You’ve got Christians, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, dogmatists, “pseudo-ists” and about everything in between. Some show great tolerance and some shout from a pedestal, leaving no room for any interpretation but their own. How important is one’s religion when it comes to conflict? It feels like sides are being drawn. And we haven’t even begun to figure out how to moderate the extreme influences of groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, etc. (Do they belong in this conversation?) Oh yes, yes they do.
Furthermore, what good does it do to gather people together to dialogue about it? Are we really any better at it than all the talking heads out there? The evening of discussion ends and we go our separate ways asking ourselves, how’d we do? Many have tried to devise a list of ways to talk to one another. Here is a pretty good list from the El-Hibri Foundation. In the video Shamil Idriss, new head of Search for Common Ground talks about 10 things you must know about overcoming differences:
So how does it play out in a tiny group of New Yorkers meeting once a month for a couple of hours? At ICERM (The International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation) we have created The Living Together Movement. So far, it’s gone pretty good. We had a lively discussion of around 25 people discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a few months ago and last month, January 29, 2015, we tried to wrap our heads around what it means to be identified as American. The subject matter metamorphosed several times throughout the night and we just let it happen. It’s so empowering to be listened to in a judgment-free, relaxed environment. Anything goes.
On February 26, 2015, we had a small but mighty group. It was a pretty cold night and we are on the 3rd floor so thanks to all who arrived and overcame all the obstacles. We took a few minutes to prepare our heads by quieting them down. I had prepared some ice breakers to jump start the dialogue. It didn’t take too long and we were off. We chewed on this question for a while: “How does an otherwise faithful servant (in any tradition) transition into something more sinister and extreme?” Think about Branch Davidians, Jim Jones of the Jonestown Massacre, ISIS or Boko Haram. Maybe they were never faithful servants but they were babies at one time none-the-less.
This led the discussion in many directions around words like, fear, restlessness, scapegoat, agency, offensive/defensive acts of violence, the meaning of grace, the stories we tell/make-up, indoctrination, the formation of culture, and religion vs. spirituality. We ended the night by sharing a reading from a publication released by the group Facing History and Ourselves called “Stories of Identity: Religion, Migration, and Belonging in a Changing World”.
What we extracted from a segment on Understanding Strangers is a series of choices we have when encountering “Others”. We can choose war, build a wall, or enter into dialogue. By the end of the night, everyone was engaged and at times nearly on their feet when talking from the fervor. I had to pee so bad by the end because I didn’t want to miss anything … yes you read that correctly.
As a group, we remain committed to entering into dialogue no matter the challenges. We hope to expand, diversify, and continually bring into sharper focus our mission of peaceful co-existence.
We hope you join us soon. Here again are the details:
When: Last Thursday of Every Month
Time: 6:30 pm in Eastern Time
Where: John H. Holmes Community House, 3rd Floor, 28 East 35th Street, New York, NY 10016
Registration: Register for Free to participate in the upcoming forum.
You can also click here to register.
Registration is free and open to the public. You must register to attend the forum discussion.
Are you a peace-driven individual? Do you recognize the same humanity in all peoples? Are you passionate about bridging the gap between different races, ethnicities, religions, political views, genders, generations and nationalities, in order to increase respect, tolerance, acceptance, understanding and harmony in the world? If you answer “Yes” to these questions, you are qualified to join the Living Together Movement.
If you’d love to join the Living Together Movement but can’t find a forum near you, we encourage you to start a group in your community, state or province. We’ll provide you with all the resources and training you’ll need to start your group, and help you to get it going. To start a Living Together Movement group forum, please send email to us.
Stay connected and join our Facebook Group: Living Together Movement – NYC.
Facilitator for the Living Together Movement – NYC (a project of the International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation)