Posts Tagged ‘peace’

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Statement on Israel’s Operation “Pillar of Defense”

November 19, 2012

Michigan Peace Team supports JVP’s Statement, which reads:

As Israel launches operation “Pillar of Defense” in Gaza, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) calls for an immediate cessation of the air strikes and naval bombardment into Gaza and an end to the ongoing siege of Gaza. JVP urges Israel not to exploit its asymmetric power to exacerbate the instability in the region. We urge President Obama to  take a stand against these attacks and to use the power of the United States to insist that Israel pursue all diplomatic measures possible for the sake of life, safety and security on all sides. JVP opposes all attacks on civilians, and urges the end of rocket attacks from Gaza into civilian communities in Israel, which only serve to derail efforts for a just resolution to the conflict.

This operation is named in reference to a  biblical passage in which a pillar of cloud protects the Israelites as they wandered in the desert after leaving bondage in Egypt.

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; that they might go by day and by night.    – Exodus 13:21                                                                                   

It is unseemly to invoke the protection afforded the Israelites wandering in the desert when Israel is the dominant military power in the region. JVP rejects the possibility that such a military operation and escalation of violence will be of any protection for Israelis or Palestinians. As Israel continues to control Gaza by air, land and sea, Israel holds responsibility for the well-being and safety of Palestinian civilians in Gaza who will be traumatized, injured and killed through this escalation of violence. 

JVP calls on our chapters, members, and supporters to join us in redoubling our efforts to advocate for an end to the U.S.’s unconditional military aid to Israel and to intensify our calls for divestment from all companies that profit from this escalation of violence and Israel’s ongoing siege of Gaza.

You can follow live updates from Gaza here: https://twitter.com/theIMEU/watching-gaza


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Jewish Voice for Peace is a national organization dedicated to promoting a US foreign policy in the Middle East based on peace, democracy, human rights and respect for international law.
With offices in New York and California, over 100,000 supporters and 30 chapters, a Rabbinic Cabinet, and a youth wing, JVP’s board of advisors includes Tony Kushner, actor Ed Asner, writer Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky and other respected rabbis, artists, scholars and activists.  

http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/

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MPT’s Fall Newsletter

October 29, 2012

Click here:  MPT’s Fall 2012 Newsletter 

Knowing that active nonviolence is always our MPT focus, how do we keep on doing the good work with informed action in community, and with commitment in the face of obstacles? And secondly: What are effective ways of overcoming our own, our community’s, our world’s sense of hopelessness, paralysis, atomization, apathy and cynicism?

This Fall 2012 Newsletter offers the following answers to those questions:

  • Some Tools for the Long Haul – Peter Dougherty (pg. 1)
  • A Noble Difference – Annette Thomas (2-3)
  • Where There Is Apathy, Let Us Bring Hope – Albert F.J. Kreitz (3)
  • This is It!: Experiencing Beloved Community – Kim Redigan (4)
  • Seeing the Other  – Kristie Guerrero-Taylor (5)
  • The Outcome Is Not In Our Hands – Sandra Schneiders, IHM (6)
  • Cynicism & Community – Lydia Wylie-Kellermann (7)
  • Making a Difference, Moment by Moment – Paula Marie (8)
  • Nonviolence Training (8)
  • Peace Teams and the Fall 2012 Peace Team (9)
  • Growing Community Events – Elizabeth Walters, IHM (10-11)
  • Help Continue the Dream (12)
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We Have Not Heard the Last Word!

August 31, 2012

By Elizabeth Walters

MPT Staff Member & Peace Team Member for Michigan Peace Team in Gaza

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The verdict came on August 28, 2012, when the Israeli Court declared that the military is free of blame and absolved of any wrongdoing with regards to the death of twenty-three year old Rachel Corrie on March 16, 2003. The investigation concluded that Corrie’s death was an accident and that she had endangered herself by entering a combat zone. Simply stated the court believes that Rachel chose to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and that is why she died.

Days before the verdict, at a meeting at the US embassy in Tel Aviv the ambassador, Dan Shapiro, told Rachel Corrie’s parents and her sister that the government did not believe the Israeli military investigation had been “thorough, credible and transparent”, as had been promised by Israel. (The Guardian, Friday 24 August 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/24/israel-rachel-corrie-us-ambassador

I join with people around the planet who are shocked and dismayed by this verdict.

