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Posts Tagged ‘peacemaking’

“Even when one sees something ugly in another person, one should give heart to the fact that there, too, dwells the name of the Blessed One, for there is no place empty of God.” —Rabbi Jacob Joseph Katz
I strongly recommend From Enemy to Friend: Jewish wisdom and the pursuit of peace to all readers interested in interreligious dialogue and peacemaking. In this book Rabbi Amy Eilberg has done a compelling job presenting personal stories, classical Jewish texts, and peace and conflict theory to bring readers a powerful vision to guide our everyday lives as peacebuilders. There is inspiration for all who feel that “peace is not a utopian ideal, but a daily need.”

For anyone unfamiliar with the rich peace tradition in Jewish texts, Rabbi Eilberg shares that “the command repeated more frequently than any other in the Torah — 36 times, in fact — is the command to love, to reach out to, and do justice to the stranger.” She offers rigorous yet accessible engagement with Jewish texts, highlighting the many ways that peacemaking forms a central component of Jewish teachings.

Rabbi Eilberg illustrates that peacemaking is not merely a set of tools or techniques, but a way of being in daily life. As peacemakers, we must begin with transforming our own hearts, and extend our efforts into the world of our neighbors. With regular practice, we can learn to “unclench our fists, minds, and hearts when we feel wounded,” and live into the truth that “all human beings, even those who have hurt and threatened us, are human creatures like ourselves, worthy of the same respect and dignity we demand for ourselves.”

When the fear and hate that are revealed in the news become overwhelming, we can remember that many ordinary people hold peacemaking as the central value. For example, I learned of the exciting work of Clergy Beyond Borders, essential for building understanding in a pluralistic society. In another example of peacemaking lived, Rabbi Eilberg writes about the intentional community Oasis of Peace/Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam, where Jewish and Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel live together. Across our religious traditions we need guidance and inspiration, to learn to lay aside our fears and suspicions of difference that often get in the way of building relationships.

Readers will find that From Enemy to Friend offers inspiration, deepened understanding, and rich material for reflection. In a world that is hungry for peace, Rabbi Eilberg’s inspiring and helpful work deserves a wide audience.

Disclaimer: A copy of his book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

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In Reconcile: Conflict transformation for ordinary Christians, John Paul Lederach has updated and expanded upon the work he presented in The Journey toward Reconciliation (Herald Press, 1999). The writing integrates biblical lessons and stories from Lederach’s work in conflict transformation. This carefully written book could be beneficial to any individual or congregation willing to take seriously the healing message of reconciliation.

The vision presented in Reconcile has grown out of years of work with people in conflict, and out of careful reading of the gospel message of Jesus. With an Anabaptist theological perspective, Lederach expresses a commitment to following the example of Jesus in his actions. We might theoretically accept a call to be peacemakers, but shy away from the steps required to create healing. However, if we are to follow the lead of Jesus, “we move toward human troubles and choose to live in the messiness.” In order to build relationships, we must first move toward one another, rather than put up walls.

Practical steps are provided throughout the book, many of which are drawn directly from the Bible. A helpful chapter on Matthew 18 sheds light on commonly overlooked advice given by Jesus that would benefit church communities immensely.

An exciting discussion of Paul’s letters leads to the powerful observation, “True atonement and holiness place us on the journey to make real the reconciling love of God in our lives and to heal our broken communities across the globe.” Our journey toward God is not meant to be a solo journey, but a journey undertaken in community, and for the benefit of others.

With its clear and compelling message, Reconcile is ideal for church Sunday school classes, which could take one of the nine chapters each week for in-depth discussion. The resource section provides tools to help carry the message into community, including prayers, suggestions for further reading, and experiential activities.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided for review purposes. No fee was received.

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As a parent longing for a more peaceful world, I find myself hungry for inspiration. Activist and author Frida Berrigan has written a soul-nourishing book, It Runs in the Family: On being raised by radicals and growing into rebellious motherhood. She describes her upbringing in Jonah House in Baltimore as the child of peace activists, and how her values and hopes inform her choices as a parent.

Reading Frida’s story we witness an unusual upbringing amidst a family dedicated to peacebuilding and social justice. As in any family, some things worked out well and brought joy, while other choices were more burdensome. Nothing is perfect, and hearing this story will help encourage parents who strive to raise their children to have a sense of our role within a global, human community. I do not want merely to talk about a better world, but for my daughter to witness and to work alongside me, contributing to a better world with our daily choices. As I strive to do this, honest stories from other parents brings tremendous refreshment.

Part of Frida’s story includes her exploration of the important place of religion in her life. I have experienced the need for a spiritual home that supports the call for peace and justice, and Frida’s words rang true for me:

“I’m not lapsed: I am a Catholic in waiting – waiting for the Church to remember the Gospels, to be a justice-and-peace-seeking community, to be fully inclusive of women and to be welcoming to people who are not heteronormative. Pope Francis is a step in the right direction, but there is a long way to go.”

