Just Peacemaking

Cultivate One-Day Intensive: TGIP’s Newest Initiative

workshop_img_2120-770x549We are thrilled to announce the launch of our newest The Global Immersion Project initiative called, Cultivate: An Everyday Peacemaking Intensive. These one-day events will be hosted at cities across the US and are our first Cultivate event is set for Seattle on April 24 in conjunction with the Parish Collective’s Inhabit ConferenceThese will be tailor made for individuals and communities seeking to build a framework for peacemaking that translate into tangible practices in their homes, neighborhoods, churches, cities and world.

WHY THESE EVENTS?

Peacemaking has been disintegrated from the Church’s understanding of God, His mission, and our vocation.  As a result, we misunderstand who God is, what God has done, and what God is seeking to do here and now.  So, rather than embracing peacemaking as central to God’s heart and critical to who we are as His family, we speak of it as an esoteric theory or a subjective feeling.  Rather than embracing peacemaking as an everyday, costly way of life, we both contribute to and run from conflict while outsourcing the work of peace to others.  Organizationally, we place peace and reconciliation in our values, but have no idea what it looks like nor how to lead, train, or disciple to it.

WHAT ARE THEY?

Cultivate Seattle is a one-day tailor-made intensive designed to practically shift peacemaking from esoteric theory and aspiring value to costly, embodied reality. Through a fusion of engaging content, dialogue-based learning, simple experiments, and communal reflection you will:

  • --form a robust theology of peacemaking as the mission of God
  • --learn how to cultivate the interior world of a peacemaker
  • --awaken to the everyday spaces of peacemaking
  • --develop practices that help you pay attention to what’s beautiful and broken within your everyday spaces
  • --discover how to humbly and compassionately enter into the radical center of conflict
  • --imagine costly, creative ways to contribute to the flourishing of the “other”
  • --understand how to use resources and networks to reintegrate the hurting and the healing back into society
  • --know how to mobilize a peacemaking movement by identifying, equipping, and mobilizing influencers

As the peacemaking movement gains momentum around the world, it is time that the US American Church invests her best attention and resources on this costly and strategic work and embraces her vocation as an instrument of peace.

SCHEDULE:

08:30 am – 09:00 am :: Registration
09:00 am – 10:15 am :: Session 1 – Mission of God is Reconciliation
10:15 am – 10:30 am :: Break
10:30 am – 11:45 am :: Session 2 – Everyday Peacemaking Practices: SEE & IMMERSE
11:45 am – 01:15 pm :: Lunch (we will walk to nearby restaurants)
01:15 pm – 02:30 pm :: Session 3 – Everyday Peacemaking Practices: CONTEND & RESTORE
02:30 pm – 02:45 pm :: Break
02:45 pm – 04:00 pm :: Session 4 – Charting a Way Forward in Your Community

TICKET PRICES:

$49 PRE-SALE, $59 AT THE DOOR

Note: If you register in the next 48 hours (before 8am on Saturday, April 22), it’s only $39!

REGISTER HERE and please pass the word to an individuals, churches or communities in the Seattle area!

7 Lessons About Peace From My Time in the Middle East

998309_10152222403097492_17879176_nHaving just gotten home from guiding another The Global Immersion Project Learning Community deep into the lives of the unheralded heroes in the Holy Land to learn from their often untold stories, I am processing emotions, thoughts and reflections that will soon bud into a renewed set of practices at home and abroad. I have now been to Israel/Palestine quite a few times and it would be easy to think the experience becomes mechanical or normal or whatever. Well, for me, that simply hasn’t been the case. We encourage our participants to enter the experience in the posture of a learner rather than a hero. I try to do the same, and in doing so, am continually convicted, challenged and inspired by our remarkable friends and peacemakers embedded within this conflict. 

