The role of interfaith dialogue in mediation and conflict resolution

Paper presented at Fulbright Interfaith Community Action Program 2008 Interfaith Dialogue Conference-Catholic University, Washington DC, December 6 Panel presentations of Fulbright Interfaith scholars and faculty associates

The role of Interfaith Dialogue in Mediation and Conflict Resolution
A case study: the interfaith response to the Rwandan Genocide


Inter-religious dialogue is a powerful means for conflict resolution. This is not disputable. It is obvious because those who are fighting and those who are holding peace talks are believers. I suppose that people never stripped themselves from their religions while fighting or while seeking peace. It is also obvious that each religion has its own way of dealing with conflicts. We are not interested here in the response of each religion to conflicts. We are seeking a common answer, an inter-religious response. The usual model: Christian perspective on violence, for example, then Muslim perspective on violence, then we look for some sorts of communalities does not work. We would like to propose something new. The question we would like to answer is how could inter-religious dialogue be more efficacious in conflict resolution? What we need is a methodology that could help in seeking together a solution and acting together.

Inter-religious actions for peace

We witnessed an upsurge of many praise worthy inter-religious initiatives for conflict resolutions. Many inter-religious associations have been created for that objective only. We can mention the United States Institute of Peace, The World Conference of Religions for Peace, the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, the Greater Hartford Inter-faith coalition for equity and Justice, in the Connecticut, the Tanenbaum Center for interreligious Understanding, the Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa. Many books have been written about it. Manuals have been published to help religious leaders to become peacemakers. Some famous work are Religion, The Missing Dimension of Statecraft by Douglas Johnston and Cynthia Sampson (Editors), (Oxford, 1994); and Faith-based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik, by Douglas Johnston, (Oxford university Press, 2003); Peacemakers in action Profiles of Religion in Conflict Resolution, by David Little (editor), Cambridge, 2007.

The failures of interfaith actions

Despite all the praiseworthy efforts let us recognize that conflicts are going on. Recently Mumbai was hit by terrorists. Such a big event should not make us forget all the discriminations, abuses, violence, wars that are going in our homes, in the streets, in schools, in towns, of our countries. Those who commit those non-spoken violence are believers. It is so easy to condemn violence in a large scale and to forget that next to us they are so many victims of violence, our violence, violence perpetrated by people who believe. We are not so successful. The world continues to witness terrible violence in the name of God and of religion. There is something that does not work. I don’t buy into the idea that religions are manipulated. There is something in our religions that does not help. Religions failed in solving or preventing the conflicts in the world simply because those in conflicts are believers. They may not be driven by their religion. Nevertheless their religions do not prevent them from killing. Let us put aside religion-driven conflicts. I will argue here that the real weakness of religions in conflict resolution is the disintegration of the two worlds in which each believer live in. Each believer lives in two worlds, the world of religious values and the political, social, cultural world. The integration of both worlds is difficult. I don’t know yet of a religion which succeeded in integrating perfectly the worlds a human being is living in. The failure of inter-religious dialogue is clearly seen in the issue of the Holy Land and in religious-driven terrorism. The greatest success of inter religious dialogue in conflict resolution will be to bring peace in the Holy land. I do not deny the fact that we have achieved a lot. We still have a long away to go. What does paralyze inter-religious dialogue in conflict resolution? And how can we move forward?

Why is interreligious dialogue weak?

I will argue that the problem is that we do not think together, we do not study the question together, we do not seek the solution together. Each one of us comes with the conviction that his/her religion has already the more relevant and best solution. Then we give to each group the opportunity to present his/her religious perspective of the question. And that is all. Many inter-religious encounters have this classical schema: 1. Christian view; 2. Muslim view; 3. Jewish view…; 4. final declaration: “we, people of different faiths, we commit ourselves, to work together… at the end you have the feeling that you have come to learn about the others but you did not find a solution. We miss the point. We go wrong with such a methodology because we do not seek together for the remedy to our problem. We simply recall our “official” teaching putting them sometimes one against the other. We even compete in showing the truth, the beauty of our teachings. We shout “we have the best solution” while thousands of our believers are shouting to God “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.” (Psalm 22, 1-2)

The second problem I see is that those who promote inter-religious dialogue as a solution to conflict resolution presents themselves as doctors coming to heal wounded people. They are the experts above the suffering of people.
called the voices of the voiceless. They have studied. They have reflected using all the critical thinking method and social analysis. They have transcended the emotional reactions to the conflicts. They are capable of taking distance and analyzing the conflicts. Especially religious leaders and scholars present themselves as above the tensions, as representative voices of the people. This is in my view where we go into trouble.

