peace movements

Reflections on recent events

by mgopin on October 21, 2015 · 0 comments

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Originally posted here on Oct. 19, 2015.

I am starting to see very clearly that there are those people who have the moral and emotional intelligence to understand two sides of a conflict, two enemies at once, and there are those who need to demonize someone in every situation. There are those who can empathize with their own community and with another, and there are those who at every turn look to demonize one group and whitewash their own. These are two camps of humanity, one with an evolved mind, and one with a primitive mind. Educational levels and graduate degrees having nothing to do with these two camps.

I am horrified by the mob mentality, I am saddened by many people I have helped and defended, not from my own community, who the first chance they get, join virtual lynch mobs.

The fact is that it is easy to …

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Here is an excerpt from a recent Huffington Post article I wrote. You can read the full article here

I am not impressed anymore by the emotional bonding and euphoria created by revolutionary crowds. Finished, done, my enthusiasm squashed after years of promising rallies in central squares whose intent and hopes smashed headlong into reality. 

The crowd is not to be trusted. It only knows enthusiasm, not direction, not vision, not a moral compass. We went as civilizations from one kind of crowd delirium to a better one only by building solid, unbreakable emotional and legal bonds between every citizen, no matter how strange or foreign. Bonds that were so strong that most of us now get physically sick just imagining a festival of sadism in the heart of civilized London.

 

Crowds and Revolutions versus the Bonds That Endure 

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Washington (CNN) — An ancient Persian symbol of freedom, tolerance and coexistence has joined documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Emancipation Proclamation in Washington.

The Cyrus Cylinder represents the spirit and ideals of Cyrus, the leader of the Achaemenid Empire in the sixth century B.C. After peacefully conquering Babylon in 539 B.C.and declaring his principles on the cylinder, Cyrus freed the Jewish population of Babylon from long bondage and rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Cyrus Cylinder inspired many throughout history — in particular 18th century Enlightenment philosophers, historians and politicians in Europe and America — as a source of their thinking on human rights, settling conflicts and leadership.

Thomas Jefferson reportedly owned two copies of the Cyropaedia, Xenophon’s biography of Cyrus, and carried it for inspiration and guidance.

Today — far from ancient Persia and the Enlightenment, in a different, far more

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This article was originally published on January 18th here.

At the beginning of December 2011, the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University convened a meeting of over twenty world famous Islamic scholars and dignitaries together with over one hundred and twenty clerics from every province of Afghanistan. The event was unprecedented in the history of Afghan conflict resolution. Never before had anyone brought together the beleaguered Imams of the Afghan provinces, men who had stood up for peace and risked their lives to fight against the misuse of their religion. These men stood witness as colleagues, who dared stand up at Friday prayer and advocate for Islam’s commitment to nonviolence, for women’s rights, and for tolerance, were assassinated by radical forces in the region and neighboring states whose only purpose was to keep the war going and Afghanistan divided. Nevertheless, these men …

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Just a few days ago was the longest night of the year. Another way of looking at is that this was night in which the tide of darkness began to turn back in favor of light. Bunched around this time are so many ancient holidays of lights and candles, of which Hanukah and Christmas are but two. Ancient rabbinic tradition suggests that the purpose of the small light at night is to teach that it takes only the light of one individual candle to illuminate the darkness of an entire room—or the world.

Peering at small lights at night, meditating on them, also has another interesting impact. It makes the blinding light of the morning sun feel almost miraculous. Indeed, many of the pre-monotheistic nighttime celebrations of light at this time of year are actually celebrations of the birth of light, and particularly sunlight. There is an inescapable reality to …

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The Project for Islamic Cooperation for a Peaceful Future in Afghanistan, November 30, 2011 - December 2, 2011

George Mason University Press Release

November 29, 2011

Media Contacts: In U.S., James Greif, +1 703 993 9118, jgreif@gmu.edu. In Turkey, Aziz Abu Sarah +1 571-236-0380, azizabusarah@gmail.com .

Istanbul, Turkey –From every province of Afghanistan, Imams and civil society leaders will meet together today with Islamic scholars for the first time during the Islamic Cooperation for a Peaceful Future in Afghanistan conference, an unprecedented gathering that will open on November 30 in Istanbul, Turkey. More than 80 Afghan scholars will meet with over 20 of the world’s most prestigious Muftis and Islamic scholars, with millions of followers across the world, from Pakistan to Indonesia.

The conference participants consider this gathering, discussion and commitment for peace and non-violence as the establishment of a historically significant point of reference for Islamic teachings of moderation, tolerance, peace and cooperation.

The conference is an academic forum created by the Center for World Religions, …

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The Strategic Value of Forgiveness

by mgopin on November 16, 2011 · 10 comments

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A version of this essay appeared recently in the Jerusalem Report on November 21, 2011.

The Arab Awakening is facing serious challenges, and some new strategic decisions are required that will end up being good for all the revolutionary movements afoot this year, in the Middle East, in Israel and beyond.

The essential point is this: The Arab Street has demonstrated incredible heroism and nonviolent principles in the face of torture and death, and even Libya began as a very peaceful revolution, even if Libyans felt at some point that they had no choice but to fight. This is a paradigm shift of ethical and political values that will be remembered for generations. It may also signify a broad-based Middle Eastern democratic shift.

The going is tough, however, because no revolution easily dislodges corrupt structures of power. The temptation is just too great for those immediately below the revolution’s chosen …

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By Dr. Marc Gopin and Aziz Abu Sarah

In his speech to the Central Council of the PLO in Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced his strategy to end the occupation. The President stressed in his speech that he will not retreat from seeking recognition of the Palestinian state from the United Nations. Abbas had been under enormous pressure to withdraw the request for recognition of a Palestinian State on borders of June 1967. He announced that 122 nations are already in favor of the draft submitted to the UN. Concerning US opposition, he referred to the fact that this has not been communicated in a formal manner.

President Abbas surprised many of his listeners when he spoke about another element of his strategy. Perhaps for the first time Abbas highlighted clearly his vision of the Palestinian people’s active participation to achieve the dream of a Palestinian state. He called …

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From the explosion of Osama Bin Laden into our consciousness on that terrible day in 2001, all the way to his death, feels like a frame of existence, a distinct period of our history and fate as an American community. There have been many deadly wars since then that America has participated in or supported. As an American Jew and a veteran peacebuilder in the Middle East, I also feel like this decade has been a whirlwind of violence, from Iraq to Lebanon to Gaza, and now to Arab countries in which I had worked, especially Syria where I put my heart and soul.

Every war, every massive act of violence, always makes me reflect anew on the origins and nature of human violence, and on its opposites, empathy, compassion, and love. We humans have made so many efforts through the millennia to create one political arrangement after another in …

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By Hind Aboud Kabawat (Senior Research Analyst and Expert in Conflict Resolution, CRDC, George Mason University).

Damascus, Syria

May 20, 2011

Can our beloved Syria be saved from the brink of destruction? This is clearly the question on the minds of millions of our fellow countrymen (and countrywomen). And it is truly astonishing how quickly events have transformed the so-called “facts on the ground” in this country. One of the most locked-down societies in the Middle East quite suddenly erupted in rage, anger and frustration after forty years of political repression and economic stagnation. Just think of it: the first demonstration was on March 15, just a mere two months ago. But so much has changed in the minds, hearts and aspirations of the Syrian people that it is impossible to think that we can ever return to the status quo ante—the Syria of March 14th.

What the …

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