Monday, May 30, 2011

Peace Quote of the Day - the Law of Retaliation or...?

"We are by nature a people who have the Law of Retaliation in our hearts: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Ex. 21:24). But Jesus taught and lived a greater principle: 'I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also' (Matt. 5:39). His first response was not to extract revenge, but to give the other person a chance. This is quite 'unnatural'; in fact, it is a work of God in someone's life to not retaliate against one who has wounded him or her."
Henry Cloud and John Townsend, How People Grow

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Peace Quote of the Day - overcoming evil with evil is not making peace

"When we try to overcome evil with evil, we are not working for peace. If you say, ‘Saddam Hussein is evil. We have to prevent him from continuing to be evil,’ and if you then use the same means he has been using, you are exactly like him. Trying to overcome evil with evil is not the way to make peace."
Johann Arnold, Seeking Peace

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Website: If Americans Knew

Another website with a variety of information on the Palestinian-Israeli situation:

Do you know? Does it make a difference?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Killer: 'doodling, genocide, and experiences on the road'.

Here's a link to an excellent new interview with gametrekker Jordan Magnuson: 'I released a new notgame from Cambodia today'.  The notgame, a powerful interaction with Cambodia's genocide, speaks for itself, and really deserves a play through (it takes about four minutes, and only requires holding down the space button, so no excuses about complexity or lack of time): The Killer.  As one reviewer on Newgrounds states, 'This game [. . .] says more than all the news on TV'.  

Asked in the interview why so many of his 'games' deal with such dark themes, Magnuson's response was a powerful reminder of why we need art in the first place -- to help us see the world truly, and remind us of all we have forgotten about each other, about pain, about life.  To help us feel rightly, and encounter rightly:  
Yes a lot of my games and notgames deal with dark themes. Some of them deal with death, killing, genocide. I don’t think these are the only themes that games should be addressing, by any means, but I do think they are important themes that need to be addressed precisely because of the thoughtless and insensitive ways that games have addressed them in the past. When you think about it, nearly all of the games we make are already about death, already about killing, already about genocide.

But the expression of these things in our games has become so abstracted and dehumanized that we no longer recognize them for what they are. Death, as perceived through most of our computer games, loses almost all of the meaning it has had in the context of human lives and relationships throughout history. Thus, when it comes to the most significant themes in human experience, computer games have the tendency to strip meaning and significance out of those themes, strip empathy and understanding away from the people who play them.

I’m not saying I’m against RTS games, or chess, or even first person shooters. I’m just saying that for every game we have that makes life and death abstract to some extreme degree, I think we also need a game (or notgame) that solidifies them, humanizes them, reminds us of what we used to know about them.

Peace Quote of the Day - turning enemies into friends

“As long as we do not pray for our enemies, we continue to see only our own point of view – our own righteousness – and to ignore their perspective. Prayer breaks down the distinctions between us and them. To do violence to others, you must make them enemies. Prayer, on the other hand, makes enemies into friends. When we have brought our enemies into our hearts in prayer, it becomes difficult to maintain the hostility necessary for violence.”
Jim Wallis, quoted in Johann Arnold, Seeking Peace

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Peace Quote of the Day - our inability to be silent

"One of the greatest hindrances to peace is our inability to be silent."

"Mother Teresa points out that what we have to say is never as essential as what God says to us and through us: 'All our words are useless if they do not come from within. Words that do not carry the light of Christ only increase the darkness'."
Johann Arnold, Seeking Peace

Monday, May 23, 2011

Beyond Ethnocentrism (3) – Pursuing Peace Through Growth in Intercultural Sensitivity: Integration

“A new type of person whose orientation and view of the world profoundly transcends his indigenous culture is developing from the complex of social, political, economic, and educational interactions of our time.”
Peter Adler, quoted in Bennett, “Towards Ethnorelativism”

(I wonder why he didn’t also say “religious” interactions? But that’s another subject…)

According to Adler, the “multicultural person” is one whose “essential identity is inclusive of life patterns different from his own and who has psychologically and socially come to grips with a multiplicity of realities” (quoted in Bennett).

Bennett refers to such as person as having developed to the ethnorelative stage of Integration.

At the stage of Integration, a person has come to be culturally marginal, existing on the periphery of two or more cultures. One is no longer straightforwardly at home in his or her original culture, neither has s/he assimilated to a different culture. The “integrated person” is not particularly affiliated with any one culture, but “can function in relationship to cultures while staying outside the constraints of any particular one” (all subsequent quotes, unless noted, are from Bennett).

People at the stage of Integration are living in the realm of what Bennett calls “contextual evaluation” – i.e., behavior is determined to be appropriate or not depending on the context (he asks the questions, “Is it good to take off my clothes?” and “is it good to refer directly to a mistake made by yourself or someone else?” and answers both by, “It depends on the circumstances” or context), and have the ability to choose from a range of different cultural responses, to given situations.

“These people see their identities as including many cultural options, any of which can be exercised in any context, by choice. They are not so much bound by what is right for a given culture (although they are aware of that) as they are committed to using good judgment in choosing the best treatment of a particular situation. … They are conscious of themselves as choosers of alternatives…”

Bennett points out that marginality “describes exactly the subjective experience of people who are struggling with the total integration of ethnorelativism.”

“They are outside all cultural frames of reference by virtue of their ability to consciously raise any assumptions to a metalevel (level of self-reference). In other words, there is no natural cultural identity for a marginal person. There are no unquestioned assumptions, no intrinsically absolute right behaviors, nor any necessary reference group.”

For a personal example of what Bennett means, I enjoyed listening to the interactions of my daughter (a TCK who grew up in Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon, and has also spent significant time in Jordan, besides attending University in the U.S.) with my brothers, all of them pastors or theologians. I would hear one of them make a statement about something (anything), including a phrase like, “the Bible says…” I would listen for my daughter’s response, and inevitably I would hear something like, “that’s one way of reading the Bible; but there are Christians who interpret that statement differently…” That, in a nutshell, is the perspective of a person who is living in the ethnorelative, marginal realm of Integration – they are always able to see things from different perspectives, and from outside of any one framework or cultural setting.

There are two possible phases of marginality, within Integration. At first, one might experience what he calls “encapsulated marginality,” “where the separation from culture is experienced as alienation,” and “constructive marginality,” “in which movements in and out of cultures are a necessary and positive part of one’s identity.” I have seen these two kinds of marginality with TCKs (third culture kids, i.e., people who grow up in a cultural setting that is different than their passport culture). For TCKs at the point of encapsulated marginality, the question, “where are you from?” may trigger an identity crisis – “I don’t know where I’m from; I don’t know who I am; I don’t know where I belong…” But for those who have developed to the point of constructive marginality, they may have come to have a positive sense of identity as a TCK – “I can go anywhere; I can adapt; I can fit in – I’m a TCK!”

Can we integrate difference?
Bennett concludes that “constructive marginality can be the most powerful position from which to exercise intercultural sensitivity,” and points out that “Cultural mediation could be accomplished best by someone who was not enmeshed in any reference group, yet who could construct each appropriate worldview as needed.”

Given the ever-“shrinking” world, with peoples traveling and migrating from and to just about everywhere, and given the levels of hostility and conflict (ethnic, national, religious, etc.) between different groups in the world today, there is a desperate need for people who have learned not only to adapt to cultural difference, but to internalize different cultural frames of reference and to live on the cultural margins. Such people can function as “bridge” people between different groups who are different, not just for mediating conflict (for which there is ample need), but also for mediating understanding and interaction.

The world needs more ethnorelative, interculturally sensitive peacemakers.

For more detail, see
Bennett, Milton J., “Towards Ethnorelativism: A Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity.” In Paige, R.M. (Ed). (1993) Education for the Intercultural Experience (2nd ed., p. 21-71). YarmouthME: Intercultural Press.

Bennett, Milton J., “Becoming Interculturally Competent.”  In Wurzel, Jaime S., ed., Toward multiculturalism: A reader in multicultural education (2nd ed., pp. 62-77). NewtonMA: Intercultural Resource Corporation, 2004.

Peace Quote of the Day - why won't Christians call Israel to account?

"So there are two strains within Christianity: one conservative (Christian Zionism) and one liberal/progressive (interfaith reconciliation). Both produce a tendency to support both the concept and the reality of the Jewish state. Both act powerfully to stifle criticism of Israel. This helps explain the reluctance - phobia might be a better word - of many Christians to call Israel to account for its human rights abuses and its denial of justice to Palestinians. We are presented with a daunting irony: Christians, attempting to atone for the crimes committed against the Jews, are by this very fact blocked from confronting the crimes committed by the Jews."
Mark Braverman, Fatal Embrace

I think that there are more than these two strains within Christianity, and I believe the reasons for Christian support of Israel are more complex than he gets at here, but Braverman touches on a vitally important issue, which must be unraveled if we are to make any progress for peace in Palestine - Christian support for the State of Israel, and the fact that among what seems to be a majority of American Christians, it is impossible to voice any criticism of Israel, on any basis. Peace is not possible, without confronting and changing this roadblock.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Beyond Ethnocentrism (2) – Pursuing Peace Through Growth in Intercultural Sensitivity: Adaptation

“One of the ways people inevitably increase their awareness when learning about other cultures is to move from thinking ‘My way is the only way’ toward thinking ‘There are many valid ways’ of interpreting and participating in life. And the process involves more than changing your thinking; it also involves adjusting your behaviors.”
Brooks Peterson, Cultural Intelligence (emphasis mine)

“The essence of ethnorelativism is respect for the integrity of cultures, including one’s own. In acceptance, the framework for appreciating cultural difference was established. At this stage, adaptation, skills for relating to and communicating with people of other cultures are enhanced.”
Milton Bennett, Towards Ethnorelativism (emphasis mine)

As we spend more time living and interacting with people in another cultural context, we may experience growth from Acceptance into Bennett’s next phase of intercultural sensitivity, Adaptation.

Acceptance (the previous phase) may have to do mainly with a change in perspective and attitude toward cultural difference (seeing it more positively, realizing it is there, being curious about and respectful toward difference), with an initial behavioral dimension of taking action to discover, understand, and learn about difference. It is possible to grow in accepting cultural difference, without living deeply or constantly in the midst of difference.

To grow into the phase of Adaptation, though, we need to be living in the context of cultural difference, and developing the skills for effective adjustment. This adjustment is comprehensive, involving cognitive, affective, and behavioral change over time. Cognitively, one begins to understand and see the world from the perspective of the people in the other culture. Behaviorally, one learns to adapt to do things in a way that is appropriate in the other setting. Affectively, one’s emotions are impacted over time, as feelings associated with the new worldview and cultural practices, and the value judgments associated with them, are internalized.