In the movie the Trial of Vallaloid (1506), experts, Christian theologians and philosophers were discussing about the human nature of indigenous people of South America. When an indigenous family was brought in the hall there was a silence. They were all gazing at them in silence. The question was no more: “are those indigenous real human beings?” Now the question was: “ are these human beings?” You can imagine the answer. My point is that if you bring together inter-religious doctors to resolve the problems of the victims you will never have an impact. What we need is “wounded healers”, and religious wounded healers. We don’t need religious leaders who are well protected, driven by very expensive cars and huge amount of money, who come together to solve the conflicts because they know God or they are endowed with some sort of divine power. You might object that people do follow them. I agree. That is why I will propose in my solution that we teach people how to disobey even to God’s commandments that may call us to fight.

The third problem is that those who were empowered through inter-religious seminars for peacemaking did not have an impact in their own faith communities. Some of them went back to their communities and continue to teach their traditional exclusivist positions. The mission of impacting on our respective faith communities has to be taken seriously if not we are wasting our time. Our interreligious seminars are like the opera of Romero and Juliet, nice moments of loving one another but that ends when we depart. We lack religious peacemakers with a sense of a mission. We have very few religious leaders who have the passion to work for peace and who are ready to give their life for it. Religions have become too much a business affair. Some religious leaders demands to be paid before they participate in an interreligious encounter to solve a conflict that arise in an area just because the organizers of the meeting is an international NGO. We are all acquiring the NGO’s mentality. We are loosing a passion for peace and the sense of a mission.

Models of inter-faith actions for peacemaking

There are many interreligious initiatives or models for interfaith Peacemaking and conflict resolutions. I will refer the book of Bud Heckman, interactive faith for the discovery of some initiatives. I am impressed by 3 methodologies. Brian Cox proposes a “faith-based reconciliation” based on 8 core values and a methodology in 6 steps. The core values are: 1. Pluralism; 2. Inclusion; 3. Peacemaking; 4. Social Justice; 5. Forgiveness; 6. Healing; 7. Sovereignty; 8. Atonement. He develops each value following a methodology in six steps: 1. Definition; 2. Characteristics or considerations; 3. Jewish perspective; 4. Christian perspective; 5. Islamic perspective; 6. The means to implement.

Douglas Johnston proposes “a faith-based diplomacy.” He explains what it means: “it means incorporating religious concerns into the practice of international politics. Even more simply put, it means making religion part of the solution in some of the intractable, identity-based conflicts that exceed the grasp of traditional diplomacy.ols He clarifies the aim of such model: (1) to bridge the political and religious spheres in support of peacemaking, (2) to recruit and deploy inter-religious action teams to trouble-spots where conflict threatens or has already broken out, (3) train religious clergy and laity in the tasks of peacemaking, and (4) provide feedback to theologians and clergy on interpretations of their teachings that may be contributing to strife and misunderstanding.

The actions taken depend on the countries. In Pakistan the faith-based diplomacy model focuses on education. It wants “(1) to expand the madrasa curriculums to include the physical and social sciences, with a special emphasis on religious tolerance and human rights (especially women’s rights), and (2) to transform the pedagogy in a way that will produce critical thinking skills among the students.

