Last night, 20 SARAH Sisters gathered to discuss the tension created in our world, our country, our community and especially our heart around the Gaza issue.
We started our meeting with an opening blessing and message of hope and love by Rev. Adelia Sandoval. After some announcements and general business, we began our discussion. Before starting, we read (out loud) together our "rules" of sacred dialogue as inspired by Rev. Kay Lindahl and her book The Sacred Art of Listening. We all agreed that Dialogue is a muscle that must be exercised and that we would carry the awareness of these basic concepts out into the world after our meeting. Below is the agreement which was printed on the back of our Agenda for the evening.
We also promised to respect the "Ouch Policy" as inspired by Women Transcending Boundaries (www.wtb.org). We did not need to use it last night but it provided a net of safety around us enabling us to express ourselves freely.
Besides the obvious need to have this conversation about Gaza, what really prompted this conversation was an email that was sent out comparing the Holocaust to the Israeli/Gaza conflict. Naturally, this brought to the surface the division amongst us and inflamed some feelings. While this concept is held by (according to one Muslim SARAH Sister) most of the Arab world, or at least enough to demonstrate the magnitude of division of this comparison where in contrast the other side is highly offended and sees it as an unfair and insulting relationship. While one shared that the comparison was to make a statement that all killing is wrong, it was also shared that politics of the Middle East are so complicated that we may never know really what is going on so making these statements actually fuel the intolerance in our world.
A few SARAH Sisters expressed their hopes to develop a sub meeting of SARAH to discuss political views, a position we have strayed from because of the belief that politics divides and our vision is to focus on our core values and foster peace through an understanding of one another's faiths. Our political beliefs also shape who we are so this group is empowered to meet, only after agreeing to the attached rules of dialogue.
Our dialogue last night consistently led us back to what we could do to prevent religiously motivated violence for future generations. What could we, as a group of women impact the world with so that the world never equates an act of violence as a religiously inspired initiative. If we disarm terrorists with the leverage that no one will accept their statements of what their "book" tells them is so, we can stop the cycle. And not just the cycle the terrorists mobilize but the hatred and intolerance of the masses who either agree with them or associated everyone of that faith as a conscientious believer.
One action step is in alignment with our (Bowe's) Community Building Initiative of promoting interfaith collaboration in our communities in the form of Sacred Site Visits where churches are invited to services at synagogues and mosques, etc. The same focus group will arrange panel discussions at the various institutions with a diverse panel addressing the very issue of misuse or our faiths. Press releases and a press conference are a couple of other action steps that were mentioned.
We are forming this focus group so, if you would like to participate in any way, please let me know now. We could provide a model that everyone in the URI world could implement.
The first step we must take is within our hearts. We all are asked to take a "heart check" and ask ourselves if we are harboring ill feelings and are we practicing the very values we, as SARAH Sisters promote. It's easy to agree to the rules (attached) but are we really practicing them in our daily behavior. I know I catch myself often with assumptions and perceptions that may not be balanced. If we don't have peace in our hearts, we cannot manifest peace in the world. It must begin in our heart.
as inspired by The Sacred Art of Listening by Kay Lindahl
“The art of Dialogue is a muscle to be strengthened and exercised.”
Express your personal response
Listen without judgment
Listen for understanding
Ask clarifying questions or open-ended questions
Honor silence and time for reflection
One person speaks at a time
Use “I” Language
Avoid these “slippery” words
We all know…
All you (they) have to do is….
All of us…
Ouch Policy- we agree to respect the needs of any one of us who may be unintentionally offended by a comment or feel the conversation is not productive. Following the “Ouch”, we will observe a minute of meditative silence and address the “Ouch”.
“Ouch Policy” inspired by Women Transcending Boundaries