For example, through our years in Tunisia, we learned how Tunisians do hospitality. When someone you know shows up at your door, you don’t stand and talk with them at the door (unless you are male and the visitor is female, or vice versa, and no one of the other gender is at home with you), but welcome the visitor in (to stand and talk in the doorway implies you don’t want the visitor in your home). You must serve something, at least something to drink, and probably at least some kind of snack, if not a meal. You do not ask, “would you like…?” because such a request will be politely refused. Rather, you simply bring out the drink(s) and food, and serve them up. If you are eating a meal, you insist your visitor join you. If it is near a meal time, you plan on the visitor staying and eating with you (and insist that they do). In the Tunisian setting, rather than “a man’s home is his castle,” the guiding motto is, “my home is your home.” Rather than the honored one being the guest being received, in Tunisia, it is the host who is honored by the visit (hosts will say to visitors, “we have been visited by blessing”). A different way of viewing the world, people, social interactions, hospitality…

After living for years in Tunisia, and adapting to the Tunisian way of doing hospitality, we were often (emotionally) uncomfortable in hospitality situations in the U.S. For example, we were at my family’s eating one evening, and a couple of visitors dropped by unexpectedly. They were invited in (they were a sister-in-law and her friend; if they had been less close, perhaps they would not have been invited in), but we sat and continued eating, while talking with them. No one even offered for them to join us. (The expectation, in the U.S. setting, was that they had “interrupted” us in our plan or schedule, and would not have expected plans to be adjusted for them.) The fact that we felt uncomfortable shows that we experience adaptation even at the affective level, over time.

Note that adaptation, in Bennett’s model, is not assimilation. You don’t give up your culture, but experience an extension of your cultural repertoire.

“In adaptation, new skills appropriate to a different worldview are acquired in an additive process. Maintenance of one’s original worldview is encouraged, so the adaptations necessary for effective communication in other cultures extend, rather than replace, one’s native skills. The key to this additive principle is the assumption that culture is a process, not a thing. One does not have culture; one engages in it.”

One of the key skills in Adaptation is the ability to “look through the others’ eyes,” to construct reality that is nearer to their reality. Bennett contrasts this “empathy,” with the “sympathy” of ethnocentrism.

Can we adapt to the different other?

“…I have contrasted empathy to ‘sympathy,’ where one attempts to understand another by imagining how one would feel in another’s position. Sympathy is ethnocentric in that its practice demands only a shift in assumed circumstance (position), not a shift in the frame of reference one brings to that circumstance; it is based on an assumption of similarity, implying other people will feel similar to one in similar circumstances. Empathy, by contrast, describes an attempt to understand by imagining or comprehending the other’s perspective. Empathy is ethnorelative in that it demands a shift in frame of reference; it is based on an assumption of difference, and implies respect for that difference and a readiness to give up temporarily one’s own worldview in order to imaginatively participate in the other’s.”

Adaptation takes time. And it changes us. As we live in another cultural setting, and adapt to the behavior, worldview, and even the value judgments and emotions accompanying sociocultural experience, we change. Even though this is not a process of assimilation, of exchanging our culture for the other, we become different people through the process. One author has called such people, “150% people.” And Bennett talks of becoming “marginal,” in the sense of becoming a person who is not straightforwardly “at home” in any cultural setting. When I returned to Minnesota after years in Tunisia (which used to be “home” but now no longer seems to be – for us know, “home” is wherever we are living), I could recognize my native culture, but I felt as if I was seeing it through different eyes. And indeed, I was. I had not become Tunisian, but I was no longer Minnesotan in the way I had been.

Would the cause of peace in the world be furthered, if more people entered into the world of different others, learning to deeply empathize, learning to see as they see, learning to understand how their behavior makes sense in its context, experiencing the fullness and richness of their life in all its dimensions? It seems that it would at least be a step in the right direction…  

For more detail, see
Bennett, Milton J., “Towards Ethnorelativism: A Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity.” In Paige, R.M. (Ed). (1993) Education for the Intercultural Experience (2nd ed., p. 21-71). YarmouthME: Intercultural Press.

Bennett, Milton J., “Becoming Interculturally Competent.”  In Wurzel, Jaime S., ed., Toward multiculturalism: A reader in multicultural education (2nd ed., pp. 62-77). NewtonMA: Intercultural Resource Corporation, 2004.

Peace Quote of the Day - "the real culture war"

“Can we doubt that presently our race will more than realize our boldest imaginations, that it will achieve unity and peace, and that our children will live in a world made more splendid and lovely than any palace or garden that we know, going on from strength to strength in an ever-widening circle of achievement? What man has done, the little triumphs of his present state…form but the prelude to the things that man has yet to do.”
H.G. Wells, A Short History of the World (1937)

“The cold-blooded massacres of the defenseless, the return of deliberate and organized torture, mental torment, and fear to a world from which such things had seemed well nigh banished – has come near to breaking my spirit altogether… ‘Homo Sapiens,’ as he has been pleased to call himself, is played out.”
H.G. Wells, A Mind at the End of Its Tether (1946)

