tirthankar Mahavir. Tirthankar is a liberated soul who has achieved Nirvana. Tirthankar established a fourfold Sangh, or religious community. The Sangh consists of monks, nuns, Shravak (laymen) and Sharvika (laywomen). He was the last of the 24 Tirthankars of this time cycle.
Tirthankar Mahavir and Gautama Buddha were both born in the state of Bihar in India. Though they were contemplatives of their time, neither of them had met the other at any time during their life cycle. Nonetheless, they both observed the same philosophy of non-violence.
Mahavir was born to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishla. He was born in 615 BC. When Mahavir was in the womb, the kingdom experienced more happiness as farmers harvested the highest amount of quality crops, businessmen realized more profits, and the overall atmosphere was one of peace and joy that kept on increasing.
Mahavir renounced his throne and kingdom at the age of 30. For 12 ½ years he left his kingdom and did his penance. He fasted for many days. (Jains observe the fast without any solid or liquid food for 24 hours. They may drink boiled water or go even waterless.) He would meditate for days and nights. He slept only for forty-eight minutes during this a 24-hour time period. During his penance, he observed silence so he could contemplate and achieve enlightenment. He attained enlightenment at the age of 42 ½.
Mahavir gave five codes of conduct to reduce Karma. They are:
• To practice non-violence in thought, word, and actions.
• To seek and speak the truth.
• To behave honestly and never to take anything that does not belong to you, even if it is unclaimed by anyone.
• To practice restraint and chastity in thought, word, and actions.
• To practice non-acquisitiveness.
His main teachings were Ahimsa, Anekantvad, and Aprigraha, meaning “non-violence,” “pluralism,” and “non-attachment.” Mahavir said that there is life in every living being. You do not want to hurt others as they have souls just like you. If you hurt other people they too will hurt you, either in this life or the next life. The cycle would never stop unless you break it. This is your chance in this lifetime while you are born as an individual to stop the hate cycle. You should see the pure soul like yours in others and spread love and compassion.
Jains believe that Tirthankar Mahavir’s philosophy and practice ended his cycle of life and death. He achieved Nirvana at the age of 72. Since then, several enlightened souls have expounded the philosophy of Jainism. One such exalted soul was Shrimad Rajchandra. Jains believe that he was the last disciple of Tirthankar Mahavir during His time. Shrimad Rajchandra greatly influenced Mahatma Gandhi’s spiritual philosophy.
Mahatma Gandhi adapted the practice of non-violence in political struggle and strategy. He observed Satyagraha, championing human rights and practicing civil disobedience to oppose unjust government orders. Gandhi’s practice ended colonialism in India and achieved freedom after 200 years of British rule.
Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence impressed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He practiced Gandhi’s method non-violence and challenged racism in America. Nelson Mandela also achieved victory against apartheid in South Africa.
Mahavir Jayanti will be observed by Jains around the world on Sunday, April 13, by observing special ceremonies in Jain temples. In the early morning of Mahavir Jayanti, Jains give a ceremonial bath to the statue of Tirthankar Mahavir. There are cultural programs with music and dance for everyone to enjoy the birthday of Tirthankar Mahavir. There is also a feast for the visitors of the temple. They give donations to the poor and needy. In many places in India, Jains donate money to release animals from the slaughterhouse and put them in Panjrapol (the animal house) where they are looked after till their last day.
There are no Jain temples in Waco, Texas. The nearest Jain temple is in the Dallas area. The temple is open to anyone wanting to attend Mahavir Jayanti. You can get more information about their program at www.dfwjains.org.
Sources: www.jainworld.com; www.times of india.com; Wikipedia.
Kirit Daftary is a past president of JAINA (Federation of Jain Associations in North America). There are 67 Jain Centers and a population of over 150,000 Jains in North America. He is also a board member of Greater Waco Interfaith Council and a trustee and officer of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.