Finding Peace in a Violent World
Today I found within me a new found and deeper respect for Nelson Mandela and Ghandi. Their ability to remain true to themselves and their values when others were calling for revenge, violence and exclusion is what I am modelling. The way to peace is not found in retaliation. It is not that I condone the actions of those few who choose violence against people going about their normal lives, I do not, yet I also understand that we are not entirely innocent. We did not make ourselves loud enough or clear enough when Iraq was invaded for no good reason, and Western governments have often supported extremists for their own end, only to turn on them when they are no longer controllable. Nor do we stand in solidarity with others who have suffered in the same way, like the people of Lebanon the day before the Paris assault.
I will not join in the conversation that says we are doing the right thing by closing our borders, that putting people into indefinite detention on small islands is the way to solve a migration problem. People need to work, to be able to contribute for their lives to have meaning and purpose. All people want their basic needs met, food on the table and somewhere safe to sleep, they want to be useful, they want to be included, they want significance and connection. Where these needs are not met in productive ways they will meet them in unproductive ways, like joining extremist groups that make them feel like they are able to contribute something. In making people feel “less than” we are contributing to the problem.
We also need to ask ourselves where does it stop? Lately we have been sending New Zealand citizens to detention centres for indefinite periods because they have ‘not being perfect’. Instantly I hear the outcry, but these are murderers, hardened criminals, people who have carried out assaults, not the type of people we want in our country. That is a generalization; it is not true of everyone that has been detained awaiting deportation. Through generalization, we justify that what we are doing is a good thing, ignoring the facts of some of the individual cases.
Bore down a little deeper and we see the same attitude creep in about the unemployed, those with disabilities, or the elderly who are unable to support themselves. They are classed as burdens, the stereo type is that they are “less than” and they are treated accordingly by the people who are meant to be helping them. They often feel excluded from the wider population and therefore they can act out in unproductive ways.
Peace starts with every individual, it starts with the values that we have, it starts with the realization that we are all connected. That if we do not recognise the worth of every person, simply because they are a person, we are contributing to a violent world. We allow all the freedom of their faith, their beliefs, and their contribution. We apply our laws fairly to all, what is unacceptable for one to do, is unacceptable for all. And that is where all distinction should end. The colour of skin, or the country of origin means nothing, we are all from the same world. The Muslim in the expression of their faith is no different to the New Age or Pagan in theirs. We have to allow others the right to choose.
We do not have to all fit the one mould. We do not have to stop a person from behaving in certain ways to validate our own beliefs. We just have to remain true to our own values and beliefs in the most productive way possible in the way that Mandela and Ghandi did.
Love and Light