Beginning of MPT’s Involvement:

My concern and commitment date back to the beginning. In early June 2003, Mary Ann Ford, Jim Noble and I arrived in Rafah, Gaza two and a half months after Rachel’s death and shortly after peace team member Tom Hurndall was shot in the head and journalist Jim Miller had been killed by Israeli military personnel. Also, Mary Ann and I returned to Rafah, Gaza during Operation Rainbow in 2004. In both instances, local people in Rafah, Gaza had invited Michigan Peace Team to come. Once in Rafah we were able to monitor and document human rights violations and carry out other aspects of our peace team work.

Also we were committed personally to investigate the circumstance surrounding Rachel’s death. We interviewed eye witnesses including members of the peace team of which Rachel was a part. We went to the site of Rachel’s death. In addition, we gathered, organized, and studied documents, photos and videos regarding Rachel’s death that were in the peace team office and at key agencies that had been involved in investigating the death of Rachel.

Here are some of our findings

1.   Rachel Corrie was in the right place at the right time. She was doing what people are called to do worldwide: to nonviolently protect people, homes and neighborhoods from unjust and illegal demolitions. The Israeli military was destroying homes and neighborhoods in spite of international condemnations, and concerns about violations of human rights and international law.

 2.   The dictates of human rights, international law, and moral code enjoin military personnel to make a distinction between civilians and the military and to ensure the safety of unarmed civilians.

 3.   Eyewitness accounts and documents confirm that the Israeli military was given every opportunity to be aware of the presence of the nonviolent peace team on the ground on March 16, 2003 because:

•        Rachel Corrie wore a reflector vest and the whole team wore bright clothing;

•        These nonviolent protesters posted signs for all to see regarding their presence and protest against home demolitions that day; and,

•        The peace team was using a bull horn to announce their presence and to urge the military to stop destroying the homes of Palestinians.

4.   Rachel Corrie and the whole peace team were unarmed and nonviolent. The military was armed, moving in armored vehicles, and guarded by tanks and gun towers. Clearly there was no threat to the soldiers.

5.   The ISM peace team’s expectation that they would not be shot or crushed by the military during their nonviolent protest was in my view a reasonable expectation at that time.

In spite of these findings and hundreds more, Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer on March 16, 2003 and years later, on August 28, 2012, in response to the civil suit brought to court by the parents of Rachel Corrie, the Israeli court declared the Israeli military free of blame and absolved from any wrongdoing with regard to Rachel’s death.

Today the Haaretz Digital Edition is reporting that Corrie’s mother, Cindy, put it this way at a news conference following the court ruling:

“The state has worked extremely hard to make sure that the full truth about what happened to my daughter is not exposed, and that those responsible for her killing are not held accountable.”

(Haaretz, August 31, 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/double-take/what-the-rachel-corrie-case-reveals-about-israeli-justice.premium-1.461938)

As mentioned earlier, Mary Ann and I served on MPT peace teams in Rafah, Gaza during 2003 and 2004 and I went back to Gaza on another team in 2005 with Karen Donahue and Mary Miner. Our MPT peace teams lived and worked among the people of Gaza, and along with the people, we experienced firsthand the horror of the occupying military forces.

Here are some of our lived experiences: Sealed shut, by land, sea, and air, Gaza was and is the largest prison in the world. The Israeli military continued destroying Palestinian neighborhoods, seizing land, and declaring military zones in Palestinian neighborhoods. Throughout this process, when shooting from the gun towers, tanks, helicopters the military operated as if there was little or no distinction between civilians and military personnel. Many Palestinians died at the hands of the Israeli military and more than 2000 Palestinian homes were destroyed at the border to create the so-called Philadelphia Corridor. Also, we and Palestinians living in Gaza endured Operation Rainbow in 2004.

Then in 2007, after MPT was prevented from entering Gaza, the Israeli military invaded Gaza and conducted Operation Cast Lead.

In light of both Rachel’s death AND the on-going misery of the people of Gaza it is impossible for me to believe or accept that the Israeli military is blameless and absolved of any wrongdoing.

