Publication of the Research/Action Team on Nonviolent
Large Systems Change,
TABLE OF CONTENTS
"Ibrahim Rugova: Nonviolent Actions in Violent Kosovo”
"Tomorrow's common hope:
Israeli and Palestinian youth are dreaming
"Opinion is a Tough Task in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict"
"A disgusting exercise"
Lord George Carey,
"Letting Go of Legitimizing Religion"
"New Opportunities for Building Peace"
"Collective Punishment Doesn't Really Work"
"Interfaith Dialogue: The Overlooked Objectives"
Gul Rukh Rahman,
"Children of Abraham - Jews and Muslim"
Stephen M. Sachs,
“Returning the World to Harmony: Getting the Peace in American Indian Tradition”
Vol. XX, No.3 Spring 2006
Nonviolent Change Journal helps to network the peace community: providing dialoguing, exchanges of ideas, articles, reviews, reports and announcements of the activities of peace related groups and meetings, reviews of world developments relating to nonviolent change and resource information concerning the development of human relations on the basis of mutual respect.
IBRAHIM RUGOVA: NONVIOLENT ACTIONS IN VIOLENT KOSOVO
February, 13 2006
Just as negotiations on the "final status" of Kosovo were to start on January 25 under the chairmanship of Martii Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and a seasoned negotiator, Ibrahim Rugova, President of Kosovo, died of lung cancer in the Kosovo capital Pristina. The start of the final status talks have been postponed but should start relatively soon as the negotiating team that Rugova had put together should be able to continue, but without the long-range vision and spirit of reconciliation that Rugova represented.
As Rugova had written recently, nearly
seven years "after NATO went to war to stop wide-spread human rights
abuses in Kosovo, an interim United Nations mission still administers the
province alongside its democratically elected government, while troops from
more than 30 countries provide security.
And despite continuing difficulties, success is in sight." Success is a relative term, but for a man
who knew that he was dying and who had been the moral and political leader of
the Kosovo Albanians since the early 1980s, he had seen vast changes, even as
he deplored the use of violence such as the NATO air offensive against
Ibrahim Rugova considered himself as a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and was often called the 'Albanian or Balkan Gandhi'. He advocated non-violent action and self-reliant economic development. Like Gandhi, he tried to keep lines of communication open to the colonial overlords - thus the visit to Milosevic. Like Gandhi, he had many followers who approved of his aims but who were not deeply convinced of the value of non-violent methods. Like Gandhi, there was a violent section of his own people who wanted to kill him to prove that violence was the only road to independence.
The violent fringe became the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which started in 1996 to kill Serb administrators in Kosovo and Albanian civil servants as 'collaborators' in the hope that such provocation would lead to strong Serb repression which in turn would provoke external aid to independence. This policy bore fruit in 1999. There were wide-spread rumours in the late 1990s that the KLA was plotting to kill Rugova, and recently he narrowly escaped being killed when the car in which he was riding was badly damaged in an armed attack.
Conditions in Kosovo in the 1980s brought
two men to power who by training and previous experience were most unlikely
to hold such posts: Both became symbols of nationalism: Slobodan Milosevic
and Ibrahim Rugova. Milosevic was by
training a banker who had spent a good number of years in the
After the death of Tito in 1980,
tensions between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo grew stronger - nearly 90
percent of the population being Albanian, but Kosovo is considered the
original 'homeland' of the Serbs and a landmark of mytho-legendary significance. Under the 1974 Yugoslav constitution, the
Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo was a 'constituent part' of the
By 1981, Kosovars began agitation to become a full republic within the Yugoslav Federation. This agitation was considered dangerous by Serbs and was countered by strong police measures. In 1983 there were wide-spread protests followed by massive arrests.
Milosevic was too young to play a leadership role in Yugoslav politics, being only 46 in 1986 and his technocratic suggestions for economic management had little popular appeal.
Nearly by accident, Milosevic found in the Kosovo issue and the defense of the Serb minority living there an issue which stirred many Serbs. He took on the role of Serbian nationalist and finally brought the country to economic ruin despite his real competence in economic mattes.
Likewise, Rugova had to focus upon the defense of Albanians and their culture in Kosovo. He first concentrated on overcoming the family and clanic divisions which weakened Albanian society from within. He helped to organize large ceremonies where family heads were able to renounce their antagonisms toward other families and to forgive past wrongs.
By 1990, the Serb-Kosovar antagonism reached the breaking point. The Kosovars declared independence - which no country recognized. The Serbian government fired a large number of Albanians working in the Kosovo administration as potential enemies. At this time, Rugova followed the inspiration of Gandhi and the Congress Party of India and created a parallel administration and society.
Rugova helped set up a parallel Albanian school system from primary through university, meeting in homes and barns. All the institutions of Kosovo largely stopped as the Albanians created their own parallel administration. The 'real government' was the parallel government, and in 1992 Rugova was elected president in parallel state elections.
The most difficult was to create a
parallel economy for an area that was largely rural and one of the poorest in
Unfortunately, Rugova's Gandhian efforts
were not supported by European governments or even powerful NGOs as attention
was focused on the fighting in other parts of
The constitutional, economic and political issues of final status negotiations are complex and are likely to prove difficult. Without the non-violent philosophy of Rugova, there will be a gap of moderate voices seeking reconciliation. The action and philosophy of Rugova merit to be better known outside Kosovo. Perhaps his spirit can continue to inspire the negotiations.