Margaret Steinegger-Keyser of the Greater Harford Interfaith Coalition for Equity and Justice proposes a “faith social justice movement” methodology in six steps: 1. the collective inquiry (common gut reaction, uncovering the truth, how does this affect everyone’s human dignity? Stories of people); 2. The understanding of suffering beyond statistics (how this situation affect our suffering people? sensitive process, conversation with/among the people closest to the problem, building relationships); 3. Contextual analysis (naming with clarity the root cause of the problems, systemic injustices, stakeholders, political leadership, collective process); 4. The prophetic responsibility (individual and collective spiritual reflection, declaration from a Faith and Spiritual perspective, prophetic wrath, prophetic writing); 5. inclusive action (the suffering people express their message, the advocates and analysts create the Message, Action includes all Actors); 6. communication (effective internal communication systems, alternative media, reaching diverse communities, reaching legislators.

A case study: the interfaith response to the Rwandan Genocide

Rwanda and its bloody legacy

In 1959, three years before independence from Belgium, the majority ethnic group, the Hutus, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighboring countries. The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and began a civil war in 1990. The war, along with several political and economic upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions, culminating in April 1994 in the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing in July 1994, but approximately 2 million Hutu refugees – many fearing Tutsi retribution – fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire. Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda, but several thousand remained in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC; the former Zaire) and formed an extremist insurgency bent on retaking Rwanda, much as the RPF tried in 1990. Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms – including Rwanda’s first local elections in March 1999 and its first post-genocide presidential and legislative elections in August and September 2003 – the country continues to struggle to boost investment and agricultural output, and ethnic reconciliation is complicated by the real and perceived Tutsi political dominance. Kigali’s increasing centralization and intolerance of dissent, the nagging Hutu extremist insurgency across the border, and Rwandan involvement in two wars in recent years in the neighboring DRC continue to hinder Rwanda’s efforts to escape its bloody legacy. (CIA Factbook)

What we need in Rwanda is clear:

  1. healing,
  2. reconciliation (-justice)
  3. peace, peacemakers
  4. prevention of the genocide

Interreligious initiatives

There are 6 interfaith institutions that try to contribute to the reconstruction of a country destroyed by the war and by the genocide:

  1. The National committee for the promotion of Muslim-Christian relations in Rwanda (Procmura: PROgram of Christian-MUslim Relations in Africa). It has a Women’s wing.
  2. The Rwanda Interfaith Commission for Reintegration: a political religious body to advise the government in social reintegration
  3. The Rwandan Interfaith Commission (of the World Conference of Religions for peace)
  4. The Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa, an initiative of the Lutheran World Federation. They settled in 2006 their Commission in Rwanda.
  5. Rwandan Women Network of Faith
  6. Rwandan Interfaith Network against HIV//AIDS

The Muslim-Christian Relations Program in Rwanda

Muslim-christian conferences

We organize 10 interreligious conferences in different institutions of learning in Rwanda. It is a two-hour conference by a catholic priest, a protestant minister, and a Muslim leader. We speak about God’s will: to love one another in our differences.

Provincial seminars

We organized 4 provincial seminars. The provincial seminar is a 3-day seminar. It gathers the religious leaders of a province. The theme is to explore how we can improve our relationship in order to contribute validly to the reconciliation of Rwandans. We set up some provincial committee for Muslim-Christian dialogue.

Interreligious commemoration of the Rwandan genocide

We appreciate that every year the St Egidio community will bring together thousands of people to pray and reflect about peace in the world. But it is enough. We appreciate also the significant initiative of the religions in Japan who come together every year in August to pray fro peace in the two towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Such encounters are an important contribution to the social cohesion. But they are not enough. In 2004, the religions in Rwanda came together to commemorate the 10 anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Interreligious commemoration of slavery, of the world war and of the genocides are important. The question is how do you do it? what is the most relevant way? I propose that an interreligious commemoration of genocide should be a whole day of reflection, fasting, and prayer. It should be a moment to educate people to tolerance and peace.

National seminar

And finally once a year we organize a national seminar. We have identified some key issues that we believe are at the roots of the genocide in Rwanda. Each national seminar bring together 70 to 100 Christians and Muslims to discuss the topic. These are some of key issues we discuss: poverty, violence, ethnicity, exploding demography… our methodology is quite simple:

  1. the Rwandan reality of the topic;
  2. the Christian perspective on the topic;
  3. the Muslim perspective;
  4. the Rwandan (governmental and associations that are dealing with the topic) perspective;
  5. The final Muslim-Christian commitment.

