So this past weekend I went up to Circle Pines, Minnesota to attend a non-violence training event called Creating a Culture of Peace. CCP is an offshoot of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an organization committed to finding peaceful ways for people to live together.
I found myself surrounded by great souls. One woman had been deeply involved in the Civil Rights movement. A young American man had just come back from living in Iraq to have conversations with the Iraqi people suffering the aftermath of war in order to bring them back to the United States. An older man talked about his healing from post traumatic stress syndrome after his service in war and how he had come to be involved in peace and justice ministry. Some people were seeking new direction in their lives and others were taking a breather between intense domestic and international encounters. A woman spoke of the need to work in a community where children were being bullied because of their faith.
The conference was interfaith as well as ecumenical. Baha’i and Moslem and Jewish and Christian (Catholic, Lutheran and others) and “deeply spiritual but not of a particular religion”, we came together to share and sing, talk and yes, pray together and share stories of working for better communication and reconciliation between people and populations.
We practiced active listening and responding peaceably in a “hassling” exercise. We took on different roles in conflict scenarios to learn to see the points of view of others more deeply.
Significantly, we learned that peace with justice does not happen by chance, but that training and skills, personal centering and meditation, and communal strategies and plans go into making communities of peace. For instance, we saw a video, A Force More Powerful, which described the use of non-violent resistance to evil. Emphasized in this movie was the idea that non-violence is not passive but active and deliberate action, carefully planned in order to help bring about change using peaceful means. We examined the lunch counter sit-ins of the Civil Rights struggle in the American South as an example of a time when careful analysis and strategic planning along with personal commitments of individuals to be people of peace made a difference in desegregating social settings.
I’ve come away amazed and humbled by the example of many good people and knowing I have been witness to the work of God between and among people. How powerfully God is at work in our world.