In your feet...papers and reflections
“It’s exciting how the
groundwork was laid when you facilitated our mediation meetings”, someone told me
last week, as he invited me to return and work with their broader constituency. I am incredibly encouraged by these words…they
are of great importance during this time of uncertainties and divisions.
It’s been quite a journey for this cross-cultural, bi-lingual Leadership
Team. Theirs is a story of divisions, mistrust, and inequality. They came together
to share their stories, their hurt and deep pain of many years. There were tears and anger. We were in dialogue, and we mediated
deep-seated conflicts, until they found one another. They came through it. Since then they’ve been on a journey of
healing and reconciliation, working together respectfully, and envisioning the
future together, not apart. Read on
That which is in front of us, must stay in front of us, while we hold onto each other, facing it together, not apart...
I still believe that, despite the turmoil many experience as a result of the US elections, and however different we all are from one another, we have an opportunity here to save ourselves from destruction. We have an opportunity to call upon our higher selves to do the thing we oftentimes forget we have..listen to one another to understand our various perspectives and feelings, instead of making the other the opposition, or the enemy; listen to the issues that are concerning to everyone, and see what a constructive response could look like. Instead of feeling hopeless, let's be a participant for truth and justice, and find solutions; let's speak out, but let's not demonize and destroy our common humanity. The latter will be so detrimental for our immediate, but also long-term future. Let's not allow ourselves to be torn apart, but let's breathe, pick ourselves up, and look to what each one of us can do and say to "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24), while we heal ourselves and not be alienated from one another. That which is in front of us must stay in front of us, while we hold onto each other, facing it together, not apart.
“Let’s hang out”, said the leaders at the end of the fourth
conflict transformation session in this multicultural church, where they've been struggling for years to work through their differences. These were very honest and difficult
conversations, where words such as, “we need equality and a sense of belonging;
we want to be together, but how do we do it if there are these challenging barriers
between us?” have been uttered. Painful
emotions were shared, ranging from anger and disillusionment, fear and
despair. These same leaders were
overcome with joy at the end of the fourth session, because the almost
impossible started happening. They were listening
to one another…and connecting at a very deep level. Read on
Creating an environment for peace and reconciliation is
about deepening the level of interaction among parties in conflict; it is about
“cutting deep into the issues and helping us see things we have not been able
to see,” in the recent words of one church member. Leading and guiding parties in conflict to
that deeper level of understanding requires special skills, enduring patience
and centeredness when the storm is at its height, when there is no light at the
end of the tunnel... Read on
She was there, quiet, not sharing in the bubbly conversations of this high school teenage group. They were all participating in an exercise I gave them to do: to go back into their childhood and think about conflicts in their lives--at home, in school, with friends and so forth... I was extremely concerned by what I saw: seemingly innocent pictures of a child growing up, leading to the sketch of a gun at the bottom of the page. When I asked her about the gun, she fearfully, yet, as a matter-of-fact, explained how she contemplated taking her own life that very week … then shared some more about her painful childhood, including the loneliness of having no one to talk to... Read on
Mediation in deeply divided communities
Mediating conflict in deeply divided communities is both challenging and rewarding. While it is necessary to bring many painful and wrenching conflicts out into open discussion, it is also necessary, in managing that process, to maintain a climate of respect and care under girded by hope. That is done, in part, by modeling those behaviors oneself—in mind, heart and body—toward all parties involved, holding them all together in the unshakable assurance that you are not taking sides in this conflict, but are there to serve them all. It is also necessary to sense when it is necessary to step in stop potentially destructive behavior.
During this past year our work with faith communities has brought us throughout Massachusetts, as well as parts of Connecticut, New York City and Rhode Island. Conflicts in churches are real and very serious... The request for an intervention does not simply arise from the inability of faith communities to address conflicts, but more often, because of strongly held positions, beliefs and perspectives, as well as powerful emotions around common concerns. Read on...
Though conflict transformation has become a field of knowledge involving teaching, study, skills-training and research, at its heart it involves truth-telling in the midst of painful human conflicts, moving people to mutual understanding, forgiveness, and the healing of broken relationships...
Change, however, does not occur because one or two individuals have emerged to do all this. It requires collective action and giving birth to many such moments of truth-telling, forgiveness and healing… Read on