The most important achievement of this program is to put together people from different religions and different communities. It is a sign of hope for the future. They spend 3 days together. They eat together. They share formally and informally. We want them to meet, and interact. We trust that God will do the rest in their hearts. God always surprises us. People come always prepared to defend themselves and their faith. Then slowly they enter into a human encounter.

Discovering the value of a human being

Another important initiative to form peacemakers is to help people rediscover the value of a human being. We need to put human beings are the center of our life. We are called to value human beings the way God values him or her. And for believers a human being has a value because his is the image of God. So I propose a program of discovering God in the others. The aim of such program is to be able to value the other by seeing God’s presence in him. Even if you don’t like him or her but respect God’s presence in him or her. This is how the program goes:

  1. when we gather we take a time of silence: we are going to visit people who have their faith; we are not going as tourists. We want to see, to touch, to feel the One they believe in. We need more our hearts than our eyes and our minds. We want to see God. We want to identify the signs of God’s presence in the life of other believers. So we ask God to enlighten us. I usually use a beautiful French song that says: “I seek the face,the face of Lord, I seek the image in the depth of your hearts”
  2. moving toward the others: if we can walk it will be better. Walking is a real way of the seeker.
  3. meeting the believers in a family house. It is important first to meet them in a house. the others become normal. They are not special. They have a house, a family. after the welcome address we introduce each other.
  4. discovery of the faith of the others. Now we listen to the believers presenting their faith to us and how they live it every day. We make sure to listen to a religious leader and to a member of the faith community. We listen to their sharing. We have come to listen, to discover. We need to empty ourselves from all we know to welcome what is being transmitted to us. Listening is very important. The one who is speaking usually desires only one thing: “therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently” (Act 26, 3). So do we.
  5. a time of questions-answer: any question should be asked. It is important to avoid commentaries and comparison. We want to know better. We don’t want to compare or to discern. Only simple questions are expected.
  6. a time of separate prayer: each group goes to pray.
  7. a time of sharing a meal: “breaking bread together in one another’s homes is one of the most memorable of relationship building experiences.” (Heckman, 17) We do it in respect of the manners of our host.
  8. guided visit to the place of worship. If it is the time for the host to perform their ritual prayer we remain in silent prayer. It is important at that moment to sit or to kneel and pray in silence for those people in adoration.
  9. a moment of silence prayer. We ask the Hosts to give us 5 to 10 minutes of silent prayer. Each one of us prays in silence taking the posture he or her want. We want at this moment to hear “a sound of a sheer silence”. We want to feel the presence of God.
  10. if the hosts want there can be a moment of common prayer in which those who like will make a prayer from their hearts.
  11. vote of thanks
  12. Back to the chapel: a moment of silent prayer, of thanksgiving.
  13. a sharing about the moment. This sharing can be done in another day. But it will be nice to do it the same day. The sharing is about what we felt. How we felt the presence of God? How do we see God at work in the life of those people we have met? What is whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable in those we have just met? Is there any excellence and anything worthy of praise?
  14. Visiting places of worship has always been done. Listening to other believers has always be done. What I propose if a more spiritual approach. To go towards the others with the desire to seek God. It means you need to open your heart. I recall here the words of God in Jeremiah 29, 14: if you seek me with all your heart you will find me.

The Challenges we face

We face some serious challenges:

  • the sense of failures: God failed in Rwanda. Religions failed.
    Humanity failed. The international community failed.Education failed.
  • opportunistic religions: the race to conversion
  • the genocide is put into question by some: “yes, but”,
    negationism, revisionism, theory of the double genocide, shared
  • inner divisions in the faith communities, and in the social
    communities: struggle for power
  • the threatening presence of “Hutu extremists” in RDCongo:
    “bent on retaking Rwanda” (CIA factbook 2008)
  • “Kigali’s increasing centralization and intolerance of dissent”
    (CIA factbook 2008)
  • political positions of religious leaders: pro or against the regime
  • suspicion of political agenda
  • Escapism: the political reality is too delicate let us discuss
    about metaphysical truth: how can Jesus be the Son of God?