For years, the situation in Gaza and Rachel’s death has had a lasting effect on my life and the lives of many others. We continue to remember the commitment to active nonviolence so evident in Rachel and in many Palestinian people in Gaza. In that same spirit we continue to resist nonviolently on behalf of human rights, peace, and social justice.

In closing, I want to share with you my message to the parents of Rachel Corrie:

Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Corrie!

I am grateful beyond words that you to seek justice regarding your daughter’s death while continuing to speak on behalf of Palestinians.

Do not lose heart. Know that the truth IS breaking through and a light shines on your work. Know too that the courage and love of your daughter Rachel continues to inspire and move us to action on behalf of justice for Palestinians. Know too that we have not heard the last word! The arc of history bends toward nonviolent resistance, peace, and social justice.

Your sister, Elizabeth Walters, MPT Peace Team Member who witnessed the horror of the Israeli military in Gaza during 2003, 2004, and 2005

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Finding a Definition for Peace

July 12, 2012

What is peace? We are all familiar with the word, with the idea behind it. We use it all the time in a whole range of contexts and situations. It’s a part of common greetings during the holidays and at church. It’s seen on signs at various protests and spoken about in government debates.

You can buy it on jewelry or simply hold up two fingers to express it but if someone were to ask you what peace was, what would you say? It’s harder than it seems. Is it a feeling? A state of being? A foreign policy? Or an unattainable dream for the world? Whatever it is, dialogue between any people can expand the knowledge of it, enrich the meaning, and make the idea of it more attainable in the tangible world.

Eric Sirotkin is a human rights lawyer and peace advocate having done extensive work in South Africa, Korea, and the United States supporting peaceful movements and peace education. His time in South Africa in particular opened his eyes to the idea of “ubuntu” a philosophy of human connectedness. Ubuntu is the allegiance and relations between humans and the notion that every person belongs to a greater whole of one. Simply put by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, it is the essence of being human because “the only way we can be human is together.” Sirotkin has embraced this and created Ubuntu Works Peace Education Project. With this he travels the world educating people on peacemaking.

Some of Sirotkin’s efforts include delivering presentations on peaceful conflict resolution and peace education. At a 2004 event at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, Sirotkin engaged the attendees in conversation about what peace really was. He began by explaining that the peace movement is commonly misunderstood because there is not a coherent/cohesive idea across the board for what peace really is when it is achieved. While it’s a universal principle that everyone can relate to, is it more than just a notion of non-violence? He encouraged the participants to think of a concrete idea of what peace was so that the goal of peace would have a more direct path to take. The process of achieving “peace” and the movement as a whole would become more effective if more people understood what the common ideas of it were. He further explains the difficulty of translating universal principals such as peace because the idea of it transcends across different times and contexts. To him, it is “always evolving” but opening dialogue about it will help others get a better grasp of what it really is.

Many people began by claiming that peace is the absence of war and the absence of fear. In today’s society war is a metaphor for everything. It is taught in schools, evident in daily language, and must be waged against all things bad in the world; terrorism, drugs, poverty, and even women. Everyone is taught to be scared even if they don’t know what they are afraid of. When they don’t know who their enemy is they will buy into violence.

Many discussed though that it is more than that. This idea of war is embedded in the American culture because of its focus on competition and intimidation. Some participants in the workshop noted that the way we treat our young people builds fear because intimidation is embedded in the curriculum and teaching techniques of our education system. While students may not be scared of their teachers, they certainly are afraid to get a bad grade, sometimes ask a wrong question or stand up in front of the class. With this comes the competitive attitude because from a young age students enter into sports and academia where the attitude and mindset is to win and be the best. There are many good lessons learned from being on a sports team or being pushed to excel in school such as team work, cooperation, hard work, determination, and responsibility but with the mind-set of winning, someone always has to lose. The concepts of helping one another is dramatically overshadowed when a student is punished and accused of cheating when they try to help an opponent or fellow classmate in need. There is a “dependency to build conflict” as one participant noted and “everything of value is to beat somebody.” Many of the participants concluded that the educational system needs to be reformed in order to create a space in the future where peace is possible even if it unclear what exactly that might be.