Rene Wadlow is editor of the online
journal of world politics www.transnational-perspectives.org and an NGO
representative to the UN,
For a good account of Rugova and his efforts by a non-violent activist see
Howard Clark. Civil Resistance in Kosovo (
TOMORROW'S COMMON HOPE:
ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN YOURTH ARE DREAMING OF MOBILITY
Distributed by the Common Ground News Service
permission to republish
In December 2005, at the invitation of
the Young Israeli Forum for Cooperation (YIFC), I held a series of seminars and
discussions with Israeli and Palestinian youth. During our debates, I asked a mixed group
of these young people a very simple, but unusual, question: "If our
meeting room was a time machine bringing us into 2025, what would you dream
of finding in the
It is easy to imagine how these young
people feel trapped. In a country the
While their elders are talking about the important, but static, concepts of land and states, the Twenty-First Century Generation expressed a simple, decent human expectation and right. They dream of being able to do what their peers are doing elsewhere: moving, traveling, visiting. The past generation of leaders from both sides, as well as the international community, have not been able to fulfil this very basic human right. They have even managed to further restrict movement in the last decade, and especially now, with the construction of the barrier.
From my European experience, it is
clear that people need a common dream to be able to build peace. After speaking with the youth of
I am also convinced that this is where
the European Union has a major role to play. We Europeans are the very symbol
of this cross-borders, cross-cultural mobility of which young Palestinians
and Israelis dream. As one of them said to me: "I am amazed to see that,
when I chat with friends in Europe, they may be in
It is vital that
* Franck Biancheri is the Director of Studies and Strategy for Europe 2020 where he heads a series of seminars, Global Europe 2020, that focuses on the future of EU Common External Policy.
OPINION IS A TOUGH TASK IN PALESTINIAN-ISRAELI CONFLICT
Source: Common Ground News Service, December 3, 2005.
Distributed by the Common Ground News Service
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And after the Israeli Army invaded
In both cases, Israelis and Palestinians were mobilized in peaceful directions, as they came to see the grave damage caused by war, and they recognized that stability and cooperation provide generous rewards. A sense of utilitarianism is always a pre-requisite for the emergence of noble ideas. Indeed, during the Middle Ages, Europeans created the idea of „tolerance‰ after they realized the huge cost of religious wars. Much more recently, American public opinion turned against the Vietnam War, as the number of fatalities skyrocketed.
In such an atmosphere, national and religious solidarity tends to dominate, as conservative views protect orthodoxy. This, in turn, compels the rest of us to view history through dark lenses and to look at the future as a natural, inevitable extension of the past - where people inevitably will live by the sword (though the past itself was never as bad as the one which has been invented by nationalists and fundamentalists).
In situations like these, three dynamics
prevail. The first includes general approval of small steps, real or
apparent, that improve the situation and that continue until the next Israeli
raid or Palestinian suicide attack erases all progress. The
The second dynamic consists of naïve
jubilation over what
The third prevailing dynamic embraces the philosophy, which has become conventional wisdom and which says that the situation remains tolerable as long as it does not explode into something worse. Somehow, statistical consciousness concerning the numbers of dead and injured becomes more important than political consciousness aimed at peacemaking. Public opinion has fallen prey to a herd mentality. It would do us good to consult Freud, Elias Cavetti, and others to understand how politics can degenerate into pathology, turning whole societies into horrible clinical cases.
In order to employ public opinion in the
pursuit of peace, it is necessary to know the difference between the true
moralist and the impostor; the former knows his duties, while the latter
knows the duties of others. Hence, the former acts morally without preaching
to others, while the latter preaches morality but does not abide by it. With
the exception of a select group of writers, journalists and activists, the
collective Israeli voice today instructs the Palestinians on what they should
do. With the exception of President Abbas and his immediate circle, the
collective Palestinian voice similarly tells the Israelis what they should
do. But there is one important difference, although the results are the same.
Time, it seems, is not working in favor of those who wish for peace. For this reason, the name 'dreamers' will stay for a long time as a synonym for them
Saghiyeh is a Lebanese veteran writer, commentator, and columnist for the
Arabic newspaper al-Hayat in
A DISGUSTING EXERCISE
March 18, 2006
Reprinted from Gush Shalom list serve
THE CENTRAL theme of this article is
disgust. Therefore I apologize in advance for the frequent use of this and
similar words. In the thesaurus I find quite a number of synonyms: loathing,
revulsion, dislike, nausea, distaste, aversion, antipathy, abomination,
repulsion, abhorrence, repugnance, odium, detestation, and some more. They
are all present in my feelings about the action that took place in
IT WAS abhorrent, first of all, because it was an election propaganda gimmick. For a politician to send the army in to collect votes is an abhorrent act. In this action, three people were killed. Many more lives, Palestinian and Israeli, were put at risk.
The horrible cynicism of the decision was plain for all to see. Even the voters noticed it: in a public opinion poll two days later, 47% said that the decision was influenced by electoral considerations, only 49% thought otherwise.
This is not the first time for Ehud
Olmert to walk over dead bodies on his way to power. As mayor of
Olmert had a problem. His party was
slowly sinking in the polls. As time passed, some of the Kadima fans started
to notice that Olmert, after all, is no
In general, one should beware of a
civilian politician who succeeds a leader crowned with military laurels. It
is enough to mention the classic case of Anthony Eden, the heir of Winston
Churchill, who initiated the
WHAT DOES that war remind us about? The collusion.
The British wanted to topple Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, because he had the temerity to expropriate the property of the British shareholders of the Suez Canal Company. The French wanted to bring him down because of his support for the Algerian war of liberation. They conspired with David Ben-Gurion, who wanted to destroy the newly re-equipped Egyptian army. The main middleman of the collusion was Shimon Peres, now No. 2 on the Kadima list.
It worked like this: Israeli
paratroopers, commanded by Ariel Sharon (founder of Kadima), were dropped
One thing should be said in favor of George Bush and Tony Blair (and his miserable Foreign Minister, Jack Straw): they have returned the oldest profession in the world to the oldest city in the world. The scarlet thread of Rahav the Harlot (Joshua, 2) leads to this act of prostitution.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL Dan Halutz can be proud of this victory. In the past, he became famous for saying that all he feels is a slight bump on his wing when he drops a bomb on a civilian neighborhood, even if women and children are also killed. After that he sleeps well, he said. Now he has won real glory: with the help of dozens of tanks, gunships and heavy bulldozers he has succeeded in capturing six unarmed prisoners in the tranquil, non-violent little town that lives off tourism.