The inadequacy of the interfaith methodologies

All the methodologies I read about do not satisfy me. Even the one we use do not satisfy me. The “faith social justice movement” seems to me more adapted to our context of Rwanda and to any context of conflict. But all the methodologies are weak by the fact that they do not address the problem from God’s perspective. They are all based on a human perspective. If we want religions to really be efficacious in dealing with conflicts we need to learn how God himself deals with human conflicts. And then we should imitate him. I will propose a new methodology that I will call the “where is your brother?” reflection.

A new interfaith methodology: “Where is your brother”.

What I imagine is a group of believers from different religions who come together to reflect on how they can solve a conflict and how they can be peacemakers. I propose to them a reflection on thirteen steps based on God’s resolution of the first conflict between two brothers: Cain and Abel (Gen4:1-17). The story slightly differs in Sura 5, 27-32 but basically it is the same painful reality: Cain kills his brother Abel. What I am interested in is the way God deals with the problem. Two elements characterize this new methodology:

  • a common search for a solution, a common reflection, and
  • the imitation of God’s methodology in dealing with human conflicts.

Concluding convictions

Get focused. We need healing, reconciliation, peace, hope. We need to rethink our traditions religious teachings. The relevance of a religion today is in its capacity to offer to Rwandans healing, reconciliation, peace, hope. Any religious teaching that does not give that, will be rejected. I am for transgression of the divine commandments that do not help people to be peacemakers. I call for a radical rejection of the painful verses of our scriptures. We have no time for irrelevant theological reflections. We are wounded and we need healing. We are called to search together for the truth, the truth that makes people free, the truth that heals, reconciles, fills with peace and hope, the truth that makes peacemakers. In order to find such truth we need to put into question our own particular ways of thinking, our own particular concepts. Let us search for the solution together. Nobody has a ready made solution. God does have a solution. Let us listen to him. I wish those politicians who discuss peace agreement take some quiet time in silence to pray before discussion and after.

Where is your brother seminar

First step

Let us define clearly who we are: who are we? What is our relationship? Where do we come from?

Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.’ Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground.

Genesis 4: 1-2

But recite unto them with truth the tale of the two sons of Adam

Qur’an 5:27

The first step proposes to explore our origins. And we have to do it with realism and sincerity. The origins of Cain and Abel are described with precision in this passage. It is even clarified how they were conceived: “the man knew his wife Eve…” precision is important here. Notice that Abel is straight away identify as “his brother Abel”. This is the first time that the term brother appears in the bible. What does it mean to be a brother? In this first step of reflecting together on our relationship realism is important. We should get rid of some sort of illusion. Religious people believe that since their sacred books say that we are all created by God then we are brothers and sisters. We are not. There is what our religious books say and there is how actually people see one another. It is important that we share in this step about how we see each other instead of telling to one another what our scriptures say about a human being. We should not take for granted that people believe in what they were taught in schools and in churches. Most of what we know about others comes also from our family and our milieu, and our culture.

How will Rwandans express the relationship between Cain and Abel. What is said of Cain and Abel corresponds very well to what Rwandans believe they are: bavadimwe. Bavadimwe means “those who come from the same womb”. I mention this to point out the importance of language in inter religious dialogue and in conflict resolution. In our different countries we use our local languages who in fact are vehicle of what we believe in. To say in English that Abel is Cain’s brother is not exactly the same thing to say in kinyarwanda that “Abele ni muvamdimwe wa Caino”. We feel it differently. In kinyarwanda there are different words that express the different type of relationship: muvadimwe is brother (and sister) in general and also from the same parents. “musaza wa…” is the male brother of , “mushiki wa…” is the female “brother” of… that is to say the “sister” of….