Coming off of the discussion on education many people began to explore what peace meant in the context of conflict. It was noted by many participants that conflict is always going to be there because it will never be possible to settle and resolve everything. What needs to be taught is how to deal with that conflict in a way that is not a reaction or competition but a response. One participant noted that “it’s not what we do but how we do it.” Peace is the process of how we deal with problems individually, nationally and internationally. Peace can come by listening, learning to negotiate, and working together to try to understand each other buy finding commonalities. It’s idealistic but it’s possible. Many people agreed that there is a need for this connection and cooperation amongst people across international borders even without conflict. There is a need to live with respect and compassion for others, putting all people on a more equal common ground. More importantly, these relationships need to be valued. One woman went as far to express her opinion on how we need to get over nationalism. She explained that peace cannot come when we have the power over model to fall back on. With nationalist tendencies there it will always be a back and forth struggle to resolve conflict than an effort to ensure lasting peace or justice.

There is a deeper level to this idea of peaceful relations between and among people. Peace is very much a personal thing as well. It’s something that is acted on globally and nationally but very much so individually as well. One woman explained though that this strive for individual peace should not be for personal excellence and for yourself, you should do it for the betterment of society. We need to be virtuous in doing something constructive for your community and the world when making yourself a better person.

The question of which kind of peace comes first (individual or societal) supported Sirotkin’s initial belief that the idea of peace is always evolving. It can begin with one person. Mr. Sirotkin quoted Paul Hawkins in saying “You can blame people who knock over things in the dark, or you can begin to light the candles.” One woman said “excitement is a most contagious thing” which is true. All it can take is one person becoming at peace with themselves to inspire others to do the same. On the other hand though a societal peace individual people will be able to become inspired as well. Widespread social peace will enable peacemakers to be able to reach those who may be turned off by the idea of world peace. It’s a constant cycle, an ever changing evolution. There is no one place to start but as many participants pointed out the least they could do and the most they could work on was start with themselves. One participant in noting the importance of individual peace, nonviolent communication and conflict resolution claimed “Our privilege is being deconstructed” we are having the same problems as the rest of the world and are learning that we are not so isolated like we thought. Our problems and battles seem bigger than they are because of the globalized world we live in. Peace is not about loving your neighbor but loving yourself so find that something good in everyone, don’t fuel negativity with negativity, and focus on your own everyday behavior and we’ll be amazed at what we can accomplish.

Going back to the original focus of discussion on what peace was, participants collaborated ideas on what peace was aside from an absence of war and fear. It is equality, equilibrium, balance, and connectedness. Tranquility economically, socially, and culturally. It’s more than that though, it’s a state of being, a goal, and always a struggle to strive to maintain that state but it’s also an opportunity. It’s a commitment to resolve conflict with civility moving away from the urge to dominate and becoming comfortable with differing points of view; adding diversity and tolerance into our lives. Peace is a place in the middle of conflict where one can really hear what the other is saying. Peace and the peace movement come off soft, gentle, and passive in appearance but many participants saw it quite differently. Peace is fierce and aggressive. If you think about it Martin Luther King Jr. or even Jesus were not mild or passive men. They were radical, taking action that involved the risk of getting hurt or having consequences. It is more than signing a petition and standing in the streets. They reached out and mobilized people encouraging them to take a stand and use their daily actions to dislodge the current power structure. The current peace movement isn’t like this anymore though, many don’t want to be destructive but unfortunately that’s what is going to have to happen. One man brought up a very interesting point that peace was a negative concept in society. Not negative as a connotation of bad but negative as in it goes against the status quo, it’s an idea that is not inherent in our society. Because of this the peace movement today “demands self-examination, accountability, and responsibility” and the people involved have to be willing to make the same sacrifices as any other independent movement.