In the course of the action, Halutz' soldiers created a disgusting picture that has sullied the image of the Israeli army in the eyes of the hundreds of millions who saw it on their screens. They ordered the Palestinian policemen and prisoners to take their clothes off, and then let them be photographed, again and again - and again and again - in their underpants. There was no need for that. The pretext, that they might have hidden explosive belts on their body, was ridiculous under these circumstances. And even if it had been necessary, it could surely have been done far from the cameras. No doubt: the intention was to humiliate, to debase, to satisfy sadistic tendencies.
A person can, perhaps, get over
beatings, or even torture. But he cannot ever forget humiliation, especially
when it was done in full view of his family, friends, colleagues and all
people around the world. How many new terrorists were born at that moment? On
that day I happened to visit friends in a Palestinian village in the
THE ISRAELI media had a ball. Not just a ball, they went gaga for sheer joy. They contributed their special part to the loathsome event and stood to attention behind the government. Like a flock of parrots, unanimously repeating the mendacious official version.
It was a festival of brain-washing. The "Murderers of Ze'evi" have been captured! It was our national duty! We could not rest until they fell into our hands, dead or alive!
These three words - "Murderers of Ze'evi" - turned into a mantra. They were repeated endlessly on radio and television, and appeared in the printed newspapers (all of them!) and the speeches of the politicians (all of them!). That's how it is: Israelis are "murdered", Palestinians are "eliminated".
Why, for Gods sake? Rehavam Zee'vi, a
cabinet minister at the time, preached day and night about
"transfer" - the euphemism for driving the Palestinians out of
This is part of the endless chain of
violence: The Israeli army killed Abu-Ali Mustafa. He was succeeded by Ahmed
Sa'adat, who, according to the Israeli security service, ordered the killing
of Rehavam Ze'evi in revenge, and whose capture was the aim of the
Let's be clear: I oppose all murders. Theirs and ours. The murder of Abu-Ali Mustafa and the murder of Rehavam Ze'evi. But whoever spills the blood of a Palestinian leader cannot complain about the shedding of the blood of an Israeli one.
THERE IS still another side to the
affair, which is no less disgusting: the attitude towards the keeping of
agreements. Sa'adat and his colleagues were held in
What has happened now in
Israeli governments often regard the
breach of an agreement as a patriotic act if it serves our purpose.
Agreements are binding only on the other side. This is not only a primitive
morality, it is also damaging to our national interests. Who will sign an
agreement with us, knowing that it obligates only him? How can
Many Israelis believe that the
LETTING GO OF LEGITIMIZING RELIGION
Lord George Carey
Source: Common Ground News Service
December 3, 2005
Distributed by the Common Ground News Service
Permission to republish
It was at that meeting that I began to
discern some of the weaknesses as well as strengths of institutional faith.
The strength and authority of religion is, of course, often taken for
granted, even when it is ignored. It is simply quite mad of any politician to
think that peace in the
At our first meeting in
But I saw through the eyes of my colleagues one of the problems of institutional faith. It is difficult to let go of power whether one is religious or political. It is extremely difficult to criticize our own faith because we might be misunderstood by our own co-religionists! How difficult it is for Jewish leaders to say: "We have not fully understood the pain of Palestinians in the way they have been 'forced' from their ancestral homes and made to be refugees." How difficult it is for Muslim leaders to say to Jews: "We abhor suicide bombers and we must separate ourselves from them and condemn their tactics as inimical with Islam itself." Similarly with Christians- I longed to hear some of the Palestine Christian leaders see the Jewish point of view ˆ and when it came, it came reluctantly and not at all convincingly.
It is hard to break from our cultural roots and begin the process towards healing because it appears to be an unnecessary surgery. After all, aren‚t all the problems of the world someone else‚s fault? Surely we are not to blame! Well did Jonathan Swift assert bleakly over two hundred years ago, "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."
If religion is being driven from the
heart of political action and being ignored by politicians could it just be
that we have not allowed our faiths to speak to the problems of our day?
Could it be that we have become custodians, protectors, of religion and have
not allowed the radical message of all our faiths to love one another? At
Lord Carey was Archbishop of
NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR BUILDING PEACE
November 22, 2005
\Distributed by the Common Ground News Service
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One conclusion of any rational and scientific discussion is that cooperation and building interdependence is the key to both survival and prosperity. We are not alone in facing the issues of how to provide affordable clean water for our increasing population and ensure a reliable flow of energy to meet our growing economy. Cooperation among conflicting parties involved in water disputes increases access to water and lowers the risk of armed conflict over scarce resources.
Water and energy can be utilized as a catalyst for conflict resolution and for peace building. We can learn from other areas of the world and other periods in history where key commodities were used to build foundations on which peaceful relations between former enemies were advanced.
Perhaps the best example can be found in
the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). This was the first treaty
Economically, the Coal and Steel
Community achieved early success; between 1952 and 1960 iron and steel
production rose by 75% in the ECSC nations, and industrial production by 58%.
When overproduction of coal became a problem after 1959, especially in
THE PRESENT-day parallel to coal and
steel is water and energy.
There is a clear win-win potential for
The development of
THE PALESTINIAN co-CEO of the
Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information, Hanna Siniora, a
visionary Palestinian leader, has suggested for the past several years that
Peace is built by developing mutual interests and interdependence that make violence and conflict obsolete. For years we have been working on the premise that we must reach 'end of conflict' agreements before we can pursue long-lasting alliances that both rely on and build interdependence. It is time to reexamine the axiomatic notion that real cooperation before full peace is not possible.
*Gershon Baskin is Co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information.
COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT DOESN'T REALLY WORK
January 2, 2006
Distributed by the Common Ground News Service
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The alternative strategy looked at
It should also be mentioned that
virtually nothing from the pilot model of assisting and ensuring success from
Immediately after the disengagement
There is little doubt that the
continued deterioration of life in
FOR YEARS now, even during the Lebanon
War, the IDF held firmly to the working assumption that collective punishment
is effective. The basic idea is that if the local population suffers, they
will pressure their government to fight terrorism. This has never happened.
