Peacemaking and LISTENING.
If there was ever a time for peace, it’s now. We need it. Badly. And I don’t mean the kind of peace that keeps quiet. That’s a kind of keeping the peace that disguises itself as nice and kind but is instead a deeply passive insistence on the status quo. People who “keep the peace” have the luxury of willful blindness and are most likely those who have something to lose if true peace (justice/fairness/equality/rightness) was ever actually made. What we really need right now in our desperate world is true peacemaking. The kind Jesus suggested would usher in the Kingdom of God. Peacemaking — like troublemaking, but turned upside down.
Peacemaking — people with voices who speak up for the underdog and go out of their way to get in the way of injustice, exposing the deep and dark places of racism, hatred, abuse, and oppression in the desperate belief that exposure is the first stop on the train to healing. Peacemaking is an active presence of goodness in the world. It’s a decision to get our heads out of the sand and live into the reality of our current global context. There is so much peace to be made. But where to begin?
Recently, Amplify Peace led a group of incredible women on a peacemaking pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was a trip intended to veer far from the average one; going out of our way to get in the way of folks who were suffering and thriving in the midst of deep and horrible oppression. We wanted to get immersed in the realities of making peace, so we sought out people who were trying to do just that. People stuck in the midst of the long trauma of conflict but who were seeking to live a different way. People who looked and sounded a lot like Jesus.
We had a pretty simple framework that I think might be helpful to anyone who is wondering how to become a peacemaker in your own world. Listen, Learn, Live.
The first way of making peace in the world is listening.
Listen. This is much harder than it first sounds. Listening is an incredibly valuable way of beginning your peacemaking journey. Listening is an act of solidarity with the person you are trying to hear. And this is where we get a bit specific. Whose voice have you not heard? And how can you begin to make some peace by choosing to listen to the voices of those whom you don’t know?
There is a beautiful saying, “an enemy is someone whose story you have not yet heard.” At the heart of every human being is a sacred beginning. And to find that human heart can take some uncovering of our own prejudice and distorted perspective and the only way to get to that divine connection of a shared humanity is to LISTEN to each other.
“AN ENEMY IS SOMEONE WHOSE STORY YOU HAVE NOT YET HEARD“
Many of the people we think we ‘know about’ we have not met. This is because the world is designed to keep us apart. To separate us. And this separation increases fear and the fear keeps us in conflict. And peace is lost. So, peacemaking begins by choosing to move in the opposite direction of oppression and injustice. Connection. Those of us with the power to choose where we go and what we do and who we talk to can make the deliberate decision to LISTEN to those we have not yet heard.
In Israel, that took us to sit around tables and intentionally listen to Jews, Palestinians, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, women, men, boys, girls, teachers, mothers, soldiers, rabbis, priests — well, you get the idea. To connect with many of those people required us to go to places “off the tourist map” and to place ourselves in some discomfort. It required us to confront our own fears and prejudices and pre-conceived notions.
But that is what listening demands of us. Choice. We get to choose who we listen to. But make no mistake, just because listening is simple doesn’t make it easy. Active listening requires deep intention.
So, what might that journey look like for you?
Identify whose voice you have not heard. It may be a new immigrant family from another culture, a person from another faith, someone socially excluded or left out of the narrative of our dominate cultural norms. Then seek them out. This is where it gets a little hard and when we realize that the kind of listening peacemaking requires of us will be a bit costly.
You may need to volunteer somewhere or make a trip or a phone call to someone who might be able to help you connect with someone you wouldn’t naturally connect with. It will feel awkward and that’s OK. You will feel like a beginner and that will be a great blessing. You will be the one asking for help — and that will be a great chance to live in the upside down kingdom of God. No wonder God called peacemakers blessed!
The posture required to do peacemaking through listening is the posture of need, dependency and relationship. It’s in direct opposition to the posture of empire, strength and force.