Human Rights Are Relevant to All of Us, Every Day

Friends —

Human rights are relevant to all of us, every day. The UN Declaration of Human Rights, opens with a complex philosophical statement:

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…”

Whatever your opinion is of the UN’s effectiveness, this preamble to an international agreement on human rights matters. Because those human rights are the things we’re all entitled to have — safety, respect and freedom — including freedom to think and believe as we choose without bias, bigotry or oppression.

But these big ideas are not only about governments and policy removed from you and me. In fact, if we want to have human rights, we have to work at it.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said, 

“Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to homeso close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

Human rights are your right. They are also each of our responsibility. And when it comes to really helping our neighborhoods preserve human rights, it can start with countering fear and hate of neighbors we have never met, and making sure everyone is welcome and treated with respect. When people take human rights personally, they take them seriously. 

In sum…universal human rights not only anchor global governments and international corporations, but they anchor ordinary people to the value of every human life.

Read the story on Medium.

SDGs Are For You and Me

By Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO, Tanenbaum
Reposted from Medium, October 24, 2018

These days, most days are designated as special. Either they honor a person or event, or invoke reflection on a grand vision. And most of the time, we just ignore them. But today is UN Day. And if we pause for a moment without cynicism, we know that this matters.

I have reasons for saying this. For one thing, the UN adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) two years ago that articulate 17 separate and related goals or visions. Alone that would be nice. Yet each had specified activities for meeting its vision. So it is more than a dream. It is a plan.

I’ve given these SDGs a lot of thought. Taken together, they describe a just, whole, fair and peaceful world — something I often call a “Lived Peace.” These goals address everything from ending poverty to ensuring clean water, equal education, equitable health care, security and safety. They are all important and Tanenbaum is proud to stand among the organizations worldwide contributing to the larger vision, particularly regarding our work with religiously motivated Peacemakers in Action.

Take for example, Sustainable Development Goal №16, which “promote[s] peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide[s] access to justice for all and build[s] effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

This includes SDG 16.1, which promises to “significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere.”

Consider Ethiopian Peacemaker Dr. Ephraim Isaac. Working behind the scenes, Ephraim finally saw success when, this past June, the neighboring nations of Ethiopia and Eritrea reached an official peace agreement after two decades of conflict. As a national elder, Ephraim was featured in a September New York Times article covering Ethiopia’s newly elected president, Abiy Ahmed. Regarding President Abiy’s leadership style and frequent references to “the ideals of love, forgiveness and reconciliation,” Ephraim observed:

“It’s not political language. It’s religious language.”

Similarly, the late Peacemaker Fr. Alec Reid, who worked for peace in Northern Ireland was recently lauded in reviews of the newly-released documentary about Pope John Paul II’s historic trip to Ireland in 1979. Reflecting on Fr. Reid’s behind-the-scenes work in the peace process, the film’s director, David Naglieri, praised his facilitation as “absolutely critical” to its success — including how he sparked a secret dialogue between Hume and Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams, a cataclysmic event that fueled the reconciliation process.

I could go on talking about how the work each of our Peacemakers is doing is relevant to promoting peace. But the truth is that the work our Peacemakers are doing is relevant not just to one, but to each and every SDG put forth by the UN to be achieved by 2030.

A few examples…

SDG №4 commits to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

For more than twenty years now, Peacemaker Dr. Sakena Yacoobi has risked her life to teach women and children in Afghanistan. In the face of a brutally oppressive Taliban regime, she secretly taught them to read and used education to reclaim Islam — believing that if people had access to the verses themselves, they would see its underlying messages of peace, justice and equality.

She is not alone. Many Tanenbaum Peacemakers are creating equitable education. Consider Abuna Chacour, who created the Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEEI) in Israel. As a Melkite Catholic priest who identifies as a Palestinian, Arab, Christian and Israeli, he established a school that welcomed Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Druze students in 1982. His vision: to educate, to build community, and to create the relationships needed for a peaceful Israel. Though his vision is not yet realized, his school continues to operate, now boasting more than 4,000 students from kindergarten through the university level.

SGD №8 vows to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”

Longtime peace activist, Quaker and occasional politician, Peacemaker Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge now works through her organization, Embrace Dignity, to defang sex trafficking in South Africa. Her approach? Change the prostitution laws in South Africa, and support those wishing to exit prostitution through referrals to counseling, skills training, small business development and education providers. In addition, for the last six years, Embrace Dignity has also been chipping away at sex trafficking through policy change. It is advocating for the partial decriminalization of prostitution (i.e., the Nordic Model), which gives women help to exit the industry, while simultaneously holding buyers and sellers accountable.

To be fair, the SDGs are not a panacea. However, they do provide a roadmap that can lead to change. And they remind us that the power to make the world a better place lies in each and every one of our hands. The SDGs are about collective action, and Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action Network demonstrate that, as individuals, we all play a crucial role in building a better future.

So today, my hat is off to the UN. Because when you put it all together, the SDGs…imagine a world in which difference is respected… and create a world that puts respect into practice.

What does Global Ethics Day mean in today’s world?

Today is Global Ethics Day. But what does that mean in today’s world? What do we mean by ethics? Do we mean our values? Or do we mean, how we live our lives?

One way to answer this is by referring to what I call, the musings of the Wise Ones. The oldest discussions of character for which there are records come from the ancient Greeks. They are best known from the reflections of such well-known philosophers as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Indeed, many of Plato’s “Socratic Dialogues” specifically examine virtue and the character of a virtuous person.

There’s the philosopher Herodotus, known for his proto-relativistic creed: “Man is the measure of all things.” And in more recent history, the assessment by the late literary giant, Elie Wiesel who observed, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Or the words of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Albert Schweitzer who wrote, “Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”  

We can find values amid their ideas. However, I prefer to define ethics by considering the lives, and actions, of religious peacebuilders—individuals who, because of religion, dedicate themselves to pursuing peace. Around the world, such extraordinary yet unknown women and men exist. Driven by faith, they dare to do the work that others are afraid to take on. Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action Network is a group of such individuals, a special breed from the world’s most violent crises. They offer critical insights, real-world skills and examples of ethical leadership that can inspire.

Take for example, Imam Dr. Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye of Nigeria who have been publicly pursuing anti-corruption efforts to keep their country’s upcoming general elections fair and honest. Each has been a voice for safe elections, calling on their fellow countrymen to critically assess what politicians say, to be wary of false promises by politicians, to educate themselves and apply the core values of their religious traditions in their everyday lives and as they exercise their votes. Imam Ashafa noted:

“In every street in Nigeria, you find Churches and Mosques with people calling unto God but yet our attitudes to one another does not portray what we are learning in our various places of worship.”

Similarly, his peace partner Pastor James has added his voice to the Nigerian public’s pre-election preparation. In the past month, alone, he offered valued insights at a four-day interreligious dialogue between leaders of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria and the Fellowship of Christian Students of Nigeria; and again at a capacity-building workshop for youth to better combat corruption. At the latter event, held in Northern-Nigeria, where Boko Haram has spread fear and violence, Pastor James spoke boldly on lingering criminal activities and banditry in the northern states. In so doing, he pursued truth while placing himself at risk. He stated:

“Those that are involved in curtailing these problems are benefiting from it financially, and that is why it is occurring.”

Such efforts are high profile in a country where extremism lurks. Yet these men pursue democratic processes even when laying low and remaining silent would be safer. They are not alone.

Elsewhere in Africa, Peacemaker Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge of South Africa’s Cape Town-based organization Embrace Dignity is helping women and girls in the sex industry, and those who are victims of human trafficking. Working directly with the women, while also putting herself “out there” with political leaders, Nozizwe and her colleagues are trying to move the Parliament of South Africa to pass an equality law that would decriminalize the act of selling sex – thus supporting women’s agency over their own bodies – but would also criminalize the act of paying for sex. Ideally, the law would lower the demand for solicited sex, while simultaneously decreasing the supply of women and girls being trafficked into the sex industry – similar to the Nordic model from 1999. In a recent IOL interview, Nozizwe explained:

“This law must be heavy on the buyers (of sex work), who are creating a demand. If there is no demand, there is no supply. Women are being thrown in the street either by family members or by desperation. That is what caused the demand. We elevate their voices so the government can hear them. We are showing the government that it can be done!”

