We don't need to agree on everthing to work for peace and justice

— September 19, 2013

Yesterday morning I received two biography’s, one from Mohamed Awaida and the other from Khdair Najjar, both Palestinian members of Combatants For Peace, both coming to the walk on October 6th.

From childhood, they grew up under Israeli military control of the land they call home, Khdair in Yitma, near Nablus, and Mohammed in Silwan near the Western Wall.  From childhood, they learned about Jews and Israelis through their peers and through contact with armed Israeli soldiers governing much of their lives, soldiers ordered to protect Israel and Israeli settlers against those whom the Israelis called “terrorists.”  In the fog of war, experiencing violence and threats of violence amidst the inevitable conflict between military and civilian control, they joined Palestinian resistance  organizations, trying various ways to end the Israeli presence in their home, trying to “end the occupation” of their land, but never actually meeting Israelis as equals until they joined Combatants For Peace.

I also received biographies of two Israelis, Erez Krispin and Adi Greenfeld, both Israeli Jews, soldiers and patriots under orders to protect Israel against the Palestinian “enemy.”  Just as the Palestinian’s learned to see the Israelis as “occupiers” they grew up seeing Palestinian’s as “terrorists.”  Adi, stationed in Tel Aviv, never drew close to the territories and never saw how the Palestinians lived each day, how agonizing was the situation.  Erez, an officer serving in the West Bank and Gaza, knew Palestinians only from  taking such action as he was ordered or taught by his peers, trying to weaken Palestinian will and break their resistance to Israeli control.  It took time and courage for them to visit the West Bank unarmed and meet the Palestinians face to face, as equals.  It took time to learn the situation from their point of view, and it took time and courage for Mohammed and Khdair to meet Israelis, face to face as equals, and it took time to find ways that they could work together to end the “situation” they inherited.

We must take time on October 6th at 2:00 p.m. when Khdair, Mohammed, Erez, and Adi will walk through New Haven as brothers and sisters in a common cause for justice and peace for both their people.  Please join them, welcome them, draw inspiration from their story and their work. Come to the walk on Sunday, October 6th, 2:00 p.m. at  the New Haven Green, invite them to your house of worship, and the following week come and hear them at Milford City Hall on October 13th at 4:00 pm.  Let them see Muslim, Christian, Jew, and others, walk with them side by side, pledging ourselves, in so much as it is in our power, to defend and protect them in the United States, Israel, and Palestine.  Come to the walk.

A Yom Kippur Message — September 14, 2013

A Yom Kippur Message

Martin Luther King Jr. said that before any peace action, it is vital that the community engaging in the work participate first in an action of confession and self purification. 

Peacemaking is not easy work.   Faced with the constant realities of war, injustice, terrorism, poverty and oppression, peacemakers experience constant disappointment with society and the failed efforts of those around us.  Dr. King knew instinctively that without first exploring and confessing our deepest motivations, prejudices, and hidden agendas, we will unwittingly, gradually, in the heat of the battle for peace and justice, fall trap to self righteousness, pride, arrogance, and hatred for those with whom we must be reconciled.  Without engaging in a right of self exploration, confession, and purification, the peacemaker becomes part of the problem, the opposite of their intent, unconsciously shedding poison outwardly while inwardly dying.

 Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday and a faith ritual open to us all, reminds us that before waging peace, we must  explore our motivations and allow ourselves to be disarmingly honest about our feelings of doubt, hatred, bias, and fury with others, honest about our failings, our discomfort with loving the stranger and caring for the “enemy,” weeping our lamentation, feeling sadness for our plight. 

Such confession, (which I know only in part, for how could I know it well?) whether alone, with our clan or community of faith, prepares us for our work, knowing that a humble and contrite heart is acceptable and indeed, the greatest tool for Waging Peace.  Come to the walk,

Shalom, Salaam, Peace and courage be with us all this Yom Kippur,

Bruce A. Barrett
Founder, IWagePeace.Org

Fasting 7/19/2013 — August 13, 2013

Fasting 7/19/2013

It is Ramadan, and I fasted today, all day, from sun rise to sun set, letting neither water nor food touch my lips. Then before ending my fast, an unsuspecting lad handed me bottled water which I reflexively sipped, (wait I’m fasting!) Irony: I was at Masjid Al Islam, surrounded by my Muslim brothers and sisters, all waiting for sunset and the taste of their first sip of water and first bit of food since dinner the night before. The child handed me the water as a kindness because I am not Muslim and even while they fast, they were attending to my comfort.

Why is fasting wonderful?

Hunger is not the hard part of a day long fast. My body is healthy. I do not feel faint or weak. I am able to complete all my tasks. I am hungry, but not starved. No, hunger does not make fasting difficult, but eating and drinking are habits of pleasure, and when we interrupt those habits, a spiritual emptiness grips us and pulls us back to the pleasures we know. How we respond to that spiritual void is the challenge and beauty of fasting.

Each moment during my fast, when I feel my empty stomach, I desire to fill the space with a sip of water, a bite of a donut, or a savory cup of coffee. This brings me pleasure. (I love eating, who doesn’t?) When I eat that donut, I feel pleasure. The question is, how will I feel pleasure without my donut? If I can find no other pleasure during the day, then fasting will be a torture and I will suffer greatly this day. But if I can find another pleasure, a joy hidden from me and a blessing once distracted behind donuts and coffee, then for me fasting will be a wonder of new experience.

What hidden pleasures will fill my stomach? None. My stomach remains empty. But when I turn away from the cup of water, I think upon my loved ones? When I refuse the donut, I notice the beauty of the sky, the sound of a human voice, the swelling of my lungs, the beating of my heart, and the wonder of God. I weep for those who suffer hunger, oppression and misery, vicariously bonding with them through my empty stomach, and then I hear the distant laughter of weddings, and I know the world is larger than anyone suspects. Suddenly I am filled with an unexpected pleasure, spiritual food reminding me that God is greater than us all and I am but a miraculous moment on this earth.

At sunset, we eat our first bit of solid food, a delicious plump date, sweet and warm, succulent and a tender gift of flavor. Together, we will wage peace this year. We will feed our hearts with spiritual food, we will gather together, Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist, the religious and non-religious, and we will walk, speak, learn, grow, and build a peaceful and just world for us all. Is it difficult to go all day without food? More difficult, I think, is a day without the food we find between our meals.