Here are 7 learning’s that have risen to the surface since landing back on home soil:

1. It’s About a Holy People, Not a Holy Land

There is no place on earth that has exploited human story and experience for the sake of a tourist “experience” more than in the Holy Land. Millions and MILLIONS of people go to the Holy Land each year seeking a holy experience, but fail to actually interact with the Holy People of the land. Now, I’m not saying a Holy Land pilgrimage is evil or bad. No, they are incredible and allow us to tangibly interact with central places and experiences central to our faith story. I’m a history/geography nut, so I totally get the value of this! But, and this is a big BUT, many of these tours inherently place the inhabitants of the land as tour guides in our “holy land experience” rather than seeing them as the very source of our holy land experience. It’s like going to Disneyland and as we run to each ride, our only encounter with the human staff is as they strap our seat belt around us before yet another emotional high.  

Not only is this model of tourism unsustainable, it is unjust and insulates us from the realities of those living within Israel/Palestine. Bottom line, as followers of Jesus, is is our responsibility to turn our primary attention to the people of the land rather than to the land itself. Not only does this honor our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, it creates the space for us to encounter not only the work God has done, but the work he is doing

Note: There are more and more organizations that have identified the brokenness of the tourist industry in the Holy Land and are leading “ethical” tours in this region. In addition to TGIP, see Telos, MEJDI & even Rick Steve’s!

2. Forming Peacemakers is Hard

My primary role in leading these experiences is that of teacher and coach. Being a peacemaker does not equal picking a side and trying to get people to align with you. Firstly, no conflict is that dualistic and secondly, that would be far too easy. Being formed as a peacemaker is learning how to place yourself in the center of the pain and tension of conflict and highlight the humanity that exists within. It is about walking with people toward conflict transformatively rather than picking a side or running from the conflict all together. 

As our participants see and experience the pain and injustice that exists in this region, there is a natural pull to pick sides and get really pissed off. The opposite extreme is to see the conflict, be so overwhelmed with its complexities and want to simply walk away. Neither option is the work of peacemaking and my (and my partner, Jer Swigart) work is to walk with people towards a more constructive place in their formation, which usually means confronting the evil within ourselves before confronting the evil around us. It is ridiculously difficult!!

3. Enemies Cease to be Enemies When You Look Them in the Eye

The Western world has become quite content with allowing sound bites and images to tell us who our “enemies” are. Without leaving the comfort of our own lazy boy chair, we talk and act as though we have a nuanced understanding of who is our friend or enemy. Not only is this unhelpful, it is does not allow us to see and celebrate the humanity we share with all of God’s children. 

We spent an afternoon in conversation with one of the most “extreme” ideological and polarizing characters in the Israel/Palestine conflict. Although I disagreed not only with much of WHAT he had to say, but HOW he chose to say it, I was struck by his humanity. He’s just another guy like me who deeply believes in his cause and those impacted by it. At the end of our conversation, I thanked him for his time, congratulated him on his newest grandchildren (We’re friends on Facebook, so I was in the know!) and gave him a hug. All the rhetoric and posturing went out the door and we saw each other as fellow humans. It’s really hard to have “enemies” when you look them in the eye.

4. Choosing Non-violence Doesn’t Equal the Avoidance of Bloodshed. 

It absolutely bends my brain when I hear arguments that choosing non-violence in the face of violent conflict is somehow soft or weak. As we learned from peacemaker after peacemaker who is faithfully choosing to face violence with creative acts that subvert and disarm systemic violence and war-making, I was both inspired and convicted. It was inspiring in that it was in these stories that the story of Jesus was BY FAR the most tangible and real. It was convicting in that I was confronted with my own tendency toward violence. I want to live the Jesus way that calls me to set down my weapons and pick up my cross, but it is hard. It is scary. And to be honest, it doesn’t always “work.” In other words, non-violence doesn’t equal the avoidance of bloodshed. Like Jesus, rather than it being my “enemies” blood, it would be mine. I suppose that is why I’m convinced the work of peacemaking is not only a way of life, it is discipleship. 

