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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.

Police and Youth in El Salvador: Insight from Tanenbaum Peacemaker José “Chencho” Alas

Following is a guest article written by Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, José “Chencho” Alas.


Historically, El Salvador has been a very violent country.

“Our work with community police and young people is ecological. To avoid the use of plastic bags, we made banana-leaf baskets, which was a real success. We gave each participant a moringa seed; we asked each to give it a name, proclaiming it a younger brother or sister and pledging to care for it and transplant it in an optimal place in their yard.”  – José Chencho Alas, Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action

In 1932, we had the massacre of 30,000 indigenous people at the hands of the army and the National Guard, ordered by General Maximiliano Martínez, who later became the country’s president. That began a 50-year military dictatorship characterized by successive massacres. In the 1980s, a war burst out that lasted 12 years with a death toll of 80,000. The Peace Accords were signed in January 1992 and immediately the United States began to repatriate Salvadoran gang members who were filling California prisons. This began the war in our streets, particularly among the young.

For the next 20 years the Salvadoran oligarchy was in power, which closed its eyes and allowed the growth of gangs for political reasons. Every time we had elections, they promised the people that if they voted for them, they would stop the violence. In 2009, representatives of the left, of the FMLN, won the elections, but by then the evil had been done. The gangs controlled territories of the country, imposed taxes on the population and killed and killed, not only civilians but also police officers, 58 last year.

It wasn’t until March 2016 and after demonstrations of political power by the famous gang MS-13 and by Barrio 18, that the different active forces of the country decided to put an end to crime by creating a plan called Secure El Salvador. Government, civil society, many churches and NGOs participate in this plan. The result is clear. Crime has dropped from 23 percent to 8.2 percent, but whether this can be sustained remains an open question. The plan is based on social prevention measures, youth education, creation of micro-enterprises and violent prosecution of crime.

It’s in this environment that we have begun to work, facilitating peace workshops for community police, youth and community leaders. We have chosen the department of Cabañas, El Salvador, one of the smallest departments, formed by nine municipalities. Its capital is the city of Sensuntepeque and it has a population of about 150 thousand people.

The concept of community policing is relatively new; little by little it’s spreading in Latin American countries. It takes as its starting point local communities’ needs and interests, both in the prevention of crime as well as in its prosecution and the well-rounded growth of its inhabitants. The mutual work is based on the trust generated by an environment of communication and support, not only in regards to denouncing and fighting crime and its perpetrators but also in the creation of projects of common benefit. The basic purpose is to achieve community coexistence in security, harmony and peace. The function performed by police officers is as peacemakers, a value that allows them to raise their own self-esteem.

Our workshops have three objectives:

1) to give to the participants a methodological tool that generates trust, positive relationships;
2) train in techniques of organization of groups and networks; and
3) work on projects that facilitate police interaction with communities and their respective organizations.

In regards to the methodological instrument, we are teaching the management of appreciative research (AI). The first phase of AI, the discovery of the existing positives at the individual level, in a community, organization or institution, is fundamental. It allows us to discover what’s already there; this becomes the basis for creating a powerful vision that, put into practice in projects, destines us to human growth and material well-being.

The creation of a vision and its projects cannot be achieved if we are not organized. Our objective is to facilitate workshops in each of the municipalities and then form a departmental network of community police, youth and community leaders.

In our first workshop on May 2, we had the participation of 17 middle-school students and leaders from various communities and 12 members of the community police. The project we chose was tree planting, a lovely experience that united us. We started with a nursery of moringa, a tree considered a marvel for its curative properties of 300 diseases, according to some university studies and popular lore. The cultivation of this tree, native to India, has extended to several tropical and semi-tropical regions of the planet. In India, people began to use its seeds and leaves more than 3,000 years ago.

We have the unconditional support of the departmental police commissioner and junior officers, as well as the support of the secondary education centers. We consider our work as something new, in the sense that we do not start by enumerating problems but by discovering and evaluating the positive that already exist in us and the others. Growing in the positive we resolve our problems. The police-youth-community leaders relationship is fundamental for peace.

Written by Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, José “Chencho” Alas.

Five Ways to Counter Extremists on Social Media

Dear Friends,

This year, social media has been filled with signs of activism. From selfies tweeted at rallies, Facebook debates and campaigns for emergency relief, social media is more than just a way to see and be seen.

The numbers are revealing. In 2015, Pew Research Center found that 76% of online, American adults use social media and 92% of U.S. teens go online daily.

While many use social media in positive or benign ways, we’ve watched people use it to promote #hate and harmful rhetoric, recruit would-be terrorists (including vulnerable youth), and spread #lies. In contrast, we’ve also seen standouts such as Peacemakers in Action Fr. Sava Janjic (Kosovo) and Rev. Jacky Manuputty (Indonesia), who use social media for the #greatergood.