So again, what do we mean when we talk about ethics? Values or actions that demonstrate values? Actions unveil a person’s moral and ethical character and reveal who they really are. So as we think about Global Ethics Day, let’s identify the strongest values we can muster…and then put them into action.

International Day of Peace

Friends,
 
This year’s International Day of Peace celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document lays out a vision of human rights for all. As such, it is critical to all of us.
 
But what needs to be remembered is that the Declaration itself, and much of the work that has followed its powerful release, would not exist without women – including women of faith – who are involved in the peacebuilding process. As head of the Human Rights Commission, it was a woman, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was instrumental in composing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The work that has grown from that document would not exist if not for that one visionary woman.
 
​​​​​​​Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel at the United Nations General Assembly called Keeping Faith in Sustainable Peace: Women of Faith as Agents of Transformation. I spoke alongside professor Hind Kabawat, a member of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action Network, along with Fatima Madaki, from Search for Common Ground and a KAICIID International Fellow. These women, along with myself, are living proof that women of faith can and should be recognized for the roles we play in the peace and reconciliation process, as formal and more often informal, agents of peace. Among our panel, we unanimously agreed that before anything else, UN leaders, diplomats, government officials and religious leaders within various communities MUST collaborate with women as allies and partners in the conversation. Women need more than a seat at the table. They need many seats. 
 
Early on, Tanenbaum saw the importance of women of faith in peace, and committed to formally recognizing women among our Peacemakers. Today, the Peacemakers in Action Network includes 10 women of faith – from all different conflict zones, who each live out their faith in different ways that build towards sustainable peace and inclusion. 
 
Too often the role women play as agents of peace is undervalued and often straight out ignored. Their work, their perspectives, their existence must be recognized. So today, to honor the past 70 years and look towards the next 70, let’s change how we work together – and make sure that we are working with the multitudes of women who make peace possible internationally.
 
And just in case you still have doubts about the power of religious and faith-based women peacebuilders…please take a few minutes to review Tanenbaum’s resource sheet, Women Who Pursue Peace and Justice, on the female peacemakers we recognize and partner with, and the important work they’re doing.
 
Yours in peace, 
 
Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum 

Genocide Finally Named in Scathing UN Report

Dear Friends,

This week, the U.N. released a report that calls for Myanmar’s military leaders to be prosecuted for genocide due to the ruthless and inhumane treatment of the Rohingya, a minority group from Myanmar.

What is happening to the Rohingya?

In Myanmar, religious and ethnic hatred has forced 700,000 Muslim Rohingya to fearfully flee their homes. This hatred was fueled, in part, by extremist Buddhist monks, who see the Rohingya as a religious and ethnic threat.

While this crisis may seem recent, it’s unfortunately part of a much longer story. At Tanenbaum, we’ve been watching this nightmare unfold. Given the new report, we are reissuing the following resources we created in late 2017:

The Rohingya crisis is a stark reminder that extremism touches people from all religions. By combating extremism anywhere, we combat extremism everywhere,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum


Image: UNHCR/Roger Arnold

Preventing Syria’s Next Massacre – Guest post by Hind Kabawat

This article was published on Medium by Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, Hind Kabawat, on July 31, 2018


As I walked among the tombstones that demarcate the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial for the infamous 1995 massacre, I could not help but draw parallels with my country’s own conflict. These 8,000 innocent Bosniak Muslims, left to be slaughtered by Bosnian Serb troops under the command of Ratko Mladic, demonstrate the deadly consequences of the international community’s failure to protect civilians occupying the UN’s declared “Safe Haven” zone. I fear that it is this same fate that may befall some of the millions of civilians currently residing in Syria’s Idlib province.

