What’s Your Best Peace-building Practice?

Humanity is our business, says the Ghost of Christmas Present in The Christmas Carol.  Putting that in the terms of the spirituality and work movement, taking care of the economic and everyday peace of others is an integral part of taking care of our own business. Also, taking care of business in the outer world is best preceded by taking care of business in the inner, spiritual world.

Without spiritual practice, how can we possibly discern how best to spend our time and money on building peace when the needs are so huge and often contradictory? Without spiritual practice, how can we move from overwhelm and exhaustion, into the state of grace, where peaceful abundance can naturally escalate?

Sharing Stories of Hope as a Spiritual Practice

The human business that most concerns me now is peace.  Last week I was deeply disturbed by Obama’s Afghanistan war escalation speech, an armed robbery on the street where I live, the break-in of a friend’s car in San Francisco, and the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots throughout the world.  I don’t know how to make peace in the world, but I do know how to share powerful stories you may have missed in the general media about peace-building practices that work.

Stories inform and inspire.  We need lots of them, and we need them from many sources. The first of the following two stories came from Stephen Colbert and Bill Moyers. The second came from a colleague who had recently bought a peace basket at Macy’s to support the reconciliation movement in Rwanda.

Peace-making is too important to be left to the generals and people in power.  Without our individual and grassroots participation and leadership, peace-making won’t happen.  May the stories that follow stir your own courage and creativity.

From Liberia:  A Model for Casting Out a Dictator and Warlords

Just a few years ago, Liberia was a killing ground run by a corrupt dictator and competing warlords. Then Christian women began praying for peace in their churches.  Muslim women joined them, creating a coalition previously unknown in Liberia.  That led to a sex strike like that in the ancient Greek drama, Lysistrata.

No more sex, the women told their men, until you stop the fighting and make your friends stop fighting.  They then pulled out other motherly weapons, like shaming the warriors, sit-ins, and forcing the men to the peace table. Now the dictator has been banished from the country, the warlords are out of power; and the first freely elected female president rules in Africa.

Last week, I finally got the DVD about the transformation in Liberia, Pray the Devil Back to Hell.   It’s an amazing lesson in the power of commitment, courageous coalitions, and persistence.

From Rwanda:  Reconciliation after Violence

In Rwanda, over a million citizens were slaughtered by their neighbors in 1994. In 2003, the overburdened courts of the Rwandan government began releasing into the community tens of thousands of confessed genocide murderers.

While in prison, many of these murderers were touched by a prison ministry led by, among others, a clergyman who had lost many members of his own family. They felt remorse and sought reconciliation into the community. 10,000 of them have asked to help build homes through the Living Bricks Initiative, which equips repentant genocide perpetrators with the tools to build much-needed housing for their victims’ families.  The vision is to “establish new villages where former killers and survivors live together again as neighbors through practical reconciliation.”

Act by act, person by person, the possibility of sustainable peace grows there. It’s a great role model for restorative justice everywhere, on a one-to-one or larger scale.

We So Need More Stories of Successful Grass Roots Peace Movements

If I had my way, we’d spend way more on helping more people to have more courage of their convictions throughout the world and way less on military actions or prisons.  We’d all know and honor the peacemakers of Rwanda and Liberia, who truly are much more interesting than celebrities or political speculations of any kind.  We’d help each other see how these role models can inspire our own peace-making.

One small step in this direction for me was to buy four copies of Pray the Devil Back to Hell and to lend them out so many small groups can watch it and ask each other, “how am I called to take a stand here in my neighborhood and elsewhere?”  Next month, I’ll add a film about peace-building in Rwanda, “As We Forgive,”  with the same questions.

What’s your next step?

As always, many blessings,

Pat McHenry Sullivan