This month, Tanenbaum shares five ways that you, a social media user, can counter – and rise above – harmful social media banter. Some ideas include reporting hate speech, joining a hashtag campaign, and providing accurate information in real time. Remember to use social media prudently, and always in ways that keep you safe.

Please take a few minutes to learn ways you can oppose extremism on social media, in just a few clicks! And then share both resources with high school students and educators in your life.

#PromotePeace,
Joyce S. Dubensky,
Tanenbaum CEO

Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Speak at United Nations

Leading grassroots peacebuilders and Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action, from six of the world’s conflict zones, made a celebrated appearance at the United Nations on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.

The event, “Turning the Tide: Engaging Religiously-Motivated Peacebuilders in Conflict Zones,” addressed two topics: alternative approaches to combating extremism and ways that grassroots peacemakers build relationships and trust with community members, diplomats and government officials.

The first panel featured Tanenbaum Peacemakers Ms. Maria Ida “Deng” Giguiento (Philippines), Mr. Azhar Hussain (Pakistan), and Ms. Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge (South Africa), as well as H.E. Mr. Rubén Ignacio Zamora Rivas, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations. H.E. Mr. Kai Sauer, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations moderated the first panel.

Peacemaker Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge highlighted the need for multi-faith peacebuilding in South African communities. She noted how, “The interfaith movement between Christians, Muslims and Hindus, created in the struggle to end apartheid, continues today, providing a moral canvas for our government.”

Tanenbaum’s most recently awarded Peacemaker in Action, Deng Giguiento, discussed how she advises military leaders as a peacebuilder in the Philippines. She described once believing that she couldn’t work with the military: “I always perceived them as the enemy. But I was taught to pray for my enemies.” Following prayer with action, Deng sees positive results as she trains both military and community members with the hope of building a “lasting peace in Mindanao.”

The second panel reviewed innovative approaches to tackling violent extremism and the prominent but frequently overlooked role of women in this field. Panelists included Peacemakers Mr. Ricardo Esquiva (Colombia), Ms. Dishani Jayaweera (Sri Lanka), and Dr. Sakena Yacoobi (Afghanistan), as well as Ms. Faiza Patel, Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, and Mr. Andrew Tomlinson, Director & Quaker U.N. Representative. Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women moderated.

Ms. Lakshmi began the panel by discussing how “Essentially religion is about humanity. It is about rights and it’s about the equality of all creatures.” Then Sri Lankan Peacemaker Dishani Jayaweera described how she created the Female Religious Leaders Initiative after working with 300 male religious leaders from diverse faith traditions. She began the initiative “to explore the role of female religious leaders in peacebuilding and reconciliation” and their “interpretation of religion and spirituality.” Her work aims to include women in the religious peacebuilding process, essential for creating lasting peace.

Peacemaker Sakena Yacoobi, who has founded numerous schools in Afghanistan, expressed, “I really strongly believe that women are the victim in every country, women and children.” And she gave insight into the solution, “If we really want to bring peace – it is not through guns, it’s not through tanks, it is through education…. education is the key issue that brings transformation”.

Peacemaker Ricardo Esquivia (Colombia) spoke about the importance of including both communities and government offices in the peacemaking process to combat extremism. “[We] use a pedagogy of nonviolence to teach communities about non-violent action, and we mobilize [groups] to interact through dialogue and direct negotiations with local and national governmental officials.”

The event at the UN was part of the 2016 Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Network Retreat, which brought together Peacemakers from all over the world to exchange ideas and best-practices in peacebuilding. This year’s retreat focused on combating violent extremism and women in peacebuilding.


We extend our gratitude to the event’s sponsors: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), KAICIID, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA), and the GHR Foundation.

Meet the Peacemakers

The week from July 9th to the 16th was a special one for Tanenbaum. We had the rare opportunity to visit with the diverse and passionate women and men, who are dedicating their lives to promoting peace, religious understanding, and a safer world – Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action. This opportunity arises only once every few years, when we convene the Peacemakers in Action Network for a Working Retreat, where they have the chance to network in person and learn from each other, as well as from other experts in the field. This year, we were excited to have 18 Peacemakers with us, from global conflicts including Syria, Colombia, Nigeria, the Philippines and Israel.

In the middle of the Retreat, we spent a day in Manhattan. While there, some Peacemakers presented their work at the United Nations, while others discussed extremism, women’s issues arising in their work, and what the Peacemakers in Action Network has done for them on The Brian Lehrer Show. They also had a little “me” time for shopping, taking in The Met, and eating New York Pizza!

That evening, Tanenbaum leaders and friends met the Peacemakers. It was a moment to hear stories directly from the Peacemakers, as they shared their own experiences in battling extremism, conducting post-trauma counseling of those released from terrorists, and using music to heal post-conflict communities. Our Board Chair, Justin Foa, graciously opened his home for the event, which was sponsored by GHR, KAICIID, the Greek Archdiocese of North America, and Winebow. Without these wonderful partnerships, none of this – the Working Retreat or the Meet the Peacemakers evening – would have been possible.