Sirotkin noted that it is easier to mobilize and organize people when you are for something than to organize people against something. There are many people around the nation and the world who want peace but one man brought up that not many excited over it. He used an example that Americans get excited over football and therefore many follow it. Peace isn’t exciting enough for many to follow it and this man suggested that we change that; make peace exciting, make people want to be involved. Many don’t realize that we don’t have to wait for a war to end to judge if there is peace. Sirotkin pointed out that peace can come to other realms of life and then can eventually make it to the conflicts of war. Simply put, you don’t have to end a war to spread peace. As many of the participants discussed, you don’t have to only focus on the big things to make a difference, start small, start with yourself and the rest will fall into place. There is violence everywhere in the world. It doesn’t just happen in poor neighborhoods or war zones. One woman pointed out that the corporate world is a much more violent place and it is their behavior that influences the everyday person. Even Mr. Siortkin, a lawyer himself, claimed that the legal profession was one of the most violent with the constant ‘us versus them’ mentality. He also said that we tend to forget the good when times are so dismal and low with current events constantly reminding the public of the horrors around the world. Another woman pointed out that the everyday injustice that occurs in our communities is a form of violence as well. As discussed peace is more than non-violence, she said it’s the strength to love and dissipate these things.

Peace is an abstraction. It is difficult to define yet easy to understand. In striving for safety and security to live one’s life it is thought that we have to make people fear us so we have the security that they will not attack us and jeopardize our safety. People utilize violence for fearful purposes but that is because they do not know the means of nonviolence. If the methods of nonviolence were known, Sirotkin and many other peacemakers are certain that they would chose to utilize those over violence. As discussed and concluded in this workshop nearly 8 years ago, the peace movement can very easily start with the individual. What needs to happen though is all these people need to come together not only to support one another in their efforts for peace but to encourage young people as well. One of the problems with the peace movement that was pointed out repeatedly was that it consists of the same group of people. What is wrong with it? Why are people so turned off by it? There are very few young people who are active in the peace movement and one of the thoughts behind why this is is because of the way young people are raised today. So think about what peace means to you. Discuss it with another, expand your knowledge, and inspire each other. Take that and share it with others, especially young people. Act together, connect with others and you’ll be amazed with what you can accomplish.

Please feel free to share your personal ideas of peace and what it means to you.

MPT Intern – Shannon Riley

Please visit Eric Sirotkin’s website to learn more about the Ubuntu Peace Education Projects at http://uwpep.org/Index/UWPEP.html

A copy of the transcript for this conference can be found at http://uwpep.org/Index/Reframing_Peace_files/Peace%20transcript-1.pdf

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I AM The Documentary | Official Site

January 10, 2012

I AM The Documentary | Official Site.

Don’t miss this!  It really could be life-changing.
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MPT Partners with Peace Zones for Life

May 27, 2011

MICHIGAN PEACE TEAM  is partnering with Peace Zones for Life…..We welcome your joining us!!!  If interested, just email us….

MPT: Peace Zones for Life

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Nonviolence Through Forgiveness

April 21, 2011

In October of 2006, a gunman angry with God entered an Amish one room school house in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania and proceeded to shoot 10 girls, fatally wounding five of them before taking his own life.  The community immediately made it a point to show their forgiveness for this man’s acts, even traveling to the gunman’s home to embrace and console his now widowed wife and fatherless children.  Twelve years earlier and oceans away, an entire ethnic population, divided and empowered by historically engrained colonial ideals, turned on their friends and neighbors engaging in the most brutal and horrific genocide in the history of the world.  In the 1994 Rwandan genocide, approximately 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were systematically slaughtered (Human Rights Watch).  In 2004, tens of thousands of prisoners who had confessed to the brutal murders were released and began to be integrated back into society.  They confessed their crimes again and were held accountable in Gacaca, small community courts.  A major aspect of these Gacaca is the plea for forgiveness from the families (or what is left of the families) of the innocent people they murdered.  In an overwhelming amount of cases, the murderers have been forgiven, integrated back into the community and even embraced.