“There is no way out of this conundrum. The more we love and identify with our family, our class, our race, or our religion, the harder it is to not feel superior or even hostile to other religions, races, etc. So racism, classism, and sexism are not matters of ignorance or a lack of education. Foucault and others in our time have shown that it is far harder than we think to have a self-identity that doesn’t lead to exclusion. The real culture war is taking place inside our own disordered hearts, wracked by inordinate desires for things that control us, that lead us to feel superior and exclude those without them, and that fail to satisfy us even when we get them.”
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Peace Quote of the Day - the dividing line between good and evil

"One of the greatest risks in taking up arms against evil is to mistake the battle for something that must be fought on a human level, between opposing camps of ‘good’ people and ‘evil’ ones. We may speak of God and the church in contrast to Satan and the world, but the reality is that the dividing line between good and evil runs through every human heart. And who are we to judge anyone but ourselves?"
Johann Christoph Arnold, Seeking Peace

Peace Quote of the Day - Gandhi's advice

"Gandhi once advised, 'If you hate injustice, tyranny, lust, and greed, hate these things in yourself first'."
Johann Christoph Arnold, Seeking Peace

Friday, May 20, 2011

Peace Quote of the Day - tears for Jerusalem

Everyone I know who has traveled in the Occupied West Bank and has seen the realities of the Occupation and met with people who are working against it and for justice, has had a life-changing experience. This account is typical, with the exception that the author is an American Jew, grandson of a 5th-generation Palestinian Jew, which lends a different kind of weight to his witness:

“Traveling in Israel and the occupied territories in the summer of 2006, my defenses against the reality of Israel’s crimes crumbled. I witnessed the Separation Wall grabbing huge swaths of Palestinian land, the checkpoints controlling the movement of Palestinians within their own territory and strangling farming, commerce, access to health care, education, and social intercourse. I saw the network of new roads restricted to Israelis; I learned about the assassinations, midnight raids, and collective punishment; I saw the massive, continuing construction of illegal Jewish settlements and towns; I heard firsthand about the vicious acts of ideological Jewish settlers, and words like apartheid and ethnic cleansing sprang to my mind, unbidden and undeniable. That summer, forty years after my first encounter with the land, I saw all this, and my relationship with Israel changed forever.

“My last night in Palestine that summer fell on the ninth of Av, a Jewish day of fasting and mourning, the traditional date of the destruction of the Temple of Solomon and the beginning of the exile of the Jews two thousand years ago. The book of Lamentations, a source text for our liturgy of mourning, attributed by tradition to the prophet Jeremiah, is chanted that night. It is a harrowing description of a people fallen and traumatized.

        Jerusalem has greatly sinned
        Therefore has she been made a mockery
        All who admired her despise her
        For they have seen her disgraced.

        Panic and pitfall are our lot,
        Death and destruction.
        My eyes shed streams of water
        Over the brokenness of my poor people
        (Lam. 1:8, 4:46-48; author’s translation)

“On that night, I sat on a hill overlooking the Old City, in the company of congregations of praying Jews, mostly American émigrés worshiping, I felt, at the shrine of their Jerusalem – a Jerusalem ‘reclaimed’ at the expense of the Palestinian people; a Jerusalem that for Palestinians is also a spiritual and political center; a Jerusalem that is being taken from them street by street, farm by farm, village by village. I stood on that hill and chanted the words as I had every year on this day, descriptions of starvation, rape, slaughter, destruction of homes, and banishment from the land, and, for the life of me, I could apply the words only to the Palestinians. In these words, I now felt their suffering. And my eyes shed streams of water for them, my Palestinian brothers and sisters, and yes, for the brokenness of my own people.”
Mark Braverman, Fatal Embrace

If peace is ever going to come to Palestine, to the Israelis and Palestinians, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, it will be through people like Mark Braverman – through people who can step out of their place, their reality, their perspective, their view of the world (comfortable as it is), enter into the experience of those who are not only “other” but even the enemies of their people, feel their pain, and in fact, change to the degree that all that speaks of their own personal pain, can come somehow to connect to the reality of the pain of their enemy, who they can begin to think of as their “brothers and sisters.”

Would that we all would be able to make a journey like Mark Braverman’s, and experience the transformation which radically changed his life.

Peace Quote of the Day - excerpts from the Bruderhof Covenant

“As light cannot share space with darkness, so good and evil cannot coexist, and we must, therefore, decide which side we will take.”

Bruderhof Communities Covenant (excerpts):
We declare war against
all irreverence toward the childlike spirit of Jesus.
We declare war against
all emotional or physical cruelty toward children.
We declare war against
the search for power over the souls of others.
We declare war against
all human greatness and all forms of vanity.
We declare war against
all false pride, including collective pride.
We declare war against
the spirit of unforgiveness, envy, and hatred.
We declare war against
all cruelty to anyone, even if he or she has sinned.
 in Johann Christoph Arnold, Seeking Peace: Notes and Conversations Along the Way

One of the things I like about Arnold's emphasis (which seems to be the emphasis of the Bruderhof Community), is that the focus on peace is comprehensive - they are not narrow, and are not superficial. They try to identify everything in life that is the absence of or contrary to peace (comprehensively defined), and then to work against all of that.

Peace Quote of the Day

“We cannot sit and wait for heaven, for God’s reign of peace, to fall into our laps. We must go after it zealously.”
Johann Christoph Arnold, Seeking Peace: Notes and Conversations Along the Way

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Peace Quote of the Day - "I cannot fight"

"I am a soldier of Christ; I cannot fight" (St. Martin of Tours)

Peace Prayer of the Day

God of the Jew
God of the Christian
God of the Muslim
God of us all,
stop our warring madness.

