I'm happy that our son Jiva is "home" with us this summer, working with International Projects at CNVC. This summer break for him from his Master's degree studies at the European University for Peace Studies seems like a win-win strategy for both Jiva and CNVC.
Today CNVC received a letter from someone asking about NVC and the current crisis in Israel and Lebanon. The task of responding ended up on Jiva's desk, and he shared it with me. Here's an excerpt of the letter and Jiva's response:
I would really like to know what people in the NVC world are thinking and
feeling about the current situation in Lebanon. Mostly what we hear in the
news is condemnation of Israel for its disproportionate use of force, which
is justifiable. I cannot help judging the Israeli government as taking
action which is unlikely to meet anyone's needs, not even their own.
Hizbollah also is being judged, because they are prepared to threaten the
security and peace of Israeli citizens to advance their cause, as well as
risking the peace and lives of Lebanese. I want to see justice for
Palestinian people, who have had to live in the most terrible conditions. I
want to see Israelis able to live in peace and not pawns in the power games
of those with various interests in the region. I want to see people able to
transcend history and tribe in order to advance the interests and needs of
all people living in the region. Demonstrating against Israel or anyone else
for that matter, does not address any of this, and is counterproductive. How
can we grow a new kind of demonstration, that is positive in intent, that
seeks to unite all who love peace and value the common humanity of all - and
which is at the same time not naive, but cognisant of the strong feelings
and complex issues involved and able to acknowledge and work with that. Who
is doing anything to advance such a cause?
It sounds like you are really mourning what is going on in Israel and Lebanon right now. Sounds like some of the responses that you've heard in the news have stimulated some frustration, anger, and sadness, because your needs for harmony, mutuality, and peace are not being met through current strategies of diplomats and peaceworkers on all sides. I'm also hearing a deep sense of caring and compassion, and it sounds like you are really needing to contribute in ways that will be meaningful to you and to all of those affected by the current violence. Is that right? Is there anything else alive in you around this?
I also feel deep sadness as I hear stories of the escalating violence and suffering each day in the region. At times, I feel hopeless, helpless, and alone, really wishing for a world in which people were more willing to meet needs in mutually life-enriching and peaceful ways. Personally I have many friends, mainly Palestinian and Israeli, who are now surrounded by more violence than ever, and I feel very afraid and helpless as I reflect on what they are going through. I am also wanting to see new approaches to nonviolent resolution that go beyond the norms of protest, which as you said, seem counterproductive, at best, most of the time. But I feel a surge of excitement reading your email, knowing that there are others out there who are wanting to approach and develop creative, life-serving strategies for building unity, peace, and love. I want to let you know that I hear about new developments around this every day, and feel very hopeful that if we all coordinate our actions and work together, we can contribute to creating a world to which we all want to belong.
As far as I know, there is no presence of NVC in Lebanon at this time. In Israel, we have many supporters and independent trainers working to bring the skills of NVC to the region (you can find their contact information on the CNVC website). We also have many other supporters in the region, including in Palestine, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates. CNVC is also working to build relationships with other organizations committed to nonviolence and conflict resolution, and so I am very open to hearing any information about what you know is going on there. Similarly, CNVC is reaching out to people in areas that are highly affected by violence, including the Middle East, and organizing support for special sessions with Marshall devoted to social change. For example, CNVC has recently supported a small group from Iraq to come to Switzerland for NVC training. Of course, many of the people that CNVC would like to reach in these areas are not able, financially, to make the trip and participate in the trainings, so one way to contribute to those efforts is to help them cover the costs through an earmarked contribution to CNVC.
The second major project that CNVC is involved in is the global campaign for Departments of Peace. The National Director of the US campaign, Lynn McMullen, is also the head of development for CNVC, and she has been incorporating NVC by working to train everyone involved in the campaign in basic NVC skills as well as deeper NVC consciousness. This entire campaign is very exciting to me, as it presents an opportunity to address issues around the causes and roots of violence throughout the world. You can find more info on that at www.thepeacealliance.org
You may also look on the CNVC website at the Social Change project, which includes a listserve of people interested in connecting NVC to social change. Here's the link: http://www.cnvc.org/psocchng.htm
Finally, on a more personal note, I am also a student in a MA program at the European University Centre for Peace Studies in Stadtschlaining, Austria. Many of my classmates are deeply involved in transforming the conflict in Israel and Lebanon, and we have all been in dialogue about what directions we would like to take our own work. I have been very vocal in pushing creative approaches to thinking about our contributions, as I share your hopelessness that protest will make any positive difference. I am happy to send you more information about organizations and groups that are working in the region, though many of them are based in Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East (and not N. America). Would that kind of information be helpful to you?
Finally, I encourage you to act in ways that are life-serving for you right now. If you don't see the strategies that you want to support in the world, I encourage you to create them! Talk to the people that you know, and don't know, start dialogue groups and spread awareness, bring up ideas at your own NVC practice group--I think we would all be surprised to find out just how much support there is out there.
One strategy that works for me when I'm feeling helpless or hopeless, or really any time I want to be creative, is to think about what needs are alive in me, and just hold those needs in my heart. Sometimes it helps to find a quiet place and just relax deeply for a few minutes, letting those needs settle in my heart and mind, and allowing myself the space and resources to cultivate creative strategies for meeting those needs. I've found that in my own practice, answers just tend to materialize in front of me, and new strategies seem to miraculously appear!
Would you be willing to hit reply and let me know what is alive in you as you read this? I would enjoy hearing any feelings or needs that have been stimulated. I am also very open to and interested in pursuing dialogue about how we can all contribute to this situation. Please feel free to request any more support or information.
With gratitude, respect, and peace,