For the past year and a half, the Idlib region has served as a safe haven for other regions of Syria that have seen violent conflict. As Bashar al-Assad’s offensive has seized control of most of Syria within the past year and a half using military aggression with the support of Iranian fighters, as well as aerial bombardment by their Russian allies, in areas such as Homs, Eastern Ghouta, and most recently Daraa, opposition groups have acquiesced to ‘reconciliation’ agreements under the condition that any opposition fighters or civilians unable or unwilling to live under regime control be granted the option to relocate to Idlib. These fighters, their families, and countless civilians have been transported in buses by the Syrian regime under the supervision of Russian forces from their homes to the Idlib province, in what is far from an act of reconciliation but rather a targeted practice of forced displacement and “demographic engineering”, which is a violation of Rule 129 of Customary International Humanitarian Law.

The population of Idlib, which once numbered around 750,000, has swelled to nearly 3.5 million in recent years due to the influx of internally displaced people seeking safety and security. Currently, the province is a distorted reflection of the diverse Syrian nation that existed prior to Bashar al-Assad’s violent crackdown on his own populace, containing Syrians from all over the country and from different ethnicities and religious groups. While a certain percentage of Idlib residents are members of armed opposition groups and an extremist presence exists in the form of Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and a select few other radical groups, the vast majority of the province is populated by civilians. It is these individuals whose safety is of immediate concern.

While Idlib has been the evacuation point for the rest of Syria, there no longer remains anywhere for civilians to evacuate to in the event of an attack by the Syrian regime. Over 3 million refugees have entered Turkey since the Syrian conflict began, stretching Turkey beyond its ability to take in and care for those fleeing to its southern border, and there is no safe passage or open border elsewhere that residents of Idlib can hope to reach. Thus when the regime turns its eye to Idlib, which as of July 27, 2018 Bashar al-Assad directly stated his intention to do, these civilians will be trapped and left to be caught in to crossfire of the regime’s campaign against northern opposition groups.

According to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, civilians and all persons not taking part in combat may under no circumstances be the object of attack. The Syrian regime has repeatedly demonstrated its contempt for these laws, directly targeting civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools while also detaining civilians and peaceful protesters. As of July of this year, the regime has released more than 7,000 death certificates for detainees that bear evidence of their death under torture, demonstrating the confidence acquired by Bashar al-Assad’s continued impunity for his repeated war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Without international intervention, once the Syrian regime consolidates its hold in the country’s southern provinces, they will turn northward towards Idlib while maintaining their narrative that the province is under the sole control of al-Nusra despite clear evidence to the contrary. In line with his prior military tactics, observers and military experts expect this campaign will be marked by heavy aerial bombardment by Russian forces, targeting of civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, and the use of chemical weapons. With nowhere else left to flee, millions of Syrians would be sitting targets.

With each disturbing image released from the Syrian conflict, of children pulled from piles of rubble and of mutilated corpses of women, men, and children detained by the Syrian government, the world has decried the brutality of the Syrian conflict and vowed to take action. The civilians, women, and children of Idlib standing waiting for those nations to fulfill their vow, or to leave them to their fate at the hands of a government whose repeated war crimes have been extensively documented, just as the people of Srebrenica did in 1995.

This article was written by Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, Hind Kabawat


Image: Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial. Credit: Remembering Srebrenica

Tanenbaum Announces New Peacemakers in Action!

 

Dr. Sarah AK Ahmed feeds a young girl who fled Mosul – FRRME August 2017

Dear Friends,

Today we’re thrilled to announce our 201Peacemakers in Action—Iraq’s Dr. Sarah AK Ahmed, a Muslim, and South Sudan’s James Lual Atak, a Christian. Both are extraordinary peace activists, driven by their faith and risking their lives for the chance of peace in the world’s worst conflicts.

Sarah defies extremists and exemplifies compassion by providing resources for Christian, Yazidi, and other religious and ethnic minority internally displaced persons. James provides safe haven and educational opportunities for orphans and women—regardless of their religious or ethnic backgrounds. Both have been threatened or caught in crossfire, yet they persist, improving the lives of those with whom they work.

James with children at Make Way Partners

Dr. Sarah Ahmed and James Lual Atak join 30 Peacemakers from 24 conflict zones.