5. Violent Conflict is Very Real, but We Choose How We Engage It

We intentionally go to the center of this often volatile conflict because it is the best classroom, filled with the best instructors for the things that make for peace. Sometimes the conflict feels a bit far off from everyday life both in Israel and in the West Bank, but on this trip, it became more real that ever. There were three different instances where protests, clashes and violence unfolded within steps of us. It culminated with our hotel being hit by tear gas canisters and tanks rolling through the road at the bottom of our steps. 

As these incidents unfolded, I was stuck by the reality of violence AND the very tangible choice we have in how to engage it. Again, not an easy choice, but a certainly a choice in our discipleship journey. 

48053_10152222376937492_1409313618_n6. Brotherhood Has Nothing to do with Borders

While with our dear friends at the House of Hope in Bethany (in the West Bank), Jer and I were given what could be the most moving “award” I have ever received. We were honored as “Brothers for Peace” and given a plaque that read: 

“For being ambassadors for Christ, passionate peace builders, and partners in building bridges…reviving hope…and making the future…”

I could have never imagined a reality in my life where I would consider one of my dearest friends to be a person who lives half way across the globe in a reality and culture that is 180 degree different than my own. But, I am glad to say that reality has come true with my friend Milad, a Christian Palestinian who has given his life for peace in the midst of a reality that knows very little of peace. This is not a one way relationship where I simply go to “serve” him. No, he often “serves” and teaches me far more of what it means to follow Jesus than I teach him. It is a genuine, mutually edifying friendship. It’s crazy the types of experience and relationships you build when you follow Jesus into the places you’ve been called. What a gift.

7. When the Church Embraces Her Vocation as an Instrument of Peace in the World, Wrong Things Will Begin to be Made Right.

It is both terrifying and convicting hearing from person after person living in the Holy Land (Israeli and Palestinian) how much of an impact the American Church has on the continuation or the resolution of the current conflict between Israel & Palestine. They, very tangibly, feel the impact of our theology and politics being played out on their streets, in their homes and shaping the future of their children. Whether we like it or not, this is the reality and we have to take it seriously. For too long (about 100 years specific to our engagement in this region), the Church has given more allegiance to war making and nationalism that it has to the Kingdom of God and the Way of the Cross. Thankfully, the tide is turning and our friends in the Holy Land are celebrating our realignment with peacemaking and reconciliation as is central to the Mission of God and embodied in the life and teachings of Jesus 

I’m a more convicted than ever that the Way of Jesus, and the Church as an embodied manifestation of this Way, is the most constructive way to bring about peace in the world. In other words, when the Church embraces her vocation as an instrument of peace, wrong things will begin to be made right in the world. What an honor to be part of and worthy cause to give our lives to!

A Prayer for Peace; in Syria and Around the World

TGIP13-6814-LToday’s of millions of people all around the world are committing to prayer and fasting for the peace of Syria. We know that the peace of Syria has direct implications for peace in other parts of our Global Village. The stakes are high. We must be on our knees. Further, we must arise with actions that lead to transformation. 

My friend, Brian McLaren, wrote this beautiful and profound prayer to center us on the things that matter most on this day of intercession. He offered it to be shared for the global community of God, so let’s each take five minutes and join hands with our brothers and sisters for the sake of a new day.  

“Living God, our world is broken-hearted by the atrocity of chemical weapons being used in Syria, killing children, women, and men indiscriminately. And our hearts grieve no less for the many tens of thousands killed and millions displaced by the civil war there.

We pray for peace, God of peace: not just the cessation of conflict, but a new day of reconciliation, civility, and collaboration for the common good … in the Middle East, and around the world.

We also pray for the United States, whose leaders are contemplating military strikes in retaliation for the atrocity, to punish those who ordered it, and to deter those who might plan similar atrocities in the future. We acknowledge that our leaders are trying to do what is needed and right, based on the understanding they have. But on this day, as millions of us around the world pray, we ask for greater wisdom, greater understanding, greater foresight, so that we can find new, better, and non-violent ways to achieve lasting and profound peace. 