Today, we so often feel helpless – and hopeless – as we face random acts of terror, hatred and exclusion. Tanenbaum Peacemakers remind us that there is reason to hope. To those of you who were able to be with us at the UN, who listened to the Brian Lehrer show or who joined us to meet the Peacemakers, we thank you. And to those of you who could not be with us, we hope to see you soon. For now, please enjoy a few pictures from our evening together with the Peacemakers in Action.

Peacemakers Condemn Another Horror

From left: Peacemakers Jacky Manuputty, Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Dr. Sakena Yacoobi; with Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer (KAICIID) and Peacemakers Dr. Yehezkel Landau, Pastor James Wuye and Azhar Hussain.

From left: Peacemakers Jacky Manuputty, Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Dr. Sakena Yacoobi; with Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer (KAICIID) and Peacemakers Dr. Yehezkel Landau, Pastor James Wuye and Azhar Hussain.

With a resounding and unified voice, we – a network of religiously-motivated Peacemakers from 20 armed conflict and post-conflict regions around the world – condemn today’s mass fatal incident in Nice, France.

Spanning different religions and beliefs, we know the suffering and devastation engendered by extremism. As Peacemakers, we stand together as a positive alternative to the forces of destruction.

We ask that you join us in responding to today’s event and all acts of violence – whether conducted in the name of religion, national interest or otherwise – with acts of kindness and building bridges across faiths. Together, we can counter forces of hate with the power of peace.

– Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Network 

José “Chencho” Alas, El Salvador

Imam Muhammad Ashafa, Nigeria

Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas, Colombia

Archbishop Abuna Elias Chacour, Israel/Palestine

Maria Ida (Deng) Giguiento, Philippines

Azhar Hussain, Pakistan

Dr. Ephraim Isaac, Ethiopia

Dishani Jayaweera, Sri Lanka

Hind Kabawat, Syria

Dr. Yehezkel Landau, Israel/Palestine

Reverend William Lowrey, Sudan

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, South Africa

Reverend Jacklevyn “Jacky” Frits Manuputty, Indonesia

Friar Ivo Markovic, Bosnia

Najeeba Sirhan, Israel/Palestine

Pastor James Wuye, Nigeria

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, Afghanistan

 

RSVP: Tanenbaum Peacemakers at the United Nations

Tanenbaum_2016_evite

Join us this July 13th for a unique opportunity to hear from six Peacemakers in Action on the critical issues facing us today.
Click here to download the invitation and be sure to RSVP today! Space is limited.

Tanenbaum Peacemaker Dr. Ephraim Isaac speaks at the United Nation’s Church Center Chapel

Tanenbaum was honored to be a part of the United Nation’s seminal event, Faith for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), held at the Church Center Chapel. Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action Dr. Ephraim Isaac (Ethiopia) spoke eloquently to a diverse crowd; attendees from diverse religious backgrounds and beliefs gathered to discuss how religion can further the quest to eliminate poverty.

EphraimIsaac-UN-Chapel2015

TANENBAUM Peacemaker Dr. Ephraim Isaac (left) with Karin Achtelstetter – Credit: @KarinWaltraut

“I am here of behalf of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and as one of its Peacemakers in Action.

First let me congratulate you on your good efforts to deal with the critical question of poverty through the power of religion.

I used to be an incorrigible optimist. I am still, but a corrigible one. My remaining optimism is to see people like you here in this room that have the good will to do the good.

But, let us be realistic. In a greedy world where about 1% of the world’s population owns the wealth of the world and does not want to part with it, how do you propose to eliminate poverty in 15 years as you say? In a world where one American person would rather pay one million to travel to Africa to kill one elephant, or, where the King of Saudi Arabia would rent every room of the most expensive American hotel for several days and have a parade of over one hundred cars parked in a garage all of it decorated with red carpets…. especially at a time when thousands of Middle East refuges are seeking dire shelter, how do you convince the world to do what is right?

I am Jewish and yesterday, on Yom Kippur day, I chanted the Prophet Isaiah who said three thousand years ago (to paraphrase): You fast, you put ashes on yourselves, you exhibit your piety, and say to me “why do you not see our piety, how we humble ourselves with ashes on our heads?“  The Almighty responds, “Down with your piety, what I want is free the prisoners and those you oppress, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, help the poor…” If the great prophet has had so shouted about 3000 years ago, in other words, saying as we say today use your faith to help the poor, and that is what the Almighty G-d wants, and nothing has happened for 3000 years, how do you propose to abolish poverty in 15 years?

I know the World Bank has a lot of money, even if not as much as the 1% of the richest people in the world, and I know the religious people have all good intentions. Still how do we propose concretely to change the world?


Click here to learn more about Dr. Ephraim Isaac and Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action.