Keep us from ghettoizing your holy people.
Keep us from ghettoizing ourselves from the pain of the world!

Keep us mindful of the light that shines in the midst of deep despair
how together with your Spirit, we can overcome the warring madness.

God of the Samaritan, Pharisee and Priest in all of us,
unfold love from within our hearts -
un-wring us from the twisted mess we've made of life and love
shape us into the identity you bless us with - "beloved"
until the only orthodoxy available is our love of you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Peace Quote of the Day - the perils of empowerment

"But if we [the Jewish people] now become slaves to the consequences of empowerment, then we are not free, and we are not truly powerful. The Jewish state, by using the Holocaust as justification for unjust actions, is betraying the meaning we should take from our history of persecution and marginalization. You cannot achieve your own deliverance, even from the most unspeakable evil, by the oppression of another people."
Mark Braverman, Fatal Embrace

Peace Quote of the Day - the impact of Yad Vashem on our pursuit of peace

Fatal Embrace is the remarkable account of the personal journey of an American Jew, grandson of a fifth generation Palestinian Jew, into his Jewish identity through the process of visiting Israel and the Occupied West Bank and beginning to grapple with the realities of the Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people.

Here is an account of the impact of a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, after having spent time in the West Bank. He begins by describing the location of Yad Vashem on Mount Herzl, the Mount of Memory, and the entry to the Museum. The whole account is well worth reading. Here is part of it. Read it slowly.

“I was shattered. A hand had reached into me, grabbed hold of my heart, and drawn me back into my past, into the collective memory of my people. How could I turn my back on this? How could I walk away from my history, from this incalculable, unfathomable loss, and, more so, from Israel, my deliverance? It had worked. I was hooked. What was I to do now? I had no choice. Emptied, numb, and confused, I turned and walked down the hall into the museum.

“It’s a brilliant exhibition. One walks down, into it. It is subterranean – no windows, no light, no escape. You are led through corridors and tunnels, with no control and no way out but through. One traverses the whole, familiar story: from the laws enacted in the thirties, the walls of isolation, privation, and degradation closing in, to the Final Solution: the ovens, the stacked bodies, the faces of the children. Darkness closes your heart – you feel you will never escape from this horror, this black hole of evil and despair. Then, turning a corner into the final gallery, on display are the blown-up photos of the ships bringing the refugees to the shores of Israel, faces shining with hope and gratitude. There is David Ben-Gurion, reading from the Israeli Declaration of Independence. And then, suddenly, you emerge. Ascending a wide flight of stairs, you are outside, in the light and the open air, standing on a wide patio that looks out on the Jerusalem Hills. It’s the final exhibit. And then it hit me. This was no mere museum. This was a lesson; this was indoctrination: from the biblical quote at the entrance [‘I will put my breath into you and you shall live again and I will set you upon your own soil,’ Ezekiel 37:14], into the depths, and to this sight – The Land. The reward. Our destiny.

“The fifty-eight-year spell was broken. I got it. And something let go, and it was okay.

“Diane, a fellow delegate, turned to me as we walked out and asked if I had seen the part about how the Nazis acted to marginalize, dispossess, and banish the Jews, the part before the extermination camps and the ovens. She asked if I had seen that this was what we had witnessed over the last few days. Yes, I had seen. The spell was broken. I got it. And it was okay.

“Treading, as I had so many times, the sacred ground of the Holocaust, I had, for the first time, broken The Rule: our Holocaust, the Holocaust, must not be compared to any other disaster, genocide, or crime. It has to stand as the ultimate humanitarian crime, the genocide. Not only that, I had also broken a rule so fundamental, so important that it is never even spoken: I had compared the Jews to the Nazis. And it was okay. Because, for the first time, I knew what I had to do; I knew how to understand and integrate the Holocaust. For one thing had not changed: the Nazi Holocaust would continue to be the formative historical event of my life. But now, from this day forward, finding the meaning of the Holocaust meant working for justice for Palestine. There were too many parallels, too many ways in which Israel was doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to us. No, we had not built death camps. But we were turning into beasts, into persecutors, and we were killing a civilization.

“Here was the most terrible irony in this scenario: in enshrining our own memory, in living out our liturgy of destruction, to use theologian Marc Ellis’s phrase, we have been erasing the history of another. It is a terrible irony that Yad Vashem, along with Har Herzl, is built on top of these hills west of Jerusalem, hills littered with the remains of Palestinian villages. Some have been turned into parks for the Jews of Jerusalem. Most are ruins, stones bleaching in the sun, standing guard over uncultivated terraces of olives and grapes, witnesses to shattered lives and a murdered civilization.”
Mark Braverman, Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land

This is an example of the kind of journey, the kind of transformation, which must take place, individual by individual, if there is ever going to be peace in the so-called Holy Land, the land of Jesus and so many prophets. Non-Jews must see, experience, internalize the Jewish experience of the Holocaust, to understand what lies behind the significance of the State of Israel, and the actions of the Israeli government toward the Palestinians. Jews must see, experience, internalize the Palestinian suffering, and see how their response to the Holocaust has led to the unthinkable – repeating the inhumanity they experienced, in their treatment of the Palestinians.