We know from bitter experience that “our” violence promises to end “their” violence, but in the end, it only intensifies vicious cycles of offense and revenge. We also know from bitter experience that inaction and passivity also aid and abet evil. So on this day, we seek your wisdom, for a better way forward … a new way that we do not yet see.

We Americans sense that our nation is on the verge of rethinking its role in the world. In this moment of rethinking, we also pray for guidance. Help us learn from past mistakes, and help us imagine better possibilities for the future. In this time of political tension and turmoil -- not only between, but within our political parties -- may your Spirit move like the wind and give us a fresh vision of what can be, so that we do not repeat old, tired, and destructive cycles of what has been. May the wisdom and ways of Jesus, upon whom your Spirit descended like a dove, guide us now -- to a wise and responsible role as good neighbors in our world. Amen”

Syria: The Stuff No One Wants To Talk About

TGIP 13I have read countless articles from political, religious and ethical perspectives on why or why not the U.S. should militarily intervene against the Syrian regime. Most do a decent job evaluating the situation, but I am yet to read one that really puts the human element on the table as a deciding factor.

A few months ago I was going to bed in my hotel room in Tel Aviv when I saw the breaking news alert that there was rocket exchange between Hamas and Israel in and around Gaza. While I have been to many places in “conflict,” there is something much different about being somewhere that is only miles away from live fire. 

I started playing out the situation in my head: “What if this expands into a major conflict? Can I catch a flight back home to be with my family before it gets worse? I’m only 30-40 miles away from the active conflict, am I already in range sitting in this hotel room?”

Anxiety. Fear. Uncertainty.   

Now let me be clear, that experience of anxiety and fear is NOTHING compared to what most Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians or Syrians have felt in recent years (and MANY other populations). But -- even if only in some small way -- I could immediately feel the weight of pending war. It is palpable. It is crippling. And if I had my family with me, it would have potentially been unbearable.  

Reality is, I’m a product of Western isolation and security that has never put me in a position to experience the anxiety, fear and uncertainty of war. With the exception of refugees, military and limited segments of Americans, most of us haven’t. Yet, we are often the ones who get to determine whether or whether not others in our Global Village experience the realities of war. We read the latest headlines, hear a few sound bites and in the next moment passionately argue our views around the water cooler or dinner table.  

Let’s be honest, it’s easy to make decisions and take sides when you live half way across the globe from the actual conflict. We are so removed from the realities that it is impossible for us to fully embrace and confront the human elements of war.  

There is a family in Syria as I type this.  

The kids just returned home from school. It’s not like it used to be. No longer a place for rigorous academic learning, it has become a place of underlying fear at the daily violence. Further, the kids are now hearing that the largest military super power may start sending missiles their direction. 

When the father gets home from work, he tries to reassure his kids that everything will be ok, but he knows full well that they may never gather around the dinner table again as a complete family. Unsure what to talk about, he encourages them to prepare for their evening prayers (whether from the Muslim or Christian tradition) as a way to create a semblance of normalcy.  

They plead to God for peace.   

Imagine that being your family.

Of course, sitting here in the West, there are very few of us that could even pretend to know what that feeling is like, but let’s at least give it a shot. We have to. Our decisions and actions here in the West don’t just magically evaporate in a political vacuum or rallying cry on our favorite news station. Our decisions and actions have direct implications for humans beings just like you and me.

Yes, I know we are only shooting at military targets.

Yes, I know these people may have it worse from the Assad regime. 

Yes, I get that civilian death is a reality of war. 

I get it. 

While all those things could be argued against (which I won’t do here), all I’m proposing is that we enter the human reality for a moment before we begin waging our wars of rhetoric.   

It is beyond me how we as Christians could for one second try to talk about this decision outside the reality of real human beings, living in real time and space just like us.  

On a human level we now have a responsibility. 

