Passionately naming and undoing oppressions is one of my favorite and most intense spiritual practices. The movement centered around Jesus–the renewal he envisioned and the revelation he embodied–I believe calls all members to this practice.
For me, the process of examining and addressing interpersonal and structural oppression wherever others or I observe it is the external aspect of the internal acts of confession and repentance.
I define oppression as something that presses in one someone or something else, causing it not to have deep-breathing room, impeding fullness of life.
Since September 2012 I have been working on these issues through a full-time opportunity with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). In an article entitled “Embodying Peace, Transforming Violence,” published in The Other Journal, I outline my beliefs and my work with CPT. Click here if you’d like to read it.
Other thoughts on religious peacemaking:
“Traditions, as Cornel West likes to say, are the like the wind at our back. We are lucky that previous generations struggled to send that wind our way, and it is our responsibility to provide it to the next generation. The stories of self-us-now we tell today are simply the next chapter in an overarching narrative of hope, justice, and pluralism.” -Eboo Patel, Interfaith Youth Core
“If I had to convey a single message to U.S. foreign policy practitioners, it would be that religion matters. For good or for ill, religion is increasingly important in our world. What’s more, the nature of religion in many places is changing; it is becoming more dynamic, more activist, and more political. While the majority of religious movements are peaceful, some errant ideologies are at work justifying and encouraging violence. These ideologies must be countered, and countered effectively. Military force can never fully protect us from the type of terrorist assaults that have taken place over the past decade. Ideologies must be countered with ideas, and ideologies steeped in religion need to be challenged on religious grounds.” -Douglas M. Johnston, International Center for Religion & Diplomacy
“Tamar’s life could have been different. A princess in David’s kingdom, she would have married into a wealthy family. But that all change with the only [biblically] recorded event of her life, described in the Hebrew Scriptures 2 Samuel 13: A family member forced himself on her, then turned her out of his room. She cried aloud for all to hear, but the one person who did hear, her brother Absalom, counseled her to not take what happened ‘to heart.’ Rarely preached from the pulpit, this is a story that needs to be heard, because what happened to Tamar happens to one in three women and girls today. They are our mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, selves–women and girls harmed by violence and silence. Worldwide, violence against women takes many forms: sexual violence, sexual harrassment, trafficking, ‘honor killings,’ and other forms of murder. Such violence distorts the image of God that is in all of humanity. Victimization is never God’s will–fullness of life is. The church [and all communities of faith] need to help create intentional safe spaces so that healing can begin.” -Aimee Kang, Sojourner’s Magazine February 2013, page 9.
Lara Medina of the interdisciplinary Chican@ Studies Department
Maestra Olivia Chumacero of the Rarámuri Indigenous tradition
Larry Ward of the Lotus Institute for Engaged Buddhism
Rabbi Laura Geller of Temple Emmanue in lthe Reformed Jewish Tradition
Shakeel Syed of the Islamic Shura Council of Los Angeles/Orange County
Rev. Dr. James Lawson, longtime nonviolent activist
In July 2013 I led a 6 person delegation on behalf of Hope Equals to Palestine and Israel. There were heard Mohammed Al-Azzah’s story of police brutality, humiliation and injury. He was in jail at that time, so it was his uncle who shared about it with us. Please read the coverage here in +972 a leftist Israeli online zine.
It’s also really important to know about other people’s holidays. Vaisakhi represents the founding of the Sikh community, known as the Khalsa and is celebrated on April 14 every year. “With the distinct Khalsa identity, Guru Gobind Singh gave all Sikhs the opportunity to live lives of courage, sacrifice, and equality. These Sikhs were to dedicate their lives to the service of others and the pursuit of justice.” The panj pyare (five beloved ones) all exemplified certain qualities. These principles radiate throughout the Sikh faith. They are: kindness, justice and righteousness, organization, courage, and majesty.
Jonathan and I wrote a video series, at the request of Mennonite Mission Network, called Stir Up Peace. It’s available at here. Study guide coming in the Fall of 2021.