These incredible acts of forgiveness are almost astonishing in their seeming impossibility.  How is it that people can ever be willing to offer forgiveness after such atrocities, and what is the point of these offerings of forgiveness?  These are perhaps rhetorical questions, with answers that change from time to time and from person to person.  However, we must make no mistake; this incredible forgiveness has been granted, and hearts have been healed by it.  Tolstoy once said “Let us forgive each other – only then will we live in peace”.  It is evident within the peace community that forgiveness is a pivotal part of living a non-violent life, creating and maintaing peace within ourselves and worldwide.  An incredible documentary that does an outstanding job outlining the importance of forgiveness in our every day lives is “The Power of Forgiveness” produced by Martin Doblmeier.  This compelling film includes interviews with Reverend James Forbes, Thich Nhat Hanh and Alexandra Asseily among others.  It details instances across the globe where forgiveness has been especially important, such as within the Amish community, individuals surviving the loss of loved ones in the attacks of 9/11, through South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commissions with Desmond Tutu.  The film shows as these communities and individuals wrestle with the prospect of forgiveness, and thereby sent me on my own personal journey to discover what forgiveness means to me, and to the wider international community as well as how we can and must use it on the path to peace.

The film emphasizes that we must first however establish a forgiving relationship with ourselves in order to access the power available through the pain of forgiving others.  This, however, is much easier said than done and necessitates an extreme amount of work, both inner and outer.  Thich Nhat Hanh explains that the act of forgiveness begins within ourselves.  “Forgiveness cannot be possible until compassion is born in the heart.”  He goes on to say “if you are filled with anger, what you do and what you say will create more suffering for yourself and the other person”.  When we are put in the situation where forgiveness is even an option there is often an incredible amount of pain and suffering weighing down our minds and precluding the process of moving on as a whole person.  If not addressed within an individual, even the memory of hurt is likely to be passed onto our children, barring the chance for reconciliation in future generations.  We can only teach our children forgiveness by not allowing our hatred and grudges to be passed onto them.  This is only possible after we have addressed and dealt with the pain, anger and hurt that has been inflicted upon us.

We all feel pain within our hearts at many points throughout our life.  Life innately holds suffering and often times this suffering is created and fed by our own minds.  A perfect example is the world’s infatuation with body type and how engrained this image is in our minds.  We often see individuals in magazines and billboards with what we’ve come to accept as the “perfect” body.  We compare ourselves to this type and find differences that we label flaws (larger hips, smaller chest, wider eyes) and exploit them.  We constantly bash these flaws and refuse to allowourselves to forgive our body and thereby embrace it’s shapes.  All too often, young girls punish themselves instead of forgiving and embracing, by starving their limbs.  Subsequently, in 20 years when this disease of the mind effects their everyday lives as well as those of their children they refuse to forgive themselves for what they’ve done to their body.  This endless cycle of hatred and refusal to forgive only breeds harm.  It is important to start with forgiveness, but when this is not possible we must interrupt the cycle of hate with forgiveness.  People and their bodies are not perfect and when we are able to see that, we can see that forgiveness is the only path.  One may strive to be perfect, but they will never reach their goal, and so they must turn to forgiveness to ameliorate the pain they may inflict upon themselves in pursuance of this goal.  We must reach deep within ourselves to discover how we are hurting ourselves with fear, pain and anger, then acknowledge how these feelings are effecting our minds, embrace the feelings, forgive ourselves, and move on, changing our actions accordingly.

Once our inner hearts and minds are free from the chains we bar ourselves with, we are free to embark on the journey of freeing ourselves from the chains imposed by the pain others have inflicted upon us.  It is important to note that often the forgiving of others can and should be a selfish act.  The weight that is carried with pain, fear and anger can be immensely heavy.  When one forgives, this crushing weight can finally be lifted and we are rewarded physically as well as physiologically.

Desmond Tutu suggests that we do not think of forgiveness as forgetting.  These two concepts are not linked; forgiveness is how you remember and what it is you do with that memory.  In forgiving, we are ridding ourselves of negative feelings for people.  These negative feelings only breed more suffering and so in ridding ourselves of them we are helping ourselves to feel relieved, lighter and physically and mentally more healthy!  Our blood pressure even goes down!  Forgiving does not, however, mean we accept whatever has been done.  As far as an action is concerned, we may “condemn” that action, but it is important to be able to distinguish between action, and actor.  An actor who is condemned and treated poorly in return for the negative thing they’ve done will never change.  However, by separating the actor from the action, we can show compassion to the actor, and toward the action we can use our anger constructively to stop further negative action.  Only if a person feels compassion toward them will they discontinue hurtful action.  We can yell, scream, hate and condemn the action which has been done, but when this anger is transferred to the actor in this manner, the victim is also committing a painful action upon a person and has done nothing to preclude the action, but spread the pain and grief it carries to others.  By accepting an apology, we recognize that the action and actor are not the same and are now able to acknowledge the real cause of pain; the action.