This is a stunning book. If you are interested in peace, anywhere, you should read it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Peace Quote of the Day - "my people are those who seek peace"

“Tel Aviv, Israel, 2001. Nurit Peled-Elhanan is the mother of Smadar Elhanan, who was thirteen years old when she was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in September 1997. After Smadar's death, Nurit and her husband, Rami, Jewish Israelis, opened their house of mourning to Palestinian supporters and to other bereaved parents. Years later, Nurit said this in a speech in Tel Aviv:

‘When my little girl was killed, a reported asked me how I was willing to accept condolences from the other side. I replied without hesitation that I had refused to meet with the other side: when Ehud Olmert, then the mayor of Jerusalem, came to offer his condolences I took my leave and would not sit with him. For me, the other side, the enemy, is not the Palestinian people. For me the struggle is not between Palestinians and Israelis, nor between Jews and Arabs. The fight is between those who seek peace and those who seek war. My people are those who seek peace. My sisters are the bereaved mothers, Israeli and Palestinian, who live in Israel and in Gaza and in the refugee camps. My brothers are the fathers who try to defend their children from the cruel occupation, and are, as I was, unsuccessful in doing so. Although we were born into a different history and speak different tongues, there is more that unites us than that which divides us.’”
Quoted in Mark Braverman, Fatal Embrace:
Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land
(emphasis mine)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Peace Quote of the Day - what do we allow our suffering to justify in our treatment of others?

Victor Frankl, reflecting on how everyday life in the Nazi concentration camps impacted people, wrote the following:

"During this psychological phase one observed that people with natures of a more primitive kind could not escape the influences of brutality which had surrounded them in camp life. Now, being free, they thought they could use their freedom licentiously and ruthlessly. The only thing that had changed for them was that they were now the oppressors instead of the oppressed. They became instigators, not objects, of willful force and injustice. They justified their behavior by their own terrible experiences. This was often revealed in apparently insignificant events. A friend was walking across a field with me toward the camp when suddenly we came to a field of green crops. Automatically, I avoided it, but he drew his arm through mine and dragged me through it. I stammered something about not treading down the young crops. He became annoyed, gave me an angry look and shouted, 'You don’t say! And hasn’t enough been taken from us? My wife and child have been gassed — not to mention everything else — and you would forbid me to tread on a few stalks of oats!' Only slowly could these men be guided back to the commonplace truth that no one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them."
Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

This certainly seems relevant to the situation in Israel/Palestine today, both in evaluating the Israeli treatment of Palestinians (to what extent have Israelis internalized the brutality they experienced, and used it to justify treating the Palestinians they same way they were treated by the Nazis?), and as a warning to Palestinians (not to internalize the brutality they are experiencing, and let it change them into people who justify doing wrong to others). They are already caught in a deadly "eye for an eye" cycle of violence, a downward spiral of brutality which is destroying people on both sides.

Frankl's words also make me think of the New Testament saying, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)

What will it take for the Israelis and Palestinians (or others in the world caught in a similar cycle) to break free?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Religious pluralism in post-bin Laden America

Here's another reflection on the death of bin Laden, and whether the U.S. as a nation can get beyond "Osama's worldview: that we are suspended in a cosmic struggle between Western Christendom and Islam":

The relevance to a "dialogue for peace"? What the author is advocating is that there needs to be dialogue among Americans about how people of different religions - with special reference to Christians and Muslims - can coexist peacefully and productively in a religiously (and otherwise) pluralistic nation. If we can work this out - how to be people of differing faith, differing religious convictions, differing ideas of fundamental truth, and yet live and even work together in peace, for peace, that would be revolutionary. Is it possible?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Just War and Osama Bin Laden

Here's a post with 3 responses to the question, "was the killing of Osama bin Laden a just act?" (in light of "just war" theory):

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Peace Quote of the Day - the violence of love

"I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion of citizens from the management of the country, repression. All this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest flows naturally.

"Would that the many bloodstained hands in our land were lifted up to the Lord with horror of their stain to pray that he might cleanse them. But let those who, thanks to God, have clean hands -- the children, the sick, the suffering -- lift up their innocent and suffering hands to the Lord like the people of Israel in Egypt. The Lord will have pity and will say, as he did to Moses in Egypt, 'I have heard my people's cry of wailing.' It is the prayer that God cannot fail to hear.

"The church is calling to sanity, to understanding, to love. It does not believe in violent solutions. The church believes in only one violence, that of Christ, who was nailed to the cross. That is how today's gospel reading shows him, taking upon himself all the violence of hatred and misunderstanding, so that we humans might forgive one another, love one another, feel ourselves brothers and sisters.

"We have never preached violence, except the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violence that we must each do to ourselves, to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us. The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work."
Archbishop Oscar Romero, the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fear and Relief - reflecting on the assassination of bin Laden

In the days following the announcement of bin Laden's assassination, there has been a range of reactions, from Americans celebrating in the streets, to people writing questions about whether this was the best way to deal with bin Laden. The following is an excellent reflection, by a leading Christian theologian:

Peace Quote of the Day - was it right to assassinate bin Laden?

A friend of mine wrote the following, in an interaction on the news of the murder of Osama bin Laden:

"I think it is wrong to assassinate people. Therefore, from my point of view, Osama bin Laden, should have been arrested, not shot on the spot. A better way to promote democracy, human rights and rule of law would be to arrest, investigate and then prosecute in the court suspected criminals.
Our fight against terror and mass murder will not be won through engaging in assassinations ourselves. Use of violence has a tendency to breed more violence."

Peace Quote of the Day - is religion the source of violence? (2)

"We can only conclude that there is some violent impulse so deeply rooted in the human heart that it expresses itself regardless of what the beliefs of a particular society might be - whether socialist or capitalist, whether religious or irreligious, whether individualistic or hierarchical. Ultimately, then, the fact of violence and warfare in a society is no necessary refutation of the prevailing beliefs of that society."
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God

This statement is in the context of considering the accusation that orthodox religion leads inevitably to violence.

I would add an observation that among religious people, you find those who cause violence, and those who work against it. The question that I find interesting is, why does religious belief and practice seem to lead to violence with some people, whereas for others their religious belief and practice (in the same religions) leads them away from violence? If is is true that there is a "violent impulse" which is "deeply rooted in the human heart," how and why does religion (or religious belief and practice) stir it up and encourage it, or work to change and overcome it (as the case may be)? 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bin Laden's Death: Why Vengeance is Not the Answer.

Here's an excellent reflection on Bin Laden's death, and the disturbing response it's illicited: Osama bin Laden's Death: The U.S. Patriot Reflex.

Some thought provoking passages:
Given the nature of the 9/11 attacks a popular desire for vengeance in the US is a perfectly understandable and legitimate emotional response. It is not, however, a foreign policy. And if vengeance is a comprehensible human emotion then empathy is no less so.

Americans have a right to grieve and remember those who died on 9/11. But they have no monopoly on memory, grief or anger. Hundreds and thousands of innocent Afghanis, Iraqis and Pakistanis have been murdered as a result of America's response to 9/11. If it's righteous vengeance they're after, Americans would not be first in line. Fortunately it is not a competition, and there is enough misery to go around.

The American military has done many things in this region. Killing Bin Laden is just one of them.

If "they" killed Bin Laden in Abbottabad then "they" also bombed a large number of wedding parties in Afghanistan, "they" murdered 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha and "they" gang-raped a 14-year-old before murdering her, her six-year-old sister and their parents near Mahmudiyah. If "they" don't want to be associated with the atrocities then "they" need to find more to celebrate than an assassination. Vengeance is, in no small part, what got us here. It won't get us out.

Beyond Ethnocentrism – Pursuing Peace Through Growth in Intercultural Sensitivity (1): Acceptance

“One of the ways people inevitably increase their awareness when learning about other cultures is to move from thinking ‘My way is the only way’ toward thinking ‘There are many valid ways’ of interpreting and participating in life.”
Brooks Peterson, Cultural Intelligence

In Bennett’s DMIS (Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity), growth toward a richer, fuller, more positive experience of cultural difference, i.e., growth in intercultural sensitivity, is marked by a transition from ethnocentrism (with stages of Denial – Defense – Minimization) to what he calls ethnorelativism (with stages of Acceptance – Adaptation – Integration).

This growth is characterized by a shift from the experience of one’s own beliefs and behaviors (culture, worldview) as “just the way things are,” to the experience of one’s own beliefs and behaviors as one organization of reality among many viable possibilities (i.e., one’s own culture is experienced in the context of other cultures) – as in the Brooks Peterson quote above. From being unknown, alien, absurd, threatening, insignificant, etc., the cultural difference of others becomes (or begins to become) known, real, comprehensible, respected, etc. This change involves a worldview shift – the world is seen and experienced differently, by a person who is becoming interculturally sensitive.

How do we respond to the "different other"?
The movement from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism is characterized by the development of cultural self-awareness, accompanied by a growing awareness of different others (i.e., of what makes others different, how they are different). (Note that in a different context, Stephen Covey points out that self-awareness is the key human gift, unlocking all other unique human potential, and that without self-awareness we cannot know others, because we treat them as if they were the same as us.)

Part of the growing awareness of others, and of cultural difference, involves beginning to see both the behavior and the values of people from other cultures, within a cultural context (i.e., as understandable within their cultural context).

“people begin to see alien behavior as indicative of profound cultural differences, not just as permutations of universal (and probably ethnocentric) laws”

“Alternative beliefs about both what exists in reality and the value which may be attached to those phenomena are respected as viable, at least as they are expressed in a cultural context.”
Milton Bennett, Towards Ethnorelativism (emphasis mine)

Movement out of ethnocentrism also involves questioning the universality of our experience, our models, our ways of doing things (be it in education, economics, politics, development, leadership, the way we do church life, or whatever realm). One way in which I experienced movement from the “minimization” stage of ethnocentrism, into a more ethnorelative approach, was in realizing that the apparent fact that Egyptians I knew did not seem to live according to Covey’s 7 Habits might not mean that Egyptians are not effective, but that the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Egyptians” are different than Covey’s 7 Habits (i.e., that Covey’s 7 Habits might not be universal). This seems obvious in hindsight, but the idea that a model which works for us is universally applicable, has a powerful force which is hard to escape.  Once we become more aware of the reality of cultural difference, anyone’s claim to have a “universal” model, approach, or solution, should cause us to see red flags and hear alarm bells.

