Thursday, January 08, 2009

Gaza and Warriors for Peace

The fact that I'm so worked up about the Gaza conflict and some of the statements I read are making me realize that I need to focus on the one aspect of this conflict that I can immediately control, which is my own thinking about it. I'm not going to defeat the Israeli military or Hamas. Heck, I'm not even in the Middle East, but at a small, liberal arts college in the Mid-West! But my thoughts can have a powerful impact. Irving Tomlinson wrote that "the way to universal peace must begin in the consciousness of the individual." If we are fighting for peace within, we are, by extension, part of the solution without.

At Euphrates Institute, we are developing a Warriors for Peace initiative, soon to be unveiled, that will provide a deeper explanation of this idea and foster a community around it. But, here's a sneak peek of the steps each of us can take to be a warrior for peace, to truly be part of the solution, and to bring about peace in our world.

#1: Inform yourself—and then others.
Learn more, become well-versed in the topic and share the knowledge you gain with others.

#2: Meet the “other”.
Don’t take our word for it; go to a mosque, meet your neighbors. Or, you might even take a trip to the Middle East and learn about the issues and meet people firsthand. Yitzhak Komem, an Israeli high school teacher, wrote that a lack of “genuine human dimension of the Other is the greatest barrier to a realistic teaching of the Arab-Israeli conflict”. The flip-side to this statement is that exposing the human dimension of the Other is the greatest boon to a thorough understanding of the conflict and opens up paths for resolution.

#3. Press your leaders to act in accordance with our values.
We must decide if liberty, justice, equality are just nice words on paper, or are meant to be practiced. Or if they’re just for Americans, or for all peoples. Living in accordance with them might mean pressing our leaders for even-handedness on issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ,and not turning a blind eye when either side deprives the other of those rights.

#4. Heal divides in your own community.
It all begins at home. We can not expect to be peacemakers in a conflict “out there” if we are not practicing what we preach in our daily lives. Healing divides within ourselves, our families and our communities, has a powerful ripple effect and will create more efficient practitioners of peace and a wider circle of effort.

#5. Pray.
Some may think, if all else fails, pray, right? But prayer can be effective and powerful in situations that seem utterly hopeless. And prayer may be the only way conflicts centered on religion can be solved.

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