There have been some remarkable uses of painful memories that have served to move along the process of healing and forgiveness yet condemn the painful action to national memory.  One such use is in the building of the September 11th memorial and museum on the site of the World Trade Centers.  These will serve as an area for individuals directly and indirectly impacted by the attacks to reflect on their experiences and the possibility of forgiveness.  One similar such structure was dreamed up by Alexandra Asseily (governor and founder of the Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford and on the Board of the Guerrand Hermes Peace Foundation, Balamand University and a former member of the Advisory Board of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University).  After witnessing painful civil war in Lebanon from 1975 to 1991 she worked with internationally acclaimed archaeologists, architects and engineers to construct a Garden of Forgiveness in central Beirut among numerous cathedrals and mosques.  The garden encourages individuals effected by the devastating civil war to embark on the journey of forgiveness.  These efforts are wonderful expressions of compassion and help to facilitate the decline of infectious hate throughout our world, by catalyzing a journey of forgiveness for so many individuals.

The breadth of forgiveness is incredible.  It reaches through so many religions, traditions and ways of life that it is almost impossible to ignore its significance.  First, the Christian bible and teachings speak heavily of forgiveness.  A major part of Christian faith is the belief that the Christian God is a forgiving God.  After all, he gave his only son for the forgiveness of the sins of humanity.  Forgiveness is also extremely evident in Islam.  Allah is known by many names throughout the Quran, most of which have to do with forgiveness. The most common of which possibly is Al-Ghafoor; the most forgiving.  It is forgiveness that all Muslims seek, and it is forgiveness they receive and learn through to give, praying five times a day for it.  Jews around the world set aside two whole holidays each year for forgiveness.  Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur among others, are days of atonement and repentance, asking for and granting forgiveness.  Hinduism is the third largest world religion and also boasts a breadth of text urging forgiveness.  Hindus believe in the concept of Karma; a kind of cosmic reward for positive behavior, or punishment for deviance.  Through this thinking, adherents believe that by forgiving others they will personally be rewarded in the future or a future life through karma.  In The Mahabharata, a largely philosophical and devotional Indian text heavily laden with Hindu insights and teachings we find the following quote, just one of many referring to the positive outcomes of forgiveness in Hinduism and can be applied to religions around the world.

“Forgiveness subdues (all) in this world; what is there that forgiveness cannot achieve?  An unforgiving individual defiles himself with many enormities.  Righteousness is the one highest good; and forgiveness is the one supreme peace; knowledge is one supreme contentment; and benevolence, one sole happiness.” (Vidura addressing Dhritarshtra)

No matter what faith we come from, what God(s) we pray to, or what books we read, forgiveness is the ultimate proprietor of peace.  We are in a time when peace seems ever more indispensable to the existence of humanity, yet seems to be slipping through our outstretched hands faster than we can clench our fists.  In the current time, the act of forgiveness is a beacon of luminous sunlight we must embrace in order to heal our souls and attempt to harmonize our world.  Peace must begin within ourselves by tackling the evils of our souls and forgiving ourselves the discrepancies we as humans are apt to commit against ourselves.  Once we are able to become whole, the forgiveness we experience within ourselves can then shine out upon others, as out stretched hands to join together with neighbors, friends and foes to spread the hope for peace around the globe.

Pivotal pieces for further learning about forgiveness and the areas written about above: 

“The Power of Forgiveness” (2007) Produced and Directed by Martin Doblmeier

“As We Forgive” (2009) Produced and Directed by Laura Waters Hinson

“Amish Grace” (TV 2010) Directed by Gregg Champion

The Fetzer Institute, accessible at:  www.fetzer.org

National Unity and Reconciliation Commission of Rwanda, accessible at:  www.nurc.gov.rw

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, accessible at:

http://www.justice.gov.za/trc/legal/index.htm

“Emotional Awareness: A Conversation Between The Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, Ph.D” written by Paul Ekman, New York: Times Books.

Kellie Brandt-MPT Intern

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