AMONG THE upper echelons of the IDF it is clear that most senior officers recognize that these policies of collective punishment against the Palestinians provide more answers to Israeli public opinion needs and concerns than to fighting and preventing terrorism.
In light of decades of failure it is
time to evaluate the chances of success of a different course, of different
policies. The policy recommended here is valid for the Gaza Strip only and
not for the
If, for instance, the Palestinians find
and close down a tunnel used for smuggling weapons,
Positive security performance by the
Palestinian Authority would have a price tag that
It is time to try a new course that, rather than threatening and punishing, rewards positive actions and encourages the public to support an increasingly better reality. The alternative is more despair and hopelessness.
Gershon Baskin is the co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information.
INTERFAITH DIALOGUE: THE OVERLOOKED OBJECTIVES
Source: Common Ground News Service
December 8, 2005
Distributed by the Common Ground News Service
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To repair this picture let us consider
two objectives, which are unfortunately frequently overlooked. First,
scholars should apply their knowledge to seriously counter the conflict
discourse. In its Islamic variant this discourse evolves around a number of
essential concepts such as Jihad, Martyrdom, The Jews,
To call this discourse fundamentalist
and attribute it to some fringe extremists, who "do not represent the
real Islam," has always proved to be a failing and, in fact, a
hypocritical strategy. The overwhelming Muslim majority believes Jihad,
Scholars, therefore, must quit composing peace statements, a task many people can do, and commit themselves to the task only they can promote. They should create, develop and further an Islamically authentic discourse of peace. Such a discourse must be tradition-friendly; one that pays serious attention to the holy text and builds on, not ignores, the Muslims‚ historical experience and socio-cultural forms. Only a discourse like this can serve as a legitimate outlet for the majority of religious Muslims, who long for peace but can not neglect their faith. Such a discourse is not impossible, given the richness and diversity of a multilayered tradition that has been carved out and produced through a plethora of times and locales.
The second ignored objective is the engagement of religious communities in interfaith activities. Interfaith dialogue has to move from the five star hotels to the neighborhood mosques, churches and synagogues. Religious people of different religious backgrounds have to meet frequently, listen to each other, communicate humanely and share what they value the most: their individual religious and spiritual experiences. That should be allowed and nourished in a safe space devoid of political representations and full of personal and intimate relations.
In conclusion, scholars have to create and develop an authentic discourse of peace and understanding. The religious communities, on the other hand, need neither preaching nor clerical leadership. Motivated by an authentic discourse, they have to get directly involved in dialogue and peacebuilding. The activist scholar/theologian laity situation we are locked in has to be urgently reversed.
Mohamed Mosaad, an Egyptian psychiatrist,
anthropologist, and freelance writer. He is an interfaith dialogue activist
and serves currently as the Middle East and
CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM - JEWS AND MUSLIM
Gul Rukh Rahman
Source: Common Ground News Service (www.commongroundnews.org
December 8, 2005
Distributed by the Common Ground News Service
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The 'other' and the problems they create - have been used as an excuse to hide behind the ignorance that has shaped our views about each other. The mass media - in most part - has dehumanized the 'other' and has played a significant role in perpetuating the distrust, misperceptions, skepticism, fear, hatred and violence against each other.
Islam and Judaism - the two monotheistic faiths, have lost their identities in the political chaos of today. The distinction between religious identities and that of political one has been blurred to a point where Islam equates to Arabs and terrorists and to be a Jew means to be an Israeli. Neither all Muslims are Arabs nor all Jews are Israelis and neither do all adhere to the same political philosophies.
Most of us today emphatically defend our political positions but have lost focus on creating and having a constructive dialogue between Islam and Judaism. Not only have these two Abrahamic religions shared the same roots and ancestry through Prophet Abraham, they are joined together by faith in the One God.
The Muslim testimony of faith - la ilaha illa Allah, ("There is no god but God") - has been narrated in the Torah by: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). While the latter words are not found in the Muslim testimony of faith, they are found in the Koran: "Truly the believers are those whose hearts quiver when God is remembered." (8:2). Islam has a deeply universal spirit. Its message for all humanity is one of peace and mutual respect. It has built into it respect for Judaism and Christianity.
As Muslims and Jews, we have a responsibility to create a world where we can live together in peace and with dignity. Many of us believe that Jews and Muslims cannot co-exist because of the political divide. But both religions emphasize the need to live peacefully with others. Prophet Mohammed (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) - once said: "None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." The Torah says, "Love your neighbour as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18).
Even in the contemporary world,
Among the Muslim world, it is still rare to hear Muslim voices that encourage dialogue. Mostly, this attitude is explained as an outcome of deep-rooted frustration. Muslims in most parts of the Islamic world have been disillusioned by their governments, and they blame the West for keeping those governments in power and hence their reluctance to a dialogue.
What as Muslims we overlook is that nothing in Islam allows us to reject or harm a human being due to his/her religion, language or ethnicity. The message of Islam requires respect of Jewish faith. Jews have been called "The People of the Book," in the Koran. Prophet Mohammed (May Peace be Upon Him) constantly taught respect for all human beings, with all their differences. One day, he stood up out of respect when he saw a funeral procession nearby. When someone told the Prophet that it was that of a Jew, he replied "Is it not a human soul?"
During the initial phase of the
Prophet's time in
The recognition of Moses and the Torah is as much a part of Islamic teachings as the belief in all the other prophets and the divine books. In the light of these teachings, we, as Muslims, cannot continue to perpetuate the negative image of Jews in the name of Islam. It is the responsibility of all Muslims and Jews to recognize the link between Islam and Judaism. From the Muslim perspective, it also means that we must respect the pain and suffering of the Jewish people during the Second World War that has had long lasting effects on the Jewish way of thinking. This is not to say that the Palestinian issue should be overlooked. From a Jewish point of view, they need to understand that Islam is not their enemy; it never was and will never be. Those who use Islam as a tool to propagate hate and violence must not be taken as the voice of Islam.