In peace,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

An Open Letter to Ethiopians At Home and Abroad

The following letter was written by Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, Dr. Ephraim Isaac. You can read more about his work here.


Dear Beloved Brothers/Sisters,

“We must learn to live together as brothers [and sisters]
or perish together as fools” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our beloved country Ethiopia has been known since ancient times as a land of peace and tolerance. The Greeks, the Hebrews, the Persians, the Prophet Muhammed, famous Renaissance scholars, (and maybe even Luther, the founder of Protestantism) all hailed Ethiopia as a home of a tolerant and peaceful people.

Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action Dr. Ephraim Isaac at an interfaith meeting in India with Ella Gandhi, grand-daughter of Gandhi, and Dr. Ephraim Isaac’s doctoral student from Sri Lanka.

The past year I was a member of a doctoral dissertation committee for a Sri Lankan university student of psychology on the tragic Sri Lankan Civil War of 1987-2009. An estimated 100,000 civilians (according to one statistic), not counting military deaths, perished during that conflict. I learnt from reading the thesis that the root of that conflict was bitter ethnic hate among the Tamils, Sinhalese, and Moors. Unfortunately, what was originally and rightly meant to promote ethnic pride was turned into a philosophy of ethnic superiority and hatred by some politicians. The discrimination that occurred in state sector employment practices and demand for separate states over time turned into a potent and bitter hatred and generated fear that escalated into inter-ethnic hate and death and destruction.

So, today, when I hear abusive or strong words of hate from some of my compatriots, maligning one or another of our beautiful people, be it the Tigre, the Oromo, the Amhara, or any of our many other linguistics communities, it pains me very much. If I were a person capable of anger, which I am not, I would say I am madly angry. When we hate our fellow Ethiopians, we empower external forces that wish to do us harm.

Right now, I am at the famous Mayo Clinic retreat as a keynote speaker on the value of cultural diversity in the health services. Many of the doctors I meet agree with me that hate is a psychological disease that is as bad as cancer. It is a miserable illness that needs to be treated. Otherwise, it will destroy the person who harbors it. It affects the brain and heart of the hater and boils the nervous system. It can actually shorten the life of a person who is afflicted by a hateful mind. In short, we do more harm to ourselves than to others through hate.

On the contrary, love and respect of others calm the brain and nervous system. Some psychologists I know say that the positive reinforcement of others rather than their punishment gives people more positive life options. To work for the good of others and reach across lines and look to the future rather than to attack people indeed bring joy and happiness, and rich personal fulfillment.

Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action Dr. Ephraim Isaac with inter-religious leaders from Bahrain and the USA at the Museum of Tolerance in LA.

All of the religions of our country teach love and compassion. The great prophets of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam taught love and compassion. They said love not only your neighbor but even the stranger. Jesus even taught “love your enemy as yourself.” Hating people and considering them enemy should be abhorrent to any decent Ethiopian.

I have travelled through western Ethiopia when I was at Haile Selassie Secondary School in the early 1950’s on foot or mule back in Wallaga, through southern and eastern Ethiopia as Executive Director of the National Literacy Campaign of Ethiopia (succeeding General Tadesse Biru) in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and in northern Ethiopia, Axum, Lalibela, and Gondar when I was doing my Harvard doctoral research in the mid-1960’s. Every Ethiopian in the country side and villages I met all over the country was a humble, loving, and kind person. I do not remember meeting any arrogant, hateful, and disrespectful village person. On the contrary all imbue kindness patience and love. I do not remember being asked whether I was an Oromo, Amhara, Tigray, or other linguistic group. Their first question was “are you tired, are you hungry, do you want to come in and drink coffee?” Most of the people I encountered were poor but far richer in soul and spirit than some of us today who harbor anger and are hateful in heart.

Nobody denies that there are political differences among us. We have serious problems that we have to deal with. Those of us who are now ardently working for peace, plan to work with the Government and all political Opposition parties to find a resolution of all problems and conflicts. I think we should focus on the dangerous problem – that I called “hate” – to wash it away from our minds so that we can sit down together calmly as brothers and sisters to solve our national problems.

