"I think there are two things happening at the same time. One is that a lot more backlash is happening, and a lot more fear-mongering--and on the other hand, there's a large group of people who are consciously wanting to find out and learn and understand Islam and Muslims."
For this story, we interviewed Naz Mohamed, who has participated frequently in the Bridging Muslim/Non-Muslim Divides event series we organize with Critical Connections. We spoke about her local interfaith work and her thoughts on what will contribute to better understanding.
By Paula Green, Karuna Center founder
November 2014: This is the third workshop I am facilitating with Combatants for Peace (CfP) on behalf of Karuna Center for Peacebuilding. My co-facilitators this time are Ben Yeger, an Israeli CfP member living in the UK, plus Ali Nassal from Ramallah in the West Bank. Both are new colleagues to me before we begin this workshop.
We are at a particularly critical moment in the escalating violence and increasing dehumanization between Israelis and Palestinians. Especially in Jerusalem, where I stayed before the workshop, tensions are high and both populations feel their wellbeing and sense of security threatened.
Approximately 50 Israeli and Palestinian members of CfP gathered for a 3-day retreat in Beit Sahour, a small village near Bethlehem in the West Bank. The Israeli members of CfP served in the Israeli Defense Force and generally also in reserve duty following their service. Palestine members found their own ways to battle against the occupation, many landing in Israeli jails for long or short durations as a result of their protests. For all the members, some event, incident, or insight served as a wake-up call to relinquish their guns or stones. Somehow, they found their way to Combatants for Peace, where they discovered a new way to engage, this time with words and actions focused on ending the occupation rather than through weapons that cause harm and continue the cycle of violence.
Dear Friends of Karuna Center,
Over the past year, Karuna Center has provided in-depth training to local leaders facing some of the most troubling problems in the world today—within Palestine and Israel, the Central African Republic, Sri Lanka, southern Senegal and the United States. We see in the news that there are at least 2,200 dead in the Israel-Gaza conflict, and 925,000 people displaced by the conflict in the Central African Republic—the tragic list continues, but it does not have to end in tragedy. As people, we have so much more to offer than these sad numbers reveal. With your support this fall, Karuna Center will create new opportunities for people around the world to have a transformative impact on the conflicts affecting their lives.
When I think about what led me to believe so deeply in Karuna Center’s work, a personal story comes to mind. We all have heroes in our lives, and one of mine is the Dalai Lama. While I was serving in the Peace Corps in Mongolia, I attended a meditation session led by the Dalai Lama’s personal physician.
“I have always wanted to talk to the Dalai Lama,” I told his doctor somewhat nervously at the end of the session, “and I’ve been thinking about what I would ask him.” The doctor looked at me with deep kindness and respect, and he allowed me to continue. “I’ve thought about it a lot and what I would like to ask the Dalai Lama is this, ‘How can I help you?’”
He smiled. “That is a wonderful question,” he responded, “one of the best.” Very calmly and with great attention to each word, he looked right at me and said, “I’ve known the Dalai Lama for many decades and I think I know what he would say. He would tell you that the best way to help him is to be the best person you can be. Be the very best version of yourself.”
The world is a complicated place and the news media fill the cup of our attention with suffering and hardship at every turn. I am left with the question, How can being the best version of ourselves change our world? I know this speaks to the heart of Karuna Center’s approach. Maybe that is one reason why the Dalai Lama chose to recognize Karuna Center’s work by giving its founder, Paula Green, an Unsung Heroes of Compassion award in 2009.
Through carefully facilitated dialogue with “enemy” groups, Karuna Center helps people caught in the most damaging conflicts to address deep wounds and discover their common humanity. Together, they bring out the best in themselves, each other, and their societies. Karuna Center strengthens local skills in conflict management, involving broader communities in practical projects to prevent future violence.
I encourage you to learn more about these programs in the attached newsletter. This fall, I will dig deeply to find what more I can contribute to Karuna Center’s mission. I hope you will join me in doing the same, and help us meet our 2014 goal to raise $150,000 from individual donors. I look forward to being part of the very best that Karuna, and all of us, can be.
Travis is a Board member of Karuna Center for Peacebuilding and co-founder of the New Media Foundation. He co-edited the 2014 book Questions for the Dalai Lama: Answers on Love, Success, Happiness & the Meaning of Life.
Donate now for #GivingTuesday!
Karuna in the World is your link to our work around the globe. Check back often to read our inspiring stories or subscribe to our email list to have them sent directly to your email inbox!