On one hand, we can’t simply launch missiles into this region that kills innocent civilians (which they will) and then go eat a burrito and talk about our fantasy football teams.  

On the other hand, we can’t simply stand idle as tens of thousands of innocent civilians are being killed by a regime that devalues life.  

Friends, our decisions matter and all their complexities must be put on the table. Simple black and white, party line decisions have no place here. These are God’s children we are referring to and if we can’t sit around their dinner table at the end of another day of soccer games, school yard disagreements, work drama and everyday life, then we better at least do our best to make decisions as if we have.

An Inconvenient & Unlikely Experience of Peacemaking

OrthodoxJewishManWe often associate the work of peacemaking with grand political agreements or far out euphoria that really isn’t worth our time and effort.  The more I understand the work of peacemaking through the life and teachings of Jesus, the more I realize peacemaking isn’t a far off ideal, but the very real and tangible realities we choose to live into each day.  

I’m currently in the Holy Land to dive deep into the places of conflict to learn from the peacemakers embedded within.  It would be easy for me to think the “peacemaking” stuff would wait until I got deep into the West Bank or in an Israeli Settlement, but no, it began the moment I got off the plane.  

I was the first person on the Sheruit (mini bus taxi) headed to Jerusalem.  As I picked out my ideal seat, I settled in to soak up the culture and geography in our ascent into the Judean hill country toward Jerusalem.  Minding my own business, the bus began to fill up with other passengers; a couple from Spain, two younger women appearing to be on pilgrimage and 4 or 5 Orthodox Jewish men.  As I settled in, the bus driver tapped me on the shoulder and began talking to me in Hebrew.  He quickly realized I was an English speaker and proceeded to ask if I would be willing to move from my prime seat in the front to the very back, middle seat.  I was a bit confused until I took a second to assess the situation.  

All the Orthodox men were looking at me and I realized that the only seat left for the last Orthodox man to come in the bus was next to a woman in this back middle seat.  Knowing that Orthodox Jewish men aren’t supposed to sit next to woman, this was an issue.  I was in no way obligated to move, but my choice became quite clear.  I could stay in my seat and put my Orthodox friend in a precarious spot that would have led to further chaos among everyone on the bus, or I could give up my prime seat and take the back, middle seat that would probably lead to carsickness.  Whether good intentioned or just feeling a bit intimidated by everyone starring at me, I picked up my stuff and gave the man my seat. 

Naturally, the woman who he wouldn’t sit next to was quite offended and confused.  We talked a bit and it turned to friendly laughter.  

A few minutes later, another Orthodox man came in and was faced with a similar situation that would have had him sit by another of the woman on the bus.  Before the situation could turn to what we had all just experienced, I quickly grabbed up my stuff and once again moved to a strategic seat that would keep all the Orthodox separated from the women.  

It may sound silly or insignificant, but these micro acts of peacemaking matter.  They not only do honor to the traditions and convictions of others, they reflect the best of our faith and tradition as followers of Jesus.  As we dropped off each man at their respective homes across Jerusalem, they looked at me with genuine gratitude and said, “Thank you.”

In the Holy Land, the temptation is to tune out the modern realities of everyday life and transport oneself back into the historical; which is understandable!  Even as the interaction unfolded above, we were driving through the land where the ancient Philistines lived near the coast, into the foothills and up into the Judean hills where Jerusalem rises above it all. These are important realities that are a significant part of a pilgrimage as we connect with earlier parts of our faith story. With that said, the Jesus Way always requires us to put human relationship above any mental time warp that may cause us to disengage from the realities surrounding us.  Yes, we can worship through history, but worshiping through loving humanity is our primary call and vocation.  

The work of peacemaking is everyday and unfolds in all of life.  Even (if not especially!) in these seemingly insignificant micro actions of selfless love.

Why is the Holy land such a dynamic place to be formed in this way? Because there is a collision of dramatically contesting worldviews and traditions.

We must listen. We must learn. And we must act while being the presence of reconciliation Jesus called us to be. 

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