I was invited to attend an event about peace called “A World of Women for World Peace” run by a familiar name, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson from the 30th district in Dallas, Texas.
The idea of learning what peace means and represents to others intrigued me because I grew up under the threat of gun violence and conflict. Peace for me has become a compelling internal and social need, and I struggle with how to use it to impact myself and others.
After I attended the 3-hour event in downtown Dallas, a couple of things stood out. First, the idea of peaceful conflict resolution, a skill most of us want and lack. We understand the word, but it’s more idea than a practice. Secondly, where does one go to learn healthy conflict resolution? It’s not talked about or taught really, and it would certainly have helped me at work, at school and in my personal relationships.
As introductions were made, I googled for info and was surprised to find so many peace groups — Women For Peace, J Street, Seeds of Peace, Women Wage Peace, and more. With so much turmoil in America, I am weary of even turning on the news to see who is out of a job, who is being investigated, who is getting the short end of the stick. I can hardly listen to all the folks jabbering let alone separate fact, opinion and marketing. It makes me want to tune out and binge-watch Netflix.
I had heard of one of the speakers before, but not the others and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. As an American, the idea of peace was more about helping other countries and not myself or America. So, as the speakers were seated, my curiosity peaked.
Hamutal Gouri, represented Women Wage Peace and she shared how about 4000 Palestinian and Israeli women all dressed in white made the trek to the top of a mountain to sing and celebrate peace together. I heard her say something about using social media and writing to wage peace. Waging Peace has an interesting sound when spoken that makes you pause. I was mesmerized by her modest, soft-spoken manner, and was suddenly hopeful after hearing her say that writing was a form of activism. I was encouraged to continue to share my own experiences with violence in an effort to find peace of mind and a peaceful life as part of serving others and supporting peaceful activism.
Next up was Mr. Yousef Bashir, a Palestinian Peacemaker. He described growing up in Gaza with soldiers living in his home, having only sections of their home to use and requiring a pass for many basic things such as a visitor was troubling. He was incredible, and he looked like he could be a coworker of mine, just an average guy. He told us about his father, an English teacher, who responded to his concerns about soldiers and their life by saying he believes in peace. I can’t imagine how this life would feel, but when a journalist came for a 15-minute interview that went well, and Mr. Bashir was shot by a soldier as the reporter and crew drove away, one would expect him to be angry or resentful. Instead, during his more than two-year recovery and learning to walk again, he connected with his father’s belief in peace on a profound level that had me holding back tears of joy for his courage and wisdom.
I recognized two faces from an interfaith service the Sunday before, at a South Dallas church where both Imam Omar Suleiman, a local Muslim Community Leader, and Rabbi Nancy Kasten spoke along with other Muslims, Christians (Catholic and Protestant) and Jewish people gathered to sing and pray. I had been so discouraged about my nation and the fate of American women, and that Sunday provided unexpected joy that nourished a hunger I wasn’t aware of until that moment. Imam Suleiman and Rabbi Kasten each spoke about how we all grow up with a particular narrative, and only in hearing other stories can we expand that narrative in the name of peace. The term “politics of confusion” was discussed because sometimes, being confused can help us understand things differently than we were taught so we can learn without condemnation.
When the Imam said, “Victims feel like they have to justify what happened to them”, it awakened a recognition in me that I have been justifying my experiences with gun violence, domestic battery, and stalking before I even felt free to say how it impacted my life. It was a final nudge that opened a heavy door sealed decades ago that was now beginning to reveal a hidden truth. Again, words fed a hunger I didn’t know was there. Hearing that people often ask him about ISIS and the assumptions that those questions reveal made the revelation that ISIS targets him personally all the more stark. And yet, e remains kind in the face of a conflicted reality that forces him to tell yet another person who he is and what he believes. It made me grateful again to know people of different faiths well enough to ask my ignorantly bigoted questions without causing offense and still learn that what I thought I knew was skewed in some way. I had to wonder how others can come to same place as me and see that we’re all just trying to pay rent and manage our lives as best we can. The obvious answer is getting to know people and, of course, peacefully. But how?
The final speaker was the Reverend Vonciel Jones Hill who spoke in a soothing cadence about being involved, getting to know others and participating as citizen by getting away from the computer and getting together with people. I learned she’s on the Dallas City Council and a lawyer, and I had to wonder with all of that how she found time to also preach. It reminded me that there’s no substitute for a gathering to make you feel connected to others, to help understand their struggles, or to achieve a goal. She affirmed what the other speakers had – that PEACE is possible.
As the talks wrapped up, I managed to thank two of the speakers despite being overcome by the beauty and pain in their stories. When the possibility that my voice mattered in the peace equation registered, I began softly crying as I shook the hand of Hamutal Gouri and thanked her. Unaware of my own words, I headed back to my vehicle feeling refreshed by the white light of God that had bathed the room and left no longer questioning what humanity is demanding of me.
#Wow4peace #WomenForPeace #PeaceIsPossible #Love4All #WomenWagePeace #Texans4Peace #DallasPeace&Justice