While I know many activists find sufficient encouragement amidst a strictly secular community, that is not the case for me. I tried, but it was depleting. There was a crucial piece missing for me: a larger sense of love. I realized that my hunger for a more peaceable society is grounded in my belief that we were created to love one another and to help carry each other’s burdens. As I read It Runs in the Family, I witnessed that a sense of self, of connection to others, and of a loving God can weave together a fabric strong enough for building a joyful home.

Frida writes the column “Little Insurrections” for Waging Nonviolence, and serves on the board for the War Resisters League. I highly recommend following her work for a continual dose of inspiration and motivation as you parent toward a more loving society.

Disclaimer: This review is freely given, based on my own copy of It Runs in the Family. Frida Berrigan is a friend.

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“God is already here. Through our wanderings, our questions, our encounters with beauty and with pain, the God within us is revealed. Advent is waking up to God in our midst. It is in the wandering that our eyes are open to the deeper truth. So let us not sleep through Advent.” —Simone Campbell, S.S.S.

Each year Pax Christi USA produces an inspiring Advent reflection booklet that carries their witness of Christian nonviolence. Entitled Waking up to God in our Midst, this year’s booklet focuses on the themes of economic and interracial justice and features thought-provoking writing from Sister Simone Campbell, SSS; Adrienne Alexander; Shannen Dee Williams; and Rev. Joseph Nangle, ofm.

Pax Christi USA also has compiled a helpful page of Advent resources.

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As the new church year approaches, with the first Sunday of Advent on November 30, many seek inspiring resources for the coming season. A recommended companion to the lectionary is A Maryknoll Liturgical Year: Reflections on the readings for Year B, published by Orbis Books. The stories from Maryknoll missioners draw upon a way of living in alignment with the teachings of Jesus. Missioners work among those who suffer material poverty and marginalization, learning to love each person as an equal, a potential teacher, and a beloved of God. With this book at hand, readers have many opportunities to remember the call to center our lives on service to others.

The stories remind us to be “open to truth appearing in unlikely places,” and a common theme is that people who are living in material poverty, in ongoing crisis, can open our eyes to the work of God in our midst. We are called to embody God’s love for others, and also to see God in each of our fellow humans.

The poverty and injustice in our world can be very discouraging, and it helps immensely to read witness from people who are working for positive change. Throughout this past year I have received spiritual refreshment and inspiration from Maryknoll’s book for year A, and I look forward to the daily reading of stories in this new volume. As the writer for the first Sunday of Advent asks, “As we pass through our own kind of unending Advent of widespread unemployment and unprecedented economic inequality, are we prepared to see hope and the Spirit’s truth in people and places where we have never looked before?”

Prepare your heart to receive the scripture in newness, and to have your faith refreshed by the testimonies of these Maryknoll missioners.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. No fee was received.

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In a world full of broken relationships, religion must lead us toward healing. Religion can help to decrease pain and to bridge the divisions created by fear. Jesus of Nazareth is one of the principal guides we have for this healing process. Whether you view Jesus as a prophet, a gifted rabbi, or the one messiah, his teachings on love could bring about a positive revolution in our homes, in our communities, in our nations.

Author Jim Forest brings readers into a deeper understanding of the central teachings of Jesus in his latest book, Loving Our Enemies: Reflections on the hardest commandment. This is one of the most inspiring, practical, and urgently needed books that I have read.

In the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly teaches that love of God is inseparable from love of neighbor. We are called to break bread with one another, and to see each person we encounter as one of God’s precious creations. Jim Forest highlights the Gospel message and elaborates with historical examples of people who bravely lived the teachings of Jesus, setting aside fear and acting out of love.

Followers of Jesus should always remember that even while dying, Jesus prayed for forgiveness of his persecutors. For me, one of the most personally helpful sections of this book included reflections on the need to pray for our “enemies,” those who cause us anger, fear, or hurt. As Forest writes, “Even the smallest act of caring that prayer involves is a major step toward love, an act of participating in God’s love for that person.” Prayer for others can be where we start loving them, because prayer can change our own hearts.

I highly recommend Loving Our Enemies for individual reading, as well as for book discussion groups in religious communities.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

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Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish lived through something out of a nightmare: three of his daughters were killed by a military attack on his home. His life-affirming response sets an example for people everywhere. For he was angry, justifiably so, yet did not seek vengeance. Instead, he sought to honor the memory of his daughters

Dr. Abuelaish has written his powerful story, entitled I Shall not Hate: A Gaza doctor’s journey on the road to peace and human dignity. Readers travel with Dr. Abuelaish from his childhood in a refugee camp, through his medical school studies, and into the life-saving jobs that shaped his view of peacemaking. Dr. Abuelaish experienced that medical professionals, as well as patients, can cross the divisions of ethnicity, religion, and citizenship. Published in 2011, the book provides helpful background for readers who want to better understand the current situation for residents of Gaza.

The work of Dr. Abuelaish provides critical support for the building of a peaceful future through education and empowerment. We need to support visionary organizations such as Daughters for Life while also alleviating immediate crisis. If you can contribute to emergency relief in Gaza, Mercy Corps is providing humanitarian assistance with an effective network of community organizations. Please give if you are able.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the public library. No fee was received for this review.

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