Moving into Ethnorelativism: Acceptance

The first stage in the ethnorelative experience of cultural difference, in Bennett’s model, is Acceptance. Acceptance is characterized by curiosity about cultural difference, and a growing respect for difference. As one moves into Acceptance, s/he does not necessarily have a deep understanding of the difference which exists, but there is at least a realization that there is difference to be discovered, accompanied by a positive attitude toward exploring and discovering the difference.

Acceptance (in my words) involves…
  • letting go of the idea that reality is simply the way we “know” it to be
  • relating to people as they are, rather than as we would like them to be (or according to our image of them)
  • wanting to know people (i.e., in the reality and fullness of who they are)
  • not trying to change others, to be different or to be like us (which is the tendency of an ethnocentric experience of others)
  • accepting others as being as fully human (and as fully complex) as we ourselves are
  • being open to difference, and open to change (for we cannot grow in accepting others, without ourselves changing)
  • being open to the fact that “what works for us” might not work for others, i.e., that “what works for us” might not be “universal”
If conflict in the world can be seen as being caused to some extent by the various manifestations of ethnocentrism (see my previous posts, on how ethnocentrism hinders peace), would growth into what Bennett calls ethnorelativism, have a positive impact for peace? Or to put it another way, would people who are accepting of others who are different, more likely to live in peace with those different others, than those who are denying, defensive toward, or minimizing difference (Bennett's three ethnocentric stages)? If we are serious about pursuing peace, should we be motivated to grow beyond ethnocentrism, into Bennett's stage of Acceptance, and beyond?

I’ll let you answer that one yourself…

Coming soon… Beyond Ethnocentrism (2): Adaptation

*For full treatment of Bennett’s model, see
Bennett, Milton J., “Towards Ethnorelativism: A Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity.” In Paige, R.M. (Ed). (1993) Education for the Intercultural Experience (2nd ed., p. 21-71). YarmouthME: Intercultural Press.

Bennett, Milton J., “Becoming Interculturally Competent.”  In Wurzel, Jaime S., ed., Toward multiculturalism: A reader in multicultural education (2nd ed., pp. 62-77). NewtonMA: Intercultural Resource Corporation, 2004.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Peace Quote of the Day - is religion the source of violence?

"It is widely believe that one of the main barriers to world peace is religion, and especially the major traditional religions with their exclusive claims to superiority."
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God

"The 20th century gave rise to one of the greatest and most distressing paradoxes of human history: that the greatest intolerance and violence of that century were practiced by those who believed that religion caused intolerance and violence."
Alister McGrath, quoted in Timothy Keller, The Reason for God

"It is common to say that 'fundamentalism' leads to violence, yet as we have seen, all of us have fundamental, unprovable faith-commitments that we think are superior to those of others. The real question, then, is which fundamentals will lead their believers to be the most loving and receptive to those with whom they differ? Which set of unavoidably exclusive beliefs will lead us to humble, peace-loving behavior?
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God

This is the question, it seems, for all religious people / people of faith in the world today, regarding peace: does your religious faith lead you to peaceful relations with others, to building peace in the world, or to violence?

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Peace Quote of the Day - does pacifism suffice?

“Does pacifism suffice? I don’t think it is enough.

…When in Asia millions of people starve to death while in North America and elsewhere millions of tons of wheat are stockpiled, isn’t that war?

When thousands of women prostitute their bodies and ruin their lives for the sake of money; when millions of babies are aborted each year, isn’t that war?

When people are forced to work like slaves because they can hardly provide the milk and bread for their children, isn’t that war?

When the wealthy live in villas surrounded by parks, while in other districts some families have only one room to share, isn’t that war?

When one person builds up a huge bank account while another earns scarcely enough for basic necessities, isn’t that war?

When reckless drivers cause thousands of traffic deaths every year, isn’t that war?

…I cannot agree with a pacifism whose representatives hold onto the root causes of war: property and capitalism. I have no faith in the pacifism of businessmen who beat down their competitors, or husbands who cannot even live in peace and love with their own wives…

I would rather not use the word ‘pacifism’ at all. But I am an advocate of peace. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers!’ If I really want peace, I must represent it in all areas of life.”
Eberhard Arnold, quoted in Johann Arnold, Seeking Peace

Peace Quote of the Day - Who has the peace of Jesus?

“Here I should point out that despite my own faith in Christ, and despite the vocabulary of this book (which some may find 'churchy'), I do not believe that one must necessarily be a Christian to find the peace of Jesus. True, we cannot ignore Jesus’ statements: ‘He who does not gather with me, scatters’ and ‘He who is not for me is against me.’ Yet what does it mean to be ‘for’ Jesus? Doesn’t he make it clear that it is not religious words or other expressions of piety that matter? He looks for deeds of compassion and mercy – for love. And he says that even a cup of water to a thirsty person will be rewarded ‘in the kingdom of heaven’.”

“Jesus is a person, not a concept or an article of theology, and his truth embraces far more than our limited minds can comprehend. In any case, millions of Buddhists, Muslims, Jews – and agnostics and atheists – practice the love Jesus commands us to live out with more conviction than many so-called Christians. And it is hardly our place to say whether or not they possess peace.”
Johann Arnold, Seeking Peace

I share this quote because Jesus is one who is known for peace. Many of the great peacemakers (e.g., Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr.) have looked to Jesus for inspiration. Sometimes (Gandhi's example not withstanding) Christians talk as if Jesus is ours, as if we "own" Jesus. But do we? Jesus himself said, "blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God"...