Friday, May 28, 2010

Interfaith Dialogue

In our Religion: Peacebuilding in Multicultural Societies Course here at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) we examined five different kinds of interactions or dialogues with persons of different cultures or religions.

The first is the dialogue of life where people live as neighbors, primarily concerned with daily interactions, the joys and sorrows that are the ebb and flow of life. Next is the dialogue of action or it is sometimes called the dialogue of hands. Persons of different faiths work together toward a common goal perhaps addressing some kind of social problem. Buddhists and Christians building a house together at Habitat-for-Humanity would be one example. The third interaction is the dialogue of the religious experience where adherents actually experience each others rituals, worship or celebrations. Participation in others sacred spaces bring a deep appreciation and respect for the differences. The fourth type is among experts sometimes called the dialogue of the head. In this dialogue, “experts” interact round philosophy and theology of beliefs. As the only Mennonite in our class I was considered this authority because I could represent my particular brand of faith even though I am far from being a theologian.

When persons have dialogued long enough and respect for the other gains enough ground in the heart, then the fifth type of dialogue might occur, the dialogue of friendship and/or love. It is usually between two individuals who have developed the kind of friendship in which one would lay down the life for the other.

In our class this week we experienced, in some little way, all of these dialogues. Grouping diverse persons together for class tasks, caucusing people in their respective religious groups to present their faith and attending worshiping at a mosque were all part of this task. Through working closely together designing the an co-facilitating the course Alzad, and I made progress toward the fifth dialogue.

Hands Photo by Hai Arap

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Principled and Pragmatic Nonviolence

I just finished co-facilitating the Active Nonviolence (ANV) course here at Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI). ANV is a course I have helped teach here since 2005 and every year I understand the role of ANV in peacebuilding better thanks to the Mindanaoan and international participants.

This year while presenting Mahatma Gandhi’s and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s principles of nonviolence it struck me that there have been many successful nonviolent movements that have not articulated the individual worth of each ‘opponent’ like Gandhi and King. Some of the foundational values evident in the Indian struggle for autonomy and the US civil rights movement include:

o There is divine in all beings
o Humans can’t be reduced to the evil they perpetuate (Gandhi)
o Actively loving our adversaries while identifying our own blind spots (Gandhi)
o Seeking to win friendship and understanding (King)
o Defeat of injustice not people (King)
o Chooses love instead of hate (King)

The above values were insisted upon by their leaders.

But some successful nonviolent movements have embraced a much more pragmatic approach like the simple removal of a dictator or righting an injustice. In these movements physical violence to infrastructure, sabotage to economic systems or character assassination were encouraged. While these movements would go so far as non-lethal coercion of political leaders and lampooning individuals, they rejected violence toward humans be they occupying soldiers or corrupt leaders.

My insights crystallized as I realized that Gandhi and King invoked principles that were internalized in their nonviolent followers while in more pragmatic situations external limits were what held the movement in check. In the long run I wonder which starting point, principled or pragmatic, will bring the most sustainable change.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Demonstrating Reconciliation

My friend Chito has an inspiring story of reconciliation. Early in World War II the Japanese had over run the Philippines. Toward the end of the war, pressed on all sides by the Allies, the Japanese occupation forces were retreating. In a desperate bid to slow the American advance, they conducted a scorched earth policy to deny their adversary the resources they were leaving behind. In the village of Bauan in Luzon, Chito’s grandfather was one of the hundreds killed by vengeful Japanese forces one day in February 1945.

Chito, committed to nonviolence, is concerned about lingering hatred toward the Japanese people from the unresolved memories during this war time. He instigated a day of remembering the civilians killed in the war for the purpose of healing. Most of the remembering is for losses and victories of the military. A focus on the civilians, he feels, will bring closure and healing. He even reached out to some Japanese peace advocates to include in the rituals of healing memories.

Chito’s rational for remembering is three fold. First, to bring closure for the many whose trauma is still unresolved. Second, is to have a symbolic process of forgiveness, apology, healing, and reconciliation between the people of Japan and the Philippines, devoid of demands for remuneration and monetary compensation. Finally, the remembering and memorial will bring into national consciousness the urgency of refocusing people’s attitude and values from predatory victim – offender paradigm and into positive and transformational interaction between conflicting parties.

Chito showing me a picture of the Buan monument remembering casualties of war.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Update; MPI 2010

I will take a break from the Schematics for Peace Series and give some updates during my time in the Philippines at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI). I left on the 14th of May and expect to return on the 5th of June with most of my time will be spent in Davao City, our former home for 6 years under MCC.

This is the 9th year I have had a role at MPI, co-facilitating cou
rses such as Fundamentals of Peacebuilding, Active Nonviolence and Religion; Peacebuilding in Multi-cultural Societies. My Filipino/Filipina co-facilitators are the ones who made a trainer out of me. I didn’t intend to become a facilitator but as a result of another facilitator “no show” in our early years living in the Philippines, I was convinced by my colleagues Deng and Myla of Catholic Relief Services to try co-teaching a course.

This year I co-facilitate Active Nonviolence with Deng. The second class I co-facilitate is Religion; Peacebuilding in Multi-culture Societies with Alzad, a Muslim who is from Basilan Island. It is exciting to think of once again engaging Asian Peacebuilders with these two topics.

I love the Philippines and especially MPI. The participants often come from comm
unities that have experienced so much violence and conflict yet have such a hopeful disposition. Out of the crucible of their pain each person, facilitator or student, comes away from MPI with hope, learning and a sense of community.

Please send prayers, warm thoughts and healing intentions our way in the coming weeks. Thanks!