Nobody denies that we need in our country strong and genuine democracy. But the road to genuine democracy and political agreements is not paved by hate and anger, but through calm dialogue and respectful discourse. Then, we can form “a covenant” of timeless co-existence.

Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action Dr. Ephraim Isaac officiating at an Ethiopian Jewish festival in NYC.

Brothers and sisters, please forgive me if I sound too accusatory. I love you also who send the hateful messages over the air waves. I pray for you so that G-d can open your heart and mind so you can repent and turn your energy from the way of anger and hate to the highway of love and kindness. We must free ourselves from the fault line of linguistic group antagonism and form instead active coalition of women, men of different communities in order to bring genuine democracy. Moreover, we all can build together our beloved homeland and fight together against our true enemies – poverty, disease and illiteracy.

Let us become an exemplary people to all of Africa as a people who love and respect each other. May G-d’s light shine upon you and give you and guide you in the way of peace.

– Dr. Ephraim Isaac, Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action

A Holistic Approach to Peacemaking

A guest post by Tanenbaum Peacemaker Yehezkel Landau, D. Min.


Politicians and diplomats who try to resolve armed conflicts usually focus their efforts on achieving a pragmatic exchange of benefits between the warring parties. They aim for a compromise on the tangible issues in dispute, whether territory or resources or political power. Such a straightforward approach to conflict resolution is understandable, but it often fails because deeper aspects of the conflict—psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions—are ignored or downplayed.

At the same time, many peace movements attempting to transform violent conflicts into constructive partnerships also fail in their efforts because they focus most of their energy and rhetoric on protesting against injustices or abuses of power. This “prophetic” stance of decrying misguided policies is a natural and even necessary approach to peacemaking—but it is far from sufficient to shift the underlying dynamics in longstanding conflicts.

A more holistic approach to peacebuilding, one that takes more time but holds more promise for ultimate success, addresses various dimensions simultaneously:

On the pragmatic political level, compromises need to be negotiated on the disputed issues. These usually require tangible concessions on both sides, and political leaders need to acknowledge that these renunciations entail painful sacrifices for the different parties. Culturally appropriate symbolic expressions of collective grief have to be used while implementing the terms of the agreement. Economic incentives are usually a vital part of peace treaties, so that ordinary citizens experience some “peace dividend” that improves their quality of life. This aspect of peacemaking is the one normally adopted by diplomats and politicians. But to focus only on this dimension of any conflict risks an outcome that is politically expedient but not truly transformative or healing. The agreement may easily unravel when political circumstances change—for example, new leaders come to power—if the populations in conflict do not experience some cathartic, therapeutic shift in attitudes and feelings. Hence the need to incorporate the other dimensions of peacemaking outlined here.

On the cognitive level, new thought patterns need to be encouraged among the opposing parties. In prolonged conflicts, attitudes crystallize into ideologies that become integral to the identities on all sides. Victim scripts are often constructed to justify belligerent views of self and other, and the need for a defined “enemy” perceived as a threat hardens over time into an “us vs. them” worldview. The capacity for moral discernment, or conscience, becomes skewed to the point where two double standards of justice are adopted, rather than one inclusive understanding of justice encompassing both ends and means. Typically, the other side’s position is viewed as illegitimate and its militant actions are considered aggression or terrorism, while one’s own side’s position is considered righteous and its actions are deemed necessary acts of self-defense. To shift from this dualistic and antagonistic frame of mind, role playing or simulation exercises that encourage people to take the adversary’s perspective can help them gradually develop a dual- or multi-narrative perspective. If competing historical narratives are held in tension rather than seen as mutually exclusive, a combatant on either side may reach the point where s/he can think and say, “If I were on the other side, I would be fighting me, too.” This is one crucial element in developing empathy, but it still lacks the necessary element of “emotional intelligence,” the subject of the next section.

