Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Alternatives to Violence

If we'd like to hear some alternatives to violence, the news isn't good! This morning, as I write this, the death toll in the school shooting in Pakistan was 148. These were mostly kids killed, the future of Pakistan. 

Last night it was one of the top three stories on the evening news. The second story was about the 6 murders in Pennsylvania by the Iraq war veteran, who in the midst of a huge hunt for him, apparently took his own life. Some reports gave grisly details. One of his victims had his/her throat cut. The vet died of cuts to his midsection. There's debate about whether he suffered from PTSD. He obviously suffered from something. And I guess we don't have to look to ISIS for grisly. 

The third story was about the shooting at the cafe in Australia. What can I say? Even "down under" suffers from the madness.

Wars didn't even get a mention last night. And the continued killing of young black men has probably run it's course in the media. They gave Trayvon and Michael and Eric some print or air time, but they can only keep the attention of a tired readership for so long, before we go to sleep again. Still, if you saw the video of 12 year old Tamir in Cleveland being shot and killed, it's hard to go to sleep on that one without having nightmares.

So here we are, just a few days from Christmas, when Christians around the world celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace. Fortunately, the path to peace is clear. The Prince of Peace has a program. We simply need to heed it!

We have the knowledge to provide a path to peace! Never in our history have we had so many minds teaching and writing about it. There are Peace and Conflict Studies programs at leading colleges and universities all over the globe, including at our own SDSU. We have African American Studies and Women's Studies and Native American Studies programs to help us grasp the history of our separation from each other and what we need to do to become one people. 

Organizations like the Einstein Institute in Cambridge, MA support research in nonviolent social change. That research makes the history of the human community nonviolently throwing off dictatorships and oppressive systems available to all, often in several languages.

We can teach and learn the skills of peaceful conflict resolution. There are programs available in conflict resolution, violence prevention, bias awareness and peer mediation for teachers and school systems. Organizations like CRC-Global out of Nyack, NY are taking these programs to schools and young people around the globe. They have trained people right here in Brookings, enabling them to provide these skill building resources to children and youth in the Northern Plains. These programs can make a difference, giving the troubled child skills to confront their troubles creatively.

There are organizations implementing both the knowledge and the skills of peacemaking in situations of conflict around the planet. One of my favorites is Peace Brigades International. Started in 1981 at the request of Mothers of the Disappeared in Guatemala, unarmed volunteers from other countries accompanied these courageous women working for  knowledge about their husbands and sons who had been "disappeared" and for basic human rights. Over the years, working in El Salvador, Colombia, Indonesia, Nepal, Mexico, North America, Sri Lanka and Guatemala, PBI volunteers have developed, in the field, the ways of peace, often at great personal risk.

And we have available to us the spiritual grounding for a pathway to peace. All of the world's great religious traditions teach a way of peace. None, rightly understood, propose a path of violence or war. We certainly see aberrations in all the traditions. And religion is often used by those in power, or seeking it, to justify hatred and violence. But the great majority of religious leadership and adherents in any of the traditions will decry any religious justification for abandoning a path to peace. Simply put, there is no spiritual grounding for violence.

Jesus said, "Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you." I know someone who prays daily for the person who abused her as a child. I know people who struggle daily to love their enemy. I think of Martin Luther King counseling love to civil rights workers suffering body blows from their "enemies." But King made clear it was a "tough love" he was advocating. It was a fearless love. Because real love, as the Bible makes clear, casts out fear.

Increasingly, those of us in the U.S. are a fearful people. And there are many who have a stake in keeping us afraid and making us even more fearful. They make guns and video games, drones and nuclear weapons, tanks and body armor, bushmasters and security systems. We face what the apostle Paul called principalities and powers. It will take some spiritually grounded, skilled and knowledgeable people, to set us on the right path again.

There's an effort underway to provide a few young people with that foundation in knowledge, skill and spiritual grounding. You can access the effort on the web at:  In the interest of transparency, yours truly is involved in this effort. In the face of the horrendous escalation of violence we see around the planet, one can do no less.

Carl Kline

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