As much as it is the responsibilities of
the Muslims to take this message to their communities, it is as important for
Jewish communities all over the globe to reciprocate. Both sides must
understand that criticism of a regime either in the Muslim world or
There are many who are working either as individuals or as organizations to talk about this issue. One such organization that is working to create bridges among the younger generation of Jews and Muslims is Children of Abraham. They use the Internet to promote dialogue, discovery and respect through thought provoking online discussion as well as photography. What makes them unique is their use of photographic images that draws upon the similarities in both the religions. Their students come from more then 40 countries and their participation in the Discovery Program will result in a Jewish-Muslim educational guidebook.
Gul Rukh Rahman is the co-executive director of Children of Abraham. She may be contacted at email@example.com
RETURNING THE WORLD TO HARMONY:
GETTING TO PEACE IN AMERICAN INDIAN TRADITION
Stephen M. Sachs, Professor of Political Science Emeritus, IUPUI
Contemporary western efforts at getting to peace are hampered by lack of a clear vision, by a great many people, of peace as a dynamic, positive entity. Too often peace is seen as the negation of a negative, such as "non-violence" or the absence of discord or war, or as some ultimate static state beyond the practical realm1. To help create a positive vision of peace to guide the world today, it is useful to remember indigenous traditional concepts of peace, which are at the roots of all modern cultures, of which the closely related sets of traditional American Indian approaches to peace are typical.
I: TRADITIONAL AMERICAN INDIAN APPROACHES TO BUILDING, MAINTAINING AND RESTORING PEACE
For traditional American Indians, the
ideal for individual and social life is harmony, and balance2
(which the Navajo call beauty [hozo]3),
based upon respect for all beings (and everything is alive, even the rocks
are living), in accordance with the natural order of which human beings were
a part and all are related. The Lakotas, for example, state this at the end
of prayers: Mitakue Oyasun:
"all my relations - amen!" - a word, which like the Hindu Om, when
fully stated contains all the vowels4. But harmony, balance,
beauty, peace is not automatic, one has to work continually to attain and
maintain it at every level. As the Chaudhuris say of the
A major component of the natural and human order, and a key to peace-harmony (seen slightly differently by different indigenous cultures) is what some would call the principle of the circle, itself based on a fundamental value of respect, which in an important sense involves an equality between the whole and the part, at every level (i.e. the whole at one level being the part at the next, e.g.: the individual in the family or group, the family or group in the tribe, the tribe in the world). As some Lakotas might understand it, the places in the circle have no meaning without the whole of the circle, but there is no circle without each of the individual places, which have their own qualities and ways of seeing. Hence if anything is to be decided, everyone must be heard from in an inclusive participatory process, in which everyone affected is a participant, and so far as possible, everyone's concerns are worked into the decision.7 This means, also, that leaders, chosen for their fine qualities, are primarily facilitators and announcers of collective decisions, though as persons respected for their wisdom and integrity8 (something like "virtue" - but that is a Roman, now Western concept, that isn't quite the same as the American Indian sense of "good qualities"), they do have influence and exercise what in an Eastern sense might be called "guidance." Thus, every decision needs to include the input and interests of the whole community, with the goal of maintaining balance for the long term. And for native people, the community includes all beings (i.e. the plants, animals, etc.), so that the concept of peace includes keeping the natural environment in balance.
Indeed, traditional Indian societies functioned as families, with all tribal members treated as if they were relatives, regardless of whether they were biologically related. As Ella DeLoria said of the Dakota, this was a system that worked.9
Kinship was the all-important matter. Its demands and dictates for all phases of social life were relentless and exact; but on the other hand, its privileges and honorings and rewarding prestige were not only tolerable but downright pleasant for all who conformed. By kinship all Dakota people were held together in a great relationship that was theoretically all-inclusive and co-extensive with the Dakota Domain. Everyone who was born a Dakota belonged in it; nobody need be left outside. [And since being Dakota, as with Indian societies generally, was more a matter of participation in the community than blood, kinship included all who effectively joined the community, whether they married in or were adopted, a common practice throughout traditional Native America].