So it is important to identify clearly our relationship. What is more interesting is the fact that the verse has been translated in Kinyarwanda by “Abeli murumuna we” which means “his junior brother”. Then Abel is not only a muvadimwe, not only a “musaza wa”, he is a “murmuna wa”. This expression is heavy of meanings. It defines the type of relations they will have, the type of status he will have in the family. Cain and Abel are also identified by their profession. Is it only a profession or a social class? Does their profession give them a kind of social status? Cain and Abel are very much relevant to us in Rwanda since historically we identify the Hutus as farmers and the Tutsi as shepherds. We are dealing with the eternal problem of settled farmers against nomadic shepherds. All this is important to help the participants of the seminar share about. Who am I for you? What does God say? What does my culture say about the other? What was I taught? The truth is that the other will always be the unknown. I know only my siblings. You I don’t know you. Or I do know you like in the case of Arjuna, in the Baghavad Gita. He knows that his enemies in the battlefield are his cousins. To establish clearly in all sincerity and clarity, and precision our relationship is an important step in peace building.

Second step: our history.

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions.

Genesis 4:3

What is our history? What happen to us “in the course of time”? How did we live? What were we doing? It does not matter if our narratives do not coincide. Cain and Abel were not doing the same thing. The most important thing is to listen to our different narratives without judging one another. We all say what we know of our history. We share what we were taught. To be exposed to the narrative of others is already an important moment. Faithfulness to one own narrative is important. We should not create a new history that nobody has never heard about. Bright minds are very creative. Here we need to be honest: just tell us what happened “in the course of time”. Don’t interpret. Don’t even explain. Just how you live, how your ancestors live.

Step 3: the beginning of the conflict.

And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

Genesis 4:4

how they offered each a sacrifice, and it was accepted from the one of them and it was not accepted from the other. (The one) said: I will surely kill thee.

Qur’an 5

Genesis 4:4 gives us a very powerful insight in the psychology of Cain. That is where the whole conflict begins. In step 3 we want to discover the deep root of the conflict? How did we feel? We need to read the event with the penetrating eyes of God. What is the deep root of the Rwandan genocide: political power?, economic greed? Vengeance? survival instinct? Ethnicity? Hatred? poverty? Fear? Bad governance?.. There seems to me something deeper. There is a reality that sees deeper than any other reality. It is the divine reality. God sees the depth of human heart: “the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16, 7). The root of the Rwandan genocide is inside the Rwandan heart. So what does God see in the hearts of his people? He says: “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; they have not been drained, or bound up, or softened with oil” (Isaiah 1:5) this is it: bleeding wounds that were never healed, wounds that were transmitted from generation to generation. It was a war driven by wounded hearts. The external violence is only the expression of the internal violence. Religious people need to read deeper into the reasons of their conflicts.

This is the moment to express feelings. Most of our worst conflicts are driven by wounded people. As God will tell the people of Israel in Isaiah 1:5: your problem is that you are full of “wounds that were never healed” and that is why you have all those conflicts. Cain was getting overpowered by his negative feelings. We need to face this truth about ourselves as Jesus taught us: “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. It does not matter if truth here has been understood as God himself. What is important in this step is to identify that feeling which is at the origin of the conflicts. The external violence is always the expression of an internal violence.

Step 4: God’s reaction to the root of the conflict.

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? 7If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.’

Genesis 4:6

(The other) answered: Allah accepteth only from those who ward off evil.

Qur’an 5

The sharing in this step is about what is God telling us about our feelings, about what is going on to us inside. What is God reaction? What is the reproach of God to us? What is God saying to us? We need to answer to God with sincerity: “Why are you angry?”. There is no need of trying to play the good guy. Let us answer to the question. God is challenging us here. For him the reason of such feelings is that “you do not do well”. Let us think about it seriously. Where did we fail?

Step 5: the warning of God

sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.’

Genesis 4:6

Even if thou stretch out thy hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand against thee to kill thee, lo! I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Lo! I would rather thou shouldst bear the punishment of the sin against me and thine own sin and become one of the owners of the fire. That is the reward of evil-doers.

