Dreaming of Peace

23 12 2014

???????????????????????????????????????Happy New Year 2015! Dare we imagine that this year could bring peace breakthroughs in relationships we previously gave up on? Which relationships would you most like to see restored this year? Perhaps with your spouse, your parent, your child, your sibling, a previously close friend…?

How does such a seemingly impossible reconciliation start?

I read an amazing article recently entitled: Daring to Dream: An Israeli and Palestinian Vision of a Better Future. When Israelis and Palestinians start dreaming together, you know we’re talking reconciliation on a miraculous scale! If they can believe it for their situation, why not us for ours?

I want to quote a few lines from their article. It’s thrillingly hopeful for me to read such a beautiful perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But I encourage you to read it, even declare it by faith, thinking of whatever broken relationship you want God to restore in this new year. Ready?

We cannot achieve what we cannot imagine; we cannot do what we cannot dream.

We would like to give you a glimpse into our imagination, our vision, our dream. We invite you into our understanding of a better future, which we wish to draw into the present with our prayers, with our minds, with our hearts and with our hands.

We refuse all the previous excuses, even if well-intentioned. We refuse to be oppressors. We refuse to be victims. We refuse to be ignorant. We refuse to give up hope. We refuse the easy way. We refuse to think we are beyond redemption because of the complications. We refuse to remain an intractable conflict. We refuse to defer our peace to other generations and centuries because we are too lazy or too unimaginative to dream a better future. We refuse many things.

And we affirm and accept many others. We affirm and maintain the ability to dream. We accept the challenge of peacemaking. We willingly take on the burden of truth-telling, even when it hurts our self-conception and our understanding of history. We accept that we are limited in what we see and in what we know, and we endeavor to learn more and challenge ourselves to think critically. We take responsibility for our actions, and our shortcomings in this conflict. We embrace compassion, for ourselves, for others, and particularly for those who have no compassion for us. We affirm and maintain space for each other, as we desire to co-exist, thrive, cooperate, collaborate, and be better versions of ourselves as a result of each other’s input.

It takes incredible courage to declare these commitments, even more to live them out. Are you ready to refuse to live any longer with your past “coping mechanisms,” and instead, to “accept the challenge of peacemaking”?

In every relationship, whether in our own home or between the nations we care about, may we become those who cannot stop dreaming of peace.

(For more about this outstanding ministry that our family supports financially, check out https://www.musalaha.org)

The Importance of Reconciliation in Conflict Resolution – Part 2

14 01 2013
Apartheid wall - Palestinian West Bank

Apartheid wall – Palestinian West Bank (Photo credit: nagillum)

I’m a bit behind on my writing due to moving from the US back to Indonesia, back to our work with local Muslims and Christians pursuing peace.  What a joy to be surrounded by people here who share a common dream for a better world and are willing to put aside their personal prejudices and pain to fulfill that dream!

Having a common dream positions us on the same side of any conflict—no longer US vs. THEM, but PEACEMAKERS vs. HATE, PREJUDICE, OPPRESSION, etc.  Whether we’re praying as a mixed group in our House of Prayer, or praying alone at home, we are learning to pray as one unified group.  It is my hope that this will lead to also identifying not only with the victims, but also with the victimizers, and praying as though they belong in our group as well: “Forgive US for our hatred and violence, heal US of our traumas and judgments toward others, show US ALL the best way forward to peace.”

Pastor Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, CA teaches that true intercession isn’t praying for God’s mercy for “them,” but identifying with others so deeply that we see ourselves in the same group together, crying out for mercy for “us”—an “us” that includes both ourselves and them.

It is this mindset of breaking down the walls between groups that separate us, and learning to identify with others as though they all were a part of “us,” that is needed when the reconciliation process begins.

Reconciliation begins when one person walks through the separating wall towards the offender (or one representing an offending group), hears their story and seeks to understand and feel their pain, and identifies himself as one of the same group (eg. a fellow-human, a fellow-sufferer, a fellow-seeker of God, a fellow-pursuer of peace,  etc.).  If the other person can receive this repositioning, both will find themselves companions on the same side of the wall.

