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Archive for the ‘Empathy’ Category



What Kids4Peace Can Teach Us About Peace

Jun4

by: Susan Bloch on June 4th, 2015 | 18 Comments »

An Israeli and Palestinian girl embracing each other.

At Kids4Peace, an interfaith community of Israeli, Palestinian, and North American youth and educators, the next generation of peacemakers is learning how nonviolent communication facilitates listening and understanding rather than judgement. Credit: Mandy Price.

“The Puget Sound is really a mess,” one of my grandchildren told me recently.

It’s so polluted. Did you know even the orcas are contaminated with toxic chemicals.”

Determined to build a better future, our kids want to find new ways to make themselves heard — in the classroom, by their parents, communities, and politicians. It’s easy for parents to think their kids are only interested in the latest football results, lose sleep over what to wear to graduation, and spend far too much time playing games on their phones. In reality youth are also texting and blogging about police brutality, melting icecaps, and how to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. They worry how we’ll ever get out of the mess.

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Religious Discrimination and Bullying

Jun3

by: on June 3rd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

A tableau graphic of the AFDI's winning Draw Muhammad cartoon.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Tjebbe van Tijen.

Imagine this: You read on a Facebook page that people opposing your religion have planned a large-scale protest rally at the major Christian church in your home town on your Sabbath day of prayer. The organizers instruct their supporters to bring posters denouncing Christianity and pictures of Jesus on the cross wearing a Hitler-style mustache with captions reading: “He Deserved To Die,” and “He Was a False Messiah,” because, as stated on Facebook, “…it’s what needs to take place in order to expose the true colors of Christianity.”

At the protest rally, organizers will be selling and wearing T-shirts announcing: F— Christianity. “Everyone is encouraged to bring American Flags and any message that you would like to send to Christians,” continued the message on Facebook. Though organizers have promoted the demonstration as a First Amendment “Freedom of Speech” rally, they urge supporters to carry weapons to express their Second Amendment rights as well.

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Right or Wrong? Climate Change

Jun1

by: David Morgan on June 1st, 2015 | Comments Off

Some people claim, “Environmentalism is just another religion” to rebut people who link climate change to human activity. What about organizations such as Jesus People Against Pollution, which cite Scripture? Are their views grounded in the Bible?

I have no doubt organizations that support environmentalism can find strong scriptural foundations. Care for creation is embedded in the creation accounts of Genesis and in Christians’ responsibility to care for the marginalized in society. I have addressed this subject in earlier “Right or Wrong?” articles titled “Building ‘green’” and “Going green.”

Oil refineries and their smokestacks emitting greenhouse gases at twilight.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Kris Krüg.


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The Mark of Cain. It’s Not What You Think It Is.

May19

by: Norman Allen on May 19th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Stained glass Cain and Abel.

In condemning Dzhokar Tsarnaev to death, we would do well to remember Cain and Abel. Even after murdering his brother, Cain is shown unthinkable mercy and protection from God. Above, stained glass from the Genesis story in Fairford Parish Church, England. Credit: CreativeCommons / Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s death sentence, handed down on May 15, serves as the grand finale to a year of public discussion about capital punishment. The Supreme Court is considering the potential cruelty of lethal injections, and Kelly Renee Gissendaner lives under a stay of execution in Georgia, prompted by fears of another “botched execution,” like the one experienced by Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma last spring. It seems a good time to step back and revisit what the Bible’s authors have to say about that book’s first murderer, and the consequences of his actions.

I found the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, remembering from my Sunday School days that God punishes the murderer with the “Mark of Cain,” a sort of brand that ensures Cain will spend the rest of his days as an outcast. I quickly learned, though, that my memory — or my Sunday School teacher — had it totally wrong.

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Astronomy and Theism Are Not Incompatible

May16

by: Huma Munir on May 16th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A telescope at sunset.

"Astronomy teaches us humility and compassion," writes Huma Munir. "Of all human virtues, humility is probably the most beautiful and important."

In 1990, spacecraft Voyager 1 took one last photo of the Earth from 6 billion kilometers away before drifting further into outer space. The Earth stood out no more than a tiny dot against the vast expanse of darkness in the space.

Inspired by the photo, famous astrophysicist and atheist, Carl Sagan, wrote a book titled Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. In it, he said studying astronomy can be a humbling and a character-building experience. Though Sagan did not believe in a higher power, his work has greatly inspired me to connect with God, and has led me on a journey of self-reformation.

In many senses, and contrary to popular belief, astronomy is helpful to religious believers.

Firstly, it teaches us that the world is limitless.

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Cartoons of Free Speech or Hate? Redux

May12

by: on May 12th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

"Love is a human right" poster lying on the pavement outside.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Samantha Marx.

This is the second in my series of commentaries on the American Freedom Defense Initiative and its “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” held recently in Garland, Texas.

In my first commentary, I discussed the controversy surrounding the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative’s (AFDI) cartoon caricature context of the Prophet Muhammad where two men opened fire on a security officer stationed outside the contest building. The officer brought down the shooters killing them both. By my bringing attention to the Islamophobia guiding AFDI’s event, a few readers of my commentary accused me of “blaming the victims.”

In actuality, I did no such thing. AFDI and its leader, Pamela Geller, have a far-reaching history of Islam bashing, and their event in Texas fit clearly into that framework. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate group, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization. To caricature the Prophet Muhammad, while clearly protected by the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause, can also be seen as an act of hate and bullying for the goal of insulting, inciting, inflaming, demeaning, and provoking.

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Remembering and Rebuilding: Sandra, the Righteous Gentile

May12

by: Susan Bloch on May 12th, 2015 | 29 Comments »

When I heard the news that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai massacre, was recently released from a Pakistani prison on bail, I stared at the TV in disbelief.He had been accused of personally planning and directing the three-day rampage at India’s commercial capital that killed hundreds of people. Yet the Lahore High Court had dismissed the detention orders issued by the Punjab government, claiming insufficient evidence for a conviction. Lakhvi’s meticulously executed plan had destroyed the lives of many deliberately targeted Westerners and Jews. Bullets were sprayed at local bystanders, including commuters at the crowded train station, and anyone who just happened to be in the path of Lakhvi’s well-trained gunmen.

His release made no sense. Confessions of two of the terrorists — recently executed, Ajmal Kasab and American jihadist, David Headley –confirmed that the accused had personally directed the gunmen by satellite phone from a safe house in Karachi. What was the judge thinking?

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Call Off the Warriors and Call in the Mediators (or psychologists or musicians)

May8

by: Edith Lutz on May 8th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Israeli soldiers standing next to a tank.

The perennially increasing military budgets of world powers have resulted in unprecedented militarization, in the middle of which often sits Israel. Peace, on the other hand, is a child of nonviolent communication and empathy. Credit: CreativeCommons / Palestine Solidarity Project.

Promoting the capacity for empathy and supporting measures that help to develop empathy would be the better way to pave the path towards peace in the Middle East — and perhaps the only viable one.

It would certainly be a cheaper one. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) the total sum of the world’s military expenditures in 2014 amounted to 1,776 billion dollars. With $610 billion, the United States was far and away at the top of the league. The U.S.A. exported armaments worth more than $20 billion, making it the world’s leading exporter, too. In some cases the United States is very generous and offers additional military aid (supporting their own killing industry in the process). Israel, for example, is such a beneficiary. It receives military aid of about $3 billion annually. The U.S. has also helped with additional aid in special cases, such as the funding of the Iron Drone project with $429 million in March 2014 or with $576 million for the Tamir interception missiles in July 2014 (Haaretz,10 March/18 Aug 2014). Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. “In the interest of U.S. national security” and despite the protests of human rights activists, the States is going to resume its frozen military aid. President Obama has asked the Congress for $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt per year. (Reuters)

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The Present Hidden Holocaust

May4

by: Yanna Bat Adam on May 4th, 2015 | Comments Off

As my physical body grows old and older, there is in parallel, an essence aware of itself that becomes younger and younger.

Two opposite movements that don’t contradict each other in any way as there is a sense of wonder in becoming older/younger at the same time.

When life is seen as a miracle even the Holocaust is perceived as a gift of the One and Only Force of Nature.

A painting of an eye with a heart for the iris, with a blue background.

A David State of Heart, Yanna, 2015.

When we are identified with our physical body, trying endlessly to meet its corporeal needs for food, sex, family, money, respect control and knowledge we see the world from the 1st story of a 10-story building.

This perspective does not enable us to see much.

Imagine you see the world from the angle of a crawling snake that continuously looks for something to hunt.

We are trapped like animals in a human form, trying to survive as best as possible as do other beasts. It sometimes feels that animals are more “civilized” than us “humans.”

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On Power and Violence (Baltimore, for example)

Apr30

by: Aryeh Cohen on April 30th, 2015 | Comments Off

A black and white photograph of a black woman holding a sign that says "Unite Here!"

Credit: CreativeCommons / Dorret.

Watching, reading, and thinking about Baltimore, the killing of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police, and the current nonviolent and violent reactions to that killing, I keep going back to Hannah Arendt. Arendt, in her essay on violence, draws an important distinction between violence and power.

Politically speaking, it is not enough to say that power and violence are not the same. Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course its end is the disappearance of power. This implies that it is not correct to say that the opposite of violence is nonviolence: to speak of nonviolent power is actually redundant. Violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it. (Reflections on Violence)

The power that concerns Arendt is the power of political communities. Power is the result of people coming together for political ends. Or as Arendt says: “Power needs no justification as it is inherent in the very existence of political communities.” However, Arendt here adds a supremely important caveat: “What, however, it does need is legitimacy.” Power is dependent on legitimacy. This is why violence is the opposite of power. When the power of a political community is legitimate, when it is recognized as legitimate by those who form the community, then there is no need for the violence of domination. It is only when legitimacy disappears that violence takes center stage.

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