While all of the above teachings,
practices and social arrangements helped to establish the ideal of
peace-balance-harmony-beauty, and to approach and attempt to maintain it in
practice, Native North Americans understood that in a complex interactive
world, harmony will constantly be lost, individually and collectively, and
steps must be undertaken to regain it. Hence, on the spiritual-psychological
level, Indian cultures had ceremonies for reestablishing balance. For the
Navajo (Dine), for example, virtually all ceremonies are healing rituals to
return people to beauty. In addition to healing rituals for rebalancing
individuals and/or groups, many tribes had major rituals for the
"renewal of the earth and the people," such as the Sun Dance of the
Lakota and other plains,
On the socio-political-economic level (with some spiritual-psychological aspects) all native cultures traditionally had what are often called "peace making" processes for settling conflicts and disputes, and for redressing injuries and grievances. These are almost always facilitated participatory processes for returning the parties to harmony: good relationship. Thus tribal people more often dealt with harms in ways that western legal systems would consider torts (injuries to be dealt with by civil law) than crimes, with the emphasis on restoring the preexisting situation and/or set of relations, rather than attaining justice or retribution. This might involve a gift or payment for damages, such as when a Kiowa or Cheyenne man eloped with another man's wife, it was required that the absconder provide a suitable compensation to the injured husband, with a peace chief facilitating the resolution of the dispute between the parties.24 In some instances of homicide, restoration went so far as to have the party causing the death (whether intentional or accidental) take on a role of the deceased, as with an Aleut (Eskimo)25 or Lakota26 man marrying the wife of the husband he had killed, in order to insure that the deceased's family was cared for, and, particularly in the latter case, to restore harmony between the families involved in the dispute. With the importance of familial relations in native societies, an injury involved not only the individuals involved, but the familial group of which they were members. In some instances, the process of restoration even extended to warfare. Among the Wendat (Huron), for example, a captured enemy would sometimes be adopted to replace a family member killed by the enemy, with the adoptee taking on all of the lost person's roles, including leadership positions. 27
Since the handling of disputes and
trouble cases aimed at restoration and maintenance of harmony in the
community, working out a proper solution often involved consideration of the
full range of relations between the parties, and the whole catalogue of ill
feeling, and its causes, between them. This contrasts with the narrower focus
on what is specifically relevant to the case at hand in deciding on fault or
Similarly, the emphasis on restoring harmony meant that acts of improper behavior were generally handled with a focus on rehabilitation of the wrong doer by traditional native North Americans. Thus, when some Cheyenne young men were caught hunting buffalo on their own, which might have stampeded the herd so that further hunting of it would have been impossible, the miscreants were beaten and had their horses killed and gear destroyed. But once it was clear that they accepted the punishment, the young men were resupplied and brought back into the ranks of the hunters.28 It was generally only in extreme cases that a person was killed or exiled. Among the Aleut's, for instance, a man who killed community members several times, or someone who lied repeatedly, might be executed or forced out as a danger to the community.29 Even in extreme cases, some rehabilitation might be possible. With the Cheyenne for example, killing another tribal member was considered so serious that the whole tribe would be polluted by the act, requiring purification and renewal of the nation's most sacred objects and the expulsion of the murderer.30 Yet, after several years, the offender, if repentant, might be permitted to return, with permission of the family of the deceased, which there was usually social pressure for them to give.
II: THE GROWING RELEVANCE OF THE TRADITIONAL PRINCIPLES
It would do well for the world today to apply the traditional American Indian principles for attaining and maintaining harmony, in ways that fit present circumstances, with an eye to the future, if we are to get to peace: to survive and live decently. Circumstances have changed in many ways for both Indian peoples and the wider world, but with somewhat different application, the traditional approaches are increasingly relevant. Indeed, some of these processes are being renewed by tribes, today, to return to harmony after centuries of colonialism, such as the use of peacemaker courts33 and inclusive participatory decision making,34 while there are numerous developing equivalents of traditional North American Native ways in the contemporary world.
The heart of what is necessary to attain productive and harmonious relations within and between communities is to return human interaction to a basis of mutual respect.35 Unless people deal with each other as equal partners in a mutual relationship, interaction is likely to continue to lead to injustice and dangerous dominance. This in turn will most probably increase ongoing struggles marked by open and structural violence. To break out of the recurring cycles of repression and violence, it is necessary that we build human relationships upon the principle of "unity in diversity," so that each of us respects the interests, views and ways of all individuals, groups and cultures. This is important not only to avoid doing harm to others, but because we each have something to learn from every person, group and culture. Moreover, repression is costly and inefficient in comparison with collaboration, which is also far more emotionally rewarding to everyone. Thus, it is mutually advantageous for all of us to move from relations founded upon cultural hegemony to relations centered upon cultural sharing and exchange.
The attainment of mutually respectful relations requires appropriate processes. One of these is the use of participatory mutual problem solving of issues, often involving some form of consensus decision making, undertaken appropriately for the context. For example, business, government and nonprofit organizations around the world have improved their internal relations, communications, quality of decision making, productivity, efficiency, effectiveness (by every measure) and flexibility in adapting to changing conditions by initiating a variety of participatory decision making processes, following the same principles traditionally used in tribal councils.36 Thus, modernizing organizations have been learning that by treating employees humanely, as partners in their operations, participating from each person’s unique viewpoint and abilities, that not only are internal relations improved, but organizational knowledge, creativity and quality of operation are very significantly enhanced.
Similarly, at the level of the community, there are contemporary examples of political decision making leading to better decisions, achieving a better balance of interests, and thus providing a basis for transforming sharply divisive rifts in the community into collaborative partnerships for creative advancement, by involving all the concerned parties in decision making processes. In the field of environmental regulation, for instance, more collaborative and inclusive approaches have been taken to overcome the slow system of command regulation, requiring a large bureaucracy, that often produces decisions that do not adequately balance the needs of the effected parties, and that are often ineffectively enforced, at considerable expense.37 In a number of cases, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has utilized a process for developing regulation by bringing all the interested parties (primarily representatives of environmental groups, business and the agency) together to participate in consensus decision making. Any of the parties may withdraw from the process at any time. But if they accept the final agreement, they cannot challenge it in court. As in traditional tribal governance, the process of dialog takes time, but usually results in better decisions than competitive processes because of the attempt to accommodate all of the concerns and interests of those affected to create a viable policy. By contrast, decisions in competitive processes tend to be the result of the ability of the individual contenders to force the inclusion of as much of their position as possible in the final outcome, with compromises being determined more in terms of including the diverse agendas of strong pressure groups than in achieving a well working policy as a whole.
This inclusive method was used by EPA in 1991 to set new standards for the contents of gasoline.38 Several states, including Indiana, California and Florida have taken such an inclusive approach to promoting energy conservation and pollution reduction in the generation of electric power.39 In the past, there have been no incentives for power companies to operate efficiently or to encourage customers to conserve energy.40 Using an inclusive process, power company, environmental group and consumer group representatives sat down together along with state officials to develop regulations that meet the primary concerns of all the parties. This resulted in measures that save consumers money and reduce energy use (thereby reducing pollution) through allowing power producers to benefit financially from encouraging consumers to be energy efficient.