On the emotional level, intense feelings that keep both parties locked in what I call “antagonistic interdependence” need to be transformed if the conflict is to be truly healed and closure achieved. This is the “pastoral” or “priestly” approach to peacebuilding that needs to complement the “prophetic” critique of official policies. This approach aims at achieving a cathartic transformation of the emotional matrix that fuels the conflict at its deepest level, for individuals and for collectives. Here are what I consider the essential challenges confronting the emotionally intelligent peacemaker: How can we transform fear to trust, especially in situations of ongoing insecurity? How can we help people work through their feelings of anger, even rage, to the point where they can forgive the other side and ask for forgiveness in return? And how can people who are crippled by grief be helped to extend that emotional response to include compassion for the suffering on the other side, too? Fear, anger, and grief are the powerful forces driving most conflicts. They are irrational in nature and so not susceptible to reasoned arguments, which is why peacemakers need some basic psychological training or at least the ability to ally with mental health professionals.

Finally, on the spiritual level, a different understanding of holiness has to be cultivated, and here religious leaders and educators need to set an example. In the monotheistic traditions, God is viewed as sovereign over all Creation, thereby relativizing all claims to territory and power. In the context of Israel/Palestine, for example, that means that no one nation can claim exclusive sovereignty over the whole land; instead, the land belongs to God, and by the grace of God and under certain moral conditions both peoples belong to the land. This spiritual truth is obscured by competing nationalisms, which are, by definition, self-referencing and self-preferencing. To transcend such narrow partisanship, a shared vision of what is means to be partners in consecration (of both time and territory) has to be developed and articulated by religious leaders. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druse, and others in the land called holy are hungry for an inclusive experience of genuine holiness. On such a spiritual foundation a new and liberating politics could be fashioned.

In closing, I invite you to visit the website for the OPEN HOUSE peace center in Ramle, Israel, which I helped to found in 1991: www.friendsofopenhouse.co.il OPEN HOUSE is a micro-laboratory that has been trying to develop a praxis of peacebuilding based on the holistic approach outlined here. Its programs for Jewish and Arab children, teens, and adults are based on 3 A’s: ACKNOWLEDGEMENT of the harm done to the other side (a shift in cognitive awareness and conscience), sincere APOLOGY for that harm (the moral and spiritual act of repentance), and practical AMENDS for the suffering caused (active compassion and restorative justice). If this model of peacemaking at the grassroots level were translated to the macro-political level, perhaps Israelis and Palestinians would experience unimagined breakthroughs in their relationship that would usher in a new era of mutual solidarity and cooperation.

For more information on holistic peacemaking and training workshops grounded in this approach, please contact Yehezkel Landau at yehezkel@landau-interfaith.com or by phone at 860-944-4504.

Safe but Scared in Kabul – Tanenbaum Peacemaker Jamila Afghani

Tanenbaum Peacemaker Jamila Afghani, Afghanistan

Yesterday morning’s deadly truck bombing in Kabul was a horrific tragedy. At Tanenbaum, it’s also personal.

The explosion, which killed more than 80 people and wounded hundreds more, shook Kabul as our Peacemaker Jamila Afghani was on her way to work. When we reached her later in the day, Jamila was at home with her family and all were safe. Safe, but very scared. They live close enough to the bomb blast that all her windows were smashed, and the walls cracked open.

At Tanenbaum, we work with Peacemakers from around the world like Jamila, who pursue peace in the places where violence and conflict are the norm. Jamila focuses on improving the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan, despite the violence and constant threats. She is a woman of faith and fearless vision. But on a day like today, her only words were that the bombing was “extremely terrifying” and that it struck “fear in my heart.”

As we continue to mourn the attacks in Manchester, Cairo, and Portland, we must remember those killed and injured in Kabul.

Terrorism has no bounds. It strikes with ferocity. By remembering all the victims, survivors and their families whether in Manchester or Kabul, we align with those who oppose hatred and terror. By acknowledging the random impact of terror on people from all backgrounds, nationalities and religions, we lay claim to our humanity.

Today, we are reminded that greater security and protection for civilians in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan is critically needed. As the international community takes action to stop the terror, let it remember the people of Kabul and the long Afghan war. Let us devote more resources to peacebuilding and diplomacy—and to advancing the work of religious Peacemakers like Jamila.

 


To read more about Tanenbaum Peacemaker Jamila Afghani, please visit her profile page here.