The first time this happens for some people, it is mind-blowing.  Many Christians have never imagined a Muslim could be on the same side as them about anything; the same is true of Muslims never imagining Christians could be on their side.  But when that magical moment happens, suddenly a massive group of perceived enemies becomes an unlimited source of potential friends.  People previously observed and quickly passed over because of their clothes or other outward sign of “otherness” are examined more closely, as though one is singing a melody blindfolded while listening for who might be humming a harmony unnoticed before.

The exchange of ideas, truths and beliefs only flows freely between those on the same side of the wall.  We all know how easily we can hear new ideas from those who are similar to us, and how resistant we are to ideas from those who come from groups we don’t like.  Many people do Christian evangelism or Muslim dak’wa by lobbing “truth grenades” over the wall to destroy the arguments of the other group.  A sincere hearing of each others’ differing beliefs can only happen when we find enough in common that we are willing to hear difficult words from a friend, with complete assurance that we’ll remain friends who will always carry some level of difference in our personal, cultural and religious beliefs.

Those differences do not threaten our relationship—they enrich it.  Those differences deserve to be treated with honor.  At the same time, people do change, and love is the most conducive of all environments to incubate radical change.  When we’re positioned on the same side of the wall, we both will change.  This combination of the love which brings us closer to one another, and the honor we show for our differences, testifies to the world of hope for reconciliation, conflict resolution, and true peacemaking.

The Importance of Reconciliation in Conflict Resolution

3 12 2012

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Effective peacemaking depends on Conflict Resolution–but Conflict Resolution without Reconciliation is rarely effective.

This December I’ll be writing a 2-part blog on this topic.  Part 1 is already written and posted on the website of my good friend and amazing peacemaker, Thomas Davis (who will also soon be a guest blogger on this site!).  Please read it by going to Thomas Davis’s blog link below right, or typing in this link: http://www.incomparabletreasure.com/

After you read Part 1 on Thomas’s blog, watch for Part 2 coming on mine soon!

Healing the Wounds of a Nation — South Africa

17 01 2012
President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela, Ju...

As we work toward reconciliation between religions, we have to recognize that often other factors of difference, such as ethnicity, culture, language, control of wealth, control of power, etc., are also contributing to, if not driving, the conflict. On the surface, these contributing factors may make the peacemaking effort seem impossibly complex. But at the heart-level, the keys to reconciliation are consistent whether we’re facing Muslim-Christian conflict in Indonesia or the racial conflict of Apartheid in South Africa.

Recently, my peace-team and I invited a sizeable group of Muslim and Christian young adults to watch the film, INVICTUS. It’s the amazing story of how Nelson Mandela overcame his personal offense at the hands of a racist government to then lead the nation in building a unified society, where blacks and whites became one family again.

After viewing the film, we broke into small groups to discuss these powerful quotes from the movie below. As you read them, I invite you to write back to me how they affect you.

Quote #1 — The Power of Forgiveness: (Mandela) “The rainbow nation starts here. Reconciliation starts here.” (bodyguard) “But these people tried to kill us!” (Mandela) “Yes, I know. Forgiveness starts here too…. Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”

Quote #2 — Surprise with Compassion: “For 27 years in prison I studied my jailors. I learned their language. I read their books, their poetry. I had to know my enemy before I could prevail against him. And we did prevail…. Our enemy is no longer the Afrikaner (whites). They are our fellow South Africans, our partners in democracy. And they treasure Springbok rugby. If we take that away, we lose them. We would prove that we are what they feared we would be. We have to be better than that. We have to surprise them with compassion, with restraint, and with generosity.”

Quote #3 — Inspiration: “How do we inspire ourselves to greatness? How do we inspire everyone around us? … If I cannot change when circumstances demand it, how can I expect others to?”