like Search for Common Ground (SFCG) have been working to heal intra and
inter-community conflict by bringing the discordant parties together in
peacebuilding processes aimed at finding mutual interest as a basis for
resolving or transforming disputes and developing collaboration. At the end
of 2005 Search for Common Ground was working in 17 countries around the
world. For example, in the
Where individuals, in the United States and many other Twenty-First century nations, disturb the harmony of the community by acts that are defined as criminal, in a high percentage of cases the punitive approach of the criminal justice system does little to return the offender or the community to harmony, as there is a high recidivism rate among those convicted of crimes, and extended incarceration in prisons focusing almost entirely on detaining large numbers of convicts, often provides more education in criminal behavior than rehabilitation. Thus, there has been a growing interest in what are often more effective alternative approaches to correction, many of which mirror the restorative approaches to deviance of Native nations. These include programs that reintegrate convicts with society, such as halfway houses with job programs, and various forms of restorative justice that involve the law breaker doing work in the community. Sometimes this is undertaken among those injured by the criminal’s act, to repay at least some of the damage done and to return the criminal to a good relationship with the community.43 Among these approaches is a growing movement to bring young offenders face to face with their victims, when appropriate. After one such mediation, the juvenile wrongdoer stated, “I now realize I hurt them a lot.... To understand how the victim feels makes me feel a lot different.” Hearing that in a meaningful dialog is often healing to the victim and the perpetrator.44
Finally, in the face of rising oceans, more - and more intense - storms, and the exigencies of climate change from human induced global warming; increasing skin cancer rates and considerable environmental damage from industrial production of ozone layer destroying chemicals; and extensive serious harm to people and the environment from a plethora of man made pollutants, it is now clear that returning to the Native practice of living in balance with the ‘natural’ environment is essential for human beings living decent lives, if not human survival. Moreover, as indigenous people knew from experience, in the Twenty-First Century, we need to return to living in balance with our environment, if we are to live harmoniously with one another, in order to avoid disastrous conflict over resources, made scarce from over exploitation, pollution and other destructive action. Similarly, if we are to remove the causes of disharmony in human affairs, our societies need to return to economic harmony, by reinstituting sufficient levels of redistribution and reciprocity for everyone to have the opportunity to participate equitably in well functioning societies. As Native people in North America, and indeed all our tribal forbearers, understood from experience, living in peace, harmony, balance, beauty is not an unattainable ideal, but an ongoing process of living by seeing our own interest in working to keep in balance the long term interests of ourselves and all our relations, in what one might call an ‘ethics of respect,45 in a contemporarily appropriate application of traditional ethical principles.46
Perhaps it is time to remember to be buffalos without horns:
We Are the Buffaloes Without Horns 12/30/05
(Written morning after dreaming:
We are the Buffaloes without horns. Having seen the movie,
In the olden days living was easy. The Interpreter:
We ate the grass Sensing what it means
And we knew To
What to do. Where we no longer have anyone
Life was good, But that is where
Though not perfect. We remember them.)
We have to eat the air:
Remember how to be
Or we become Demons.
We have to look inside,
See the patterns of the Stars
As they move
Dance them into the fabric
Of our days,
The perfection of our lives.
This is a revised version of a paper
presented to the Native/Indigenous Studies Area, 2006 Southwest/Texas Popular
Culture/American Culture Association Conference,
1. Most of the peace and conflict resolution community knows better, as can be seen by going to some of their web sites and list serves. But much of the general public and many political decision makers do not. Some examples of peace and conflict resolution web sites include:
The Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR): www.acr.net.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) engages in many practical peacebuilding projects and produces numerous publications. FOR is at: http://ga3.org/forusa/home.html, or can be contacted via Jacqueline Haessly, firstname.lastname@example.org..
The Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA), which publishes the newsletter, The Peace Chronicle, and copublishes the scholarly journal Peace & Change: A Journal of Peace Research with the Peace History Society, as well as running a peace and justice list serve and holding an annual conference, can be contacted at: PJSA, 5th Floor University Center, 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117 (415)422-5238, http://www.peacejusticestudies.org/index.php.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) carries regular reports and sets of recommendations about difficult developing situations around the globe, at: http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm. ICG also has a regular E-mail report circulation sercvice that can be subscribed to on its web site.
Peace Media publishes a monthly web magazine at: http://peacejournalism.com/ReadArticle.asp?ArticleID=6086.
The Bulletin of Regional Cooperation in
the Middle East, a
publication of Search for Common Ground (SFCG), seeks to provide an ongoing
link among non-governmental cooperative efforts in the
Bitterlemons.org is a website that presents Israeli
and Palestinian viewpoints on prominent is-sues of concern. It focuses on the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict and peace processes as well as a variety of
topics affecting the
The online journal, Nonviolent Change, edited by the author is at: www.nonviolentchangejournal.org.
2. As, for example, with the Muscogee (Creek), as seen in their creation story, and in all their related stories showing how everything is interrelated and must be kept in balance, as set forth by in Jean and Joyotpaul Chaudhuri, A Sacred Path: The Way of the Muscogee Creeks (Los Angeles: UCLA American Indian Studies Center, 2001). The Chaudhuris tell us, for example, "The beautiful astronomical legends give us a picture of the balance of male and female energies, thereby showing the patch of darkness in light and light in darkness, all circling in the search for harmony in motion. The legends provide a humanities parallel of the science of the Creeks which also sees the search for balance between the four elements and the synergy linking the cycles of dynamic energies of the earth, the water, the sun (fire), and the sky (air). This is no romantic pipe dream, but the vision of an earth-centered culture with sacred trust responsibilities. The Earth centered physics involves exchanges between and transformations of various forms of energy and the cycles of energy among soil, water, nutrients, animals, sunlight, air and rain in an environmentally balanced manner (p. 19)". This dynamic balancing, that is necessary in the physical sphere, is also necessary in society, in which all the elements: men, women, the different clans and the two moieties - indeed all individuals - each have their unique and essential functions that must be kept in, and returned to, balance (Ch. 5-10). The same is true of the individual, who if internally out of balance can not act socially in a balanced way. "In the Muscogee Creek cosmos, all things consist of particular combinations of body, mind and spirit. When these are not in harmony, one is truly lost and healing becomes necessary for the entity to continue (p. 23, the theme pervading chapter 4)."
