Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Tribe

I am heading off to the Philippines on Thursday. This is the 11th year that I have been at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) as one of the facilitators. On 21 May, I will co-facilitate a course called Religion: Dialogue, Theories and Practice for Peacebuilding with Deng a devout Catholic and Alzad, an Islamic Scholar and university professor. This is always a challenging and rewarding course as we lead the group through both learning and practice of inter-faith conversations. We take a field trip to visit a Mosque and the Bishops/Ulama Conference office.

When discussing faith across religious boundaries, I have started to use the word “tribe” to describe the ethno, cultural aspects of my Mennonite denomination. According to the on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary, a tribe is a social group comprising numerous families, clans or generations … having common character, occupation or interest. My tribe, Mennonite, is one that has inhabited the theological outlands in Christianity. We have a nomadic ancestry both in terms of;

a. geography - seeking freedom from religious persecution
b. theology as we broke off from European Christianity 500 years ago

Chili 25

In understanding my religio-cultural heritage, the concept of tribe works if I accept that we do not have an absolute and exclusive corner on the truth. This acknowledgement, hand in hand with a more recent denominational cultural and national diversity, moves tribal focus away from cultural boundaries to the core values and principles of tribal theology. Embracing diversity clarifies that much of what I might be tempted to call “Gospel Truth” is actually “tribal cultural truth.” 

This understanding of my denomination as tribe works well as I reach across my cultural walls to shake hands with other "religious tribes.” It is an increasingly important thing to do as the global dust continues to settle from the failed experiment with the nation-state. Tribe is increasingly reasserting itself as the most functional way people express identity and redefine themselves.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Spectrum of Alternative Dispute Resolution

I heard Elaine Enns and Ched Myers speak about peacemaking a few years ago and it sparked my thinking about how to view a whole spectrum of responses in working with conflict. The diagram below assumes that one party wants to move toward direct negotiation with the other party in the dispute. Unequal power, levels of cooperation and the presence of a third party all have an influence on the method chosen. Increased trust, communication and decreased violence all helps move clock-wise toward the upper right hand corner, negotiation.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

War on Everything

We declare war, endless wars on drugs, poverty, corruption, crime, cancer, rust and even toilet bowl rings. Our American English language is peppered with the language of war.

  • ideas shot down
  • attack a problem
  • more ammunition for the argument
  • magic bullets
  • combat illness
  • campaigns and crusades for issues
  • bombed the test
  • arm yourself against ignorance insurance fraud, termites ...
Think of your own war-like terms. 

What would happen if we would call a truce from all this warring? If we declared peace on everything? If we used the same thinking and planning and quest for reconciling conflicting realities that we do when addressing a shooting war? What would personal transformation look like in the “peace on drugs?”  What would structural transformation look like in a “peace on cancer?” 

This shift from war defining everything to the standard of peace will take creative thinking. It may produce some ridiculous sounding ideas. But I am reminded of the old adage about nonviolence used for social change…at first it look irrational but doesn’t take long before, compared to the consequences of war, looks very rational indeed.