I just wanted to follow up on my last blog post entitled "The Touchy Subject of Religion". And by the way, a big thank you to Jeff Thompson for adding it to your blog "What's Happening in Conflict Resolution".
If you want, go back and read it first but I wanted to share a few thoughts about the International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation (ICERM)'s Living Together Movement forum. We meet every last Thursday of the month in NYC. There is always a great rush of oxytocin after an intellectual sharing session such as this and the benefits are ongoing ... I hope, for all.
We had a small but mighty group with 7 attendee's. 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 Branch Davidians, Jim Jones of the Jonestown Massacre, or ISIS. Maybe they were never faithful servants but they were babies at one time none-the-less.
This lead 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". (Amazon link below)
What we extracted from a segment on Understanding Strangers is a series of choices we have when encountering "Others". We can choose war, building a wall, or entering 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:
Search LivingTogetherMovement - NYC on Facebook for our group, which you may join.
My email address if you have questions - email@example.com
Our meeting time and place is 28 E. 35th street in midtown Manhattan at 6:30, the last Thursday of the month. (Look for the red door and ring the doorbell.)
Facilitator for the Living Together Movement - NYC (a project of the International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation)