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A Hindu Call to Action in Fighting Climate Change


by: Murali Balaji on November 25th, 2015 | No Comments »

Editor’s Note: A version of this piece first appeared on the Huffington Post.

At the end of this month, leaders from around the globe will convene in Paris for the latest round of talks to combat climate change and global warming.

For the first time, Hindu teachings will take a prominent role in this effort, as a growing coalition of Hindu organizations, leaders, and interfaith allies are ramping up efforts to protect Matru Bhumi through the Bhumi Devi ki Jai! A Hindu Declaration on Climate Change.

The declaration, first signed six years ago, is now back on the frontlines as the majority of world leaders are finally acknowledging the reality of climate change and the urgency of fighting it.

The declaration, authored by the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies and the Bhumi Project, with support from the Hindu American Foundation, is a call to action for the world’s approximately 900 million Hindus to take the lead in combating global warming. As Hindu leaders note, the effort highlights the natural leadership of Hindu scriptures in calling for action.

The declaration, in part, reads:

“Today, with the 2015 Paris Climate Conference nearly upon us, members of the global Hindu community again urge strong, meaningful action be taken, at both the international and national level, to slow and prevent climate change. Such action must be scientifically credible and historically fair, based on deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through a transition away from polluting technologies, especially away from fossil fuels. A transition towards using 100-percent clean energy is desperately needed, as rapidly as is possible in every nation. Doing so provides the only basis for sustainable, continued human development. It is the best hope for the billions of people without electricity or clean cooking facilities to live better lives and reduce poverty.”


When It Is Difficult to Love


by: on November 23rd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

How does one love Daesh?

How does one love a racist who uses expletives and excrement to show disrespect for an entire group of people?

Before the tragic terrorist attacks on Paris, Friday November 13, 2015, my mind was occupied with the recent events at the University of Missouri. As a black woman in America, I have been on the receiving end of hateful racial slurs thrown my way, so I know how that feels. I know the sense of vulnerability. However, I must confess the insults never make me feel less about myself, and it always takes a few seconds before I realize that I have been insulted. I am usually lost in thought about what I am doing, where I am going, and what I will do when I get there.

I never feel less about myself because my sense of self is rooted in my faith. When I was a little girl in Sunday School, my teachers told me that I was a child of the king, meaning King Jesus who was one with the Father, the Creator God. I believed them then, and I believe them now. Since then, I have often thought about who or what God is and the character of God’s love for us. I believe that God was before the beginning and will be after the end. God has created all that there is on the earth and in the earth and all the galaxies inside an ever expanding universe. I believe that this creative life force in its essence is Divine Love, and this Love loves me personally. It knows my name and cares about me in the most mundane ways. I pray for God to help me find earrings and parking spaces.

So, I do not take insults personally. I usually wonder: what is wrong with the person who has tried to insult me. Similarly, terrorists do not frighten me. I believe that the same God who protects me every day from “all hurt harm and danger” will protect me from the terrorists, and if S/He does not, I will still give God all the glory and honor and praise. I wonder the same thing about terrorists that I wonder about the racist who wants to insult with words: what is wrong with these people?

What would make a person think it is a good idea to use human excrement to smear a wall at a university dormitory? Do they realize that the first person they must offend is themselves? They have to handle the feces. They have to smell it. They have to lower themselves to pick it up. What do they get in return? Do they think that the insult to another person in any way asserts their own superiority? I do not get the logic because in the end, these actions only make the perpetrator look small and ignorant and more than a little pathetic.


The Uneven Distribution of Violence and News


by: on November 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

The first I heard of the shootings in Paris was on the email list of the certified trainers with the Center for Nonviolent Communication that I am part of. Someone sent a message of sympathy to the French trainers. I don’t check news, so most often I don’t know the details of what happens. After seeing that message, I looked it up, and then I found out there was a previous and recent such event in Beirut, not nearly as well covered. I instantly felt a pang of wrenching despair about the persistence of these differences in reporting.

I did nothing at the time with that feeling.

Then, when a colleague – Christophe Vincent, originally from France, now residing in Brazil – expressed, in his words, what I experienced as a vastly expanded rendition of my own discomfort, I found my own voice in response to his. This piece emerged from that original response. I am grateful to Christophe for supporting me in this unexpected way, and I quote from his writing, with his permission, later.

Which Violence Counts?

Here is how I finally came to understand my discomfort: It is as if the entire world is complicit in some unconscious belief that violence in some parts of the world is unavoidable, part of life, and therefore not important, and only some parts of the world, those that have managed to export violence elsewhere, or created it elsewhere to begin with through the legacy of their actions, those are the parts of the world about whose rare acts of violence news media speak.


Would Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) – a ranking Jewish House member – have rejected Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis in 1939?


by: on November 19th, 2015 | Comments Off

Today, Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) voted, along with 46 other House Democrats, to suspend the acceptance of all Syrian refugees fleeing terror. It was a shameful vote for the 289 members of Congress who chose fear and callous bigotry as expedient political tools. Even more so for the 47 Democrats who joined their fear-mongering Republican counterparts in an attempt to keep desperate Syrian refugees out of our country.

However, the most shameful vote was that cast by Israel, who understands intimately how Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis were turned away by the United States in 1939. See, Israel is somewhat of an expert on the Holocaust. In fact, as Director of the Touro Law Center in the late 80s, he created the Institute for Holocaust Law and International Human Rights. It’s mission reads:

The Institute For Holocaust Law and International Human Rights aims to understand, explore and evaluate contemporary mechanisms for protecting human rights and the role of law in view of the lessons of the Holocaust and its aftermath.

This bears repeating: it’s mission is to evaluate “contemporary mechanisms for protecting human rights and the role of law in view of the lessons of the Holocaust and its aftermath.”

Apparently, Israel did not fully explore “the lessons of the Holocaust” when he voted today to block Syrians fleeing horrendous violence from finding refuge upon our shores. He did not remember how Jewish refugees turned away by the United States were murdered by Hitler’s genocidal machine. He did not evaluate how those Syrian refugees unable to seek shelter within the world’s richest country will likely be murdered as well.


Fear and Response After Paris…


by: on November 19th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

I have seen on social media and heard from friends the depth of fear that is permeating our society since the attacks in Paris. Seeing and hearing the stories of Parisians who were impacted by the attacks is bringing the violence home in a way that is similar to 9-11. The media is bringing the lives and sorrows of Parisians into our homes with interviews, photos and stories of their lives. This pierces the veil of security and safety in ways that the children washing up on the shores of Europe, starving children around the world and bodies in Beirut did not do. When our government is sending drones into communities, dropping bombs in far away lands, and supporting economic policies and sanctions that create daily suffering and death around the globe, it does not pierce our sense of safety because we can easily (and even realistically) tell ourselves this will not happen to us. We will not be the target of a drone strike or a U.S. bomb and we fail to see the connection between U.S. economic policies on the daily suffering around us as clearly as an attack of the magnitude we saw in Paris. It is as if you can imagine, as one friend said, “Coming soon to a café or theater near you.”

Pablo Picasso, Guernica

So what do we do? How do we respond? Can we really be safe in a world in which violence seems to be the only response to violence? And if so, how? What would you do if someone entered a theater and started shooting? (I want to acknowledge that the likelihood of being killed by a young white man at a school or in a movie theater, or by a drunk driver or in a random car accident, or, if you are African American by a police officer is far greater than the likelihood of being killed by Daesh [ISIL] and yet at this particular moment, that is what is most terrifying.)

I want to explore what underlies this fear, how the Right (and even the hawks on the Left) capitalize on this fear to push their pro-war, pro-weapons agenda and how we might respond in the face of knowing that ultimately there is no way to protect ourselves from random acts of violence anymore then there is a way to protect ourselves from random accidents.


USDAC Statement on Syrian Refugee Crisis


by: on November 19th, 2015 | No Comments »

Note to my readers: This is the text of a statement released today by the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, where I have the honor of serving as Chief Policy Wonk. Signatories include the full USDAC National Cabinet, members of the first and second cohorts of Cultural Agents, and members of the Action Squad. Please share!

The USDAC calls on all artists and creative activists to use our gifts for compassion and justice, sharing images, performances, experiences, writings, and other works of art that raise awareness, build connection, cultivate empathy, and inspire us to welcome those who are forced from homes that are no longer safe.

More than four million Syrians have been driven from their homes, becoming refugees. Although state governors hold no power to bar entry to the U.S., a short time after the acts of terrorism that took lives in Beirut and Paris, more than half have issued statements rejecting Syrian refugees within their borders. Polls have shown that many Americans oppose accepting Syrian refugees. Poll results from the 1930s and 1940s showed majority opposition to accepting German child refugees and Jews; and from the 1970s majority opposition to the admission of refugees from Southeast Asia.

Once again, we must ask:

  • Who are we as a people?
  • What do we stand for?
  • How do we want to be remembered?

As a culture of fear and isolation? Or as a culture that values every human life, extending love and compassion to newcomers needing refuge?


The Land of the Stupid and the Home of the Scared


by: on November 18th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

If we follow the lead of the GOP presidential candidates, the governors of 31 states and various candidates for higher office, we may as well stop singing the national anthem, or to be honest, change the words. Politicians who want to exploit the terroristic tragedies in Paris and in other places around the world to win votes based on fear are reprehensible. They have shown their true priorities, a willingness to say anything for a blessed vote.

On Friday, November 13, 2015, 129 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded in coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, the city of lights. Ongoing investigations have shown that one of the dead terrorists may have been carrying a Syrian passport that, at this writing, is thought to be a forgery. With that scant information, presidential candidates and the fore -mentioned governors have been rushing to say they do not want Syrian refugees coming to their states because the Syrians pose a security threat.

PLEASE. Give me a blessed break.

These people must think that We the People of the United States are stupid or that we have the memory of a mayfly, and its entire life expectancy is only one to twenty-four hours. These politicians must believe that the late Gore Vidal was right when he called the USA the United States of Amnesia. When we consider the acts of terror in the United States, I do not know of any that were perpetrated by refugees. The 9/11 attackers were not refugees but had come into the country as visitors. The Boston Marathon bombers were not refugees. Timothy McVeigh was a United States citizen.


Replace “Syrian” with “Jewish” and we’re back to 1939


by: on November 17th, 2015 | 8 Comments »

American Jews across the United States, repulsed by Republican leaders turning their backs on Syrian refugees fleeing terror, are mobilizing with uncommon unity to support them. That’s because as a community, we collectively remember what happened before the Holocaust, when many of us were murdered by Germany’s genocidal machine after being refused entry into the United States.

In the year 1939, a majority of Americans opposed admitting Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. Some feared there would be Nazi infiltrators amidst the desperate Jewish masses. Others lamented that we couldn’t handle the burden. And too many expressed anti-Jewish sentiments to bolster their rejection of Jews fleeing violence in Europe.


After Paris: Say No to the Militarists and Fear-Mongers, Yes to a Strategy of Generosity


by: on November 15th, 2015 | 10 Comments »

For many years, we at Tikkun and the NSP–Network of Spiritual Progressives have warned that the domination and power-over strategies to achieve “homeland security” have been tried for over 7,000 years and all they have produced is more wars and violence, interspersed with short periods of peace that have, with the help of media and professional apologists for the existing inequalities, managed to hide from public view the degree of covert structural violence that every system of inequality and domination has required.

We have called for a new approach to “homeland security” – the Strategy of Generosity, as manifested in part in our proposed Global Marshall Plan (please download the full version and read it carefully at www.tikkun.org/gmp). It calls for the US to take the leadership with other advanced industrial societies to dedicate 1-2% of their Gross Domestic Product each year for the next twenty years to once and for all eliminate (not just ameliorate) domestic and global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate health care. But it is not only about giving this “objective caring” in the form of economic benefits but also about delivering subjective caring–so that people feel that this is not a bribe but an expression of a new consciousness emerging into the world. Until the powerful countries of the world are seen as mainly driven by a desire to care for the well-being of everyone else on the planet and the wellbeing of the planet itself, and to do so not only out of self-interest but also out of a new consciousness in which we all come to truly understand our mutual interdependence and oneness, what we saw in Paris this past week is destined to be an increasing reality in the coming decades.

The more fear of “the Other,” the more resentment and anger those others will have toward us, and the cycle of violence will become more a part of daily life not only where it already is (mostly in the countries of the Global South and East), but also in the advanced industrial countries. As fear grows, fascistic and racist right-wing forces will grow more popularity, their anti-immigrant policies will be portrayed as “common sense,” their empowering of domestic intelligence forces to invade our private lives will receive greater support, because people will never have heard an alternative path to security as supposedly liberal leaders seek to show that they too can be “tough.” Yet for those of us in the spiritual or religious world, the Torah command to “love the stranger” still resonates, and we could build a very different popular understanding if secular progressives and religious progressives were to unite behind the strategy of generosity rather than simply focusing on resisting the policies of the right.

People need to hear an alternative worldview about what brings on the violence and hurtfulness they see around them in this world. It is only when the people who want a world based on love and justice are willing to explicitly use those words, to explicitly and not just implicitly talk about a strategy of generosity as the alternative to the strategy of domination and fear, that others will feel safe to reconnect to that part of them that actually wants such a world but was afraid to look foolish in a society whose discourse is dominated by the need to show how tough you are to be taken seriously. Healing of our world requires psycho-spiritual sophistication to combat media cynicism and miltarist fear-mongering.


We Are All Hypocrites


by: on November 14th, 2015 | 33 Comments »

Here we go again. Paris is under a state of emergency due to terrorist attacks, and the world is mourning yet again. My heart should bleed, but I am completely numb by now. I don’t think there is a drop of blood left in my heart to shed for innocent victims of yet another heinous, barbaric attack.