3. See Kluckhohn and Leighton, The Navaho; James F. Downes, The Navajo (New York: Holt Reinhart and Winston, Inc., 1972), particularly chapters 2, 3 and 8; Robert W. Young, A Political History of the Navajo Tribe (Tsaille, Navajo Nation, AZ: Navajo Community College Press, 1978); and Alice Reichard, Navaho Religion (New York: Pantheon Books, Bollingen Series, 1950).
See Gerald Mohatt and Joseph eagle Elk, The
Price of a Gift: A Lakota Healer's Story (
5. Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri, A Sacred Path, Ch. 9, especially where quoted at p. 68,
6. See for example how this worked very well in Muscogee terms in Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri, A Sacred Path.
Hoebel, The Law of Primative
25. Ibid., p. 87.
26. Deloria, Speaking of Indians, p. 34.
27. Trigger, The Huron: The Farmers of the North, pp. 58-60
28. Hoebel, The Law of Primitive Man, pp. 143 and 150156.
29. Ibid., pp. 70 and 88-91.
Ibid., pp. 142-143 and 156-160.
Murder, however, was such a heinous act for the
31. Deloria, Speaking of Indians, pp. 32-37, discusses the traditional ways of maintaining and recreating harmony among the people.
32. Oren Lyons, "The American Indian in the Past" and Donald A Grinde, Jr., "Iroquois Political Theory and the Roots of American Democracy," in Oren Lyons, John Mohawk, Vine Deloria, Jr., Lawrence Hauptman, Howard Berman, Donald Grinde, Jr., Curtis Berkey and Robert Venables, Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations, and the U. S. Constitution (Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers, 1992).
33. For examples from the Coast Salish peoples see, See Bruce G., Miller, The Problem of Justice: Tradition and Law in the Coast Salish World (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001). For examples from Navajo Nation see, Chief Justice Tom Tso, "The Process of Decision Making in Tribal Courts," and Justice Philmer Bluehouse and James Zion, "Hozhooji Naat'aanii: The Navajo Nation Justice and Harmony ceremony," in Marianne O. Nielsen and Robert A. Silverman, Native Americans, Crime and Justice (Boulder: CO, Westview Press, 1996), pp. 170-189.
34. LaDonna Harris, Stephen Sachs and Benjamin Broome, "Returning to Harmony Through Reactivating The Wisdom of the People: The Comanche Bring Back the Tradition of Consensus Decision Making," Native Americas, Vol. XII, No. 3, Fall 1996; and "Wisdom of the People: Potentials and Pitfalls in Efforts by Comanches to Recreate Traditional Ways of Building Consensus," American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 1, Winter 2001.
35. For a discussion of this necessity and of the process of building a culture of peace based upon mutual respect and unity in diversity, see Stephen M. Sachs, "Building the World Team: Getting to Peace Through Developing a Collaborative Culture," Organization Development Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1, Spring 1990, and "Learning the Pedagogy of Peace: or Living the World Team into Existence," paper presented at the COPRED 16th annual Conference in Milwaukee, 1987 (available from the author).
36. For discussion of the gains realized from organizational democracy, and the reasons for them, see: John Simmons and William Mares, Working Together (New York: Albert Knopf, 1983); Stephen Sachs, "The Cutting Edge" and "Employee Participation: The Next Stage", Workplace Democracy, Vol. XII, No. 2, Fall 1985, and No. 61, Summer 1988. Stephen Sachs, "The Interest and Goal Structure of Self-Managed Organizations" (Paris: Second International Conference on Participation, Workers Control and Self Management, 1977) discusses the reasons for the advantages of collaborative over hierarchical organizations including the tendency of collaborative organizations to minimize status differences stemming from the division of labor in comparison to hierarchical organizations. The paper is available from the author (email@example.com). Stephen M. Sachs, "Building Trust in Democratic Organizations," Psychology, Vol. 31, No. 2, 1994.
37. See Zachary Smith, The Environmental Paradox (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992); and Charles Davis, The Politics of Hazardous Waste (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993); and on finding solutions see, David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1992), Introduction, "An American Perestroika," and Ch. 4, "Mission Driven Government: Transforming Rule-Driven Organizations.
38. Jeff Smith, "Traditional
Foes Agree on Gasoline Formula,"
39. Citizens Power, Vol. 18, No. 2, Fall 1992, published by Citizens
40. Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1975), Oh. 3.
41. For more information go to: http://www.sfcg.org. Common Ground's "vision is of a world in which:
* Individuals, organizations, governments and societies respond to their differences in non-adversarial ways - where those differences stimulate social progress, rather than precipitate violence.
* The predominant approach to conflict is to reach out to cooperate with those we disagree with - where reconciliation is considered the norm.
* Our underlying respect for one another and our shared interests and concerns are not overwhelmed by our differing points of view.
* In their everyday lives, human beings are safer and more secure.
Our goal is to make finding common ground the common thing."
42. See Wanda D. McCaslin, Ed., Justice as Healing, Indigenous Ways: Writings on Community
Peacemaking and Restorative Justice from the
43. For discussion of the problems with punitive approaches to corrections and the value of restorative and related alternative approaches, see Michael Branegan, “Restoring Community to Restorative Justice,” Research and Creative Activity, Indiana University, Vol. XI, No. 3, January 1997. For an extensive consideration of the applicability of various applications of Native principles of restorative justice, see the various writings in McCaslin, Ed., Justice as Healing.
45. See John Brown Childs, with
commentaries by Guillermo Delgado-P, et. Al. Trans-communality: From the Politics of Conversion to the Ethics of
46. For an example of traditional ethics see, Phil Lane, Jr., Judie Bupp, Michael Bupp, and Elders, “The Sacred Tree: Code of Ethics,” The Sacred Tree: Reflections on Native American Spirituality, Third Edition (National Book Network, 1984), on line at http://www.prayer-network.info/coe/.