Qur’an 5

This is an important step that I decided to single out instead of putting it together with step 4. God warned his people of the growing conflict. It is important that we recognize it. When did God warn us? Why did we not listen? What went out of control? The Rwandan genocide is a very important case for that. The warnings were clear from the conference of Washington in 1988 on the Tutsi question. It was as if the whole world did not care. We failed in reading the sign of times. We also failed in mastering the elements that were leading us to conflict. This is where we need a deep the reflection. Sin can overpower somebody. Violence can overpower somebody. Why? I will suggest that it is because we were never taught how to disobey. That is why I think it is time we teach people how to disobey to any voice that is calling us to fight or kill… since some spiritual guide have used the divine commandments as a justification to fight I will suggest to teach people how to transgress divine commandments. A theology of the transgression of God’s commandments is very important. It is time that believers master, overcome, disobey “divine” voices calling them to fight for a “holy, just” cause. I will not negotiate this. I have seen how evil destroyed the lives of people. I cannot be satisfy with a “yes, but”. It is important that in step 5 we identify clearly the voices that were calling us to conflict. Why did we not master them? Do we have the strength now to master them?

May be we still have in our scriptures some problematic verses, or painful verses that are very often use to discriminate or even kill in the name of God. I agree that we have to understand them properly. But how many people have time to read relevant commentaries? How many teachers take their time to explain clearly what the verse means? The problematic verse will remain always difficult. For this reason I propose the radical rejection of the problematic verses of the scriptures. Any verse that without proper interpretation incite potentially to violence should be rejected. What is written is written. But not all what is written should be followed. Only those verses that give life, hope, love, peace, reconciliation should be used for community worship. We have 52 Sundays in a year we can easily find 52 gospel passages, 52 passages from the old testaments, and 52 passages from the new testament, and even 52 passages from the Qur’an that will empower us to become loving peacemakers. Why wasting time in dealing with painful/problematic verses? People come to worship not to admire our intelligence. They come to seek the peace of God. Let us help them feel the peace of God.

Step 6: the description of the conflict.

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.’ And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.

Genesis 4:8

But (the other’s) mind imposed on him the killing of his brother, so he slew him and became one of the losers

Qur’an 5

This is a painful step. We need to describe how the conflict is going on. We cannot run away from the suffering of people. How do we express our conflict? How do we kill one another? We do it through words and actions. The bible says he rose up, the qur’an says he slew him. It is a hard description but it is important. Where are we fighting? Why don’t we choose an empty space in the desert to fight? We always fight where there are many innocent people. If the participants in the seminar do not want to describe the way they are actually fighting it will be nice to show them some photos or videos of the consequences of the conflicts. Unfortunately what is shown on the media is only 1% of the real suffering of people. In step 6 let us just describe what we saw, how are people suffering from the conflict. Let the victims tell you their stories. We can imagine how “his brother Abel” defended himself, struggle. The Qur’anic version proposes that Abel express his decision not to fight. This is to be understood well. I prefer to imagine the fight that took place. We have to face that truth about the violence human beings are capable of. The way people butcher one another in Rwanda is something that cannot leave you without tears. Don’t do to others what you will not like them to do to you. This step will make us aware of that.

Step 7: the time for accountability.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?

Genesis 4:9

Then Allah sent a raven scratching up the ground, to show him how to hide his brother’s naked corpse

Qur’an 5

The 7th step aims at taking responsibility. God’s question to us is clear: “where is your brother”. We are facing the truth! Who are the victims of our conflicts? Victims are in both camps. So face the truth: who are you own brothers and sisters who gave their life for the cause? How do you honour them? How do you remember them? What do you think they are asking of you today? What are the victims of our conflicts telling us? Can we hear their voices? Think also about the victims in the other camp. There is no need of counting the victims. The slash of a machete produces the same pain on anybody.

Step 8: What is your answer?

He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’

Genesis 4:9

He said: Woe unto me! Am I not able to be as this raven and so hide my brother’s naked corpse?

Qur’an 5

No comment here. Cain denies. He even denies any responsibility towards his brother. But he keeps on calling him “my brother”. Here it is important that the participant in the workshop or seminar express their feelings about what happened: indifference, anger, shame…. The way they feel is important for their future work as peacemakers.

Step 9: God’s feeling

And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!

Genesis 4:10

It is not enough to think only about our feelings. We need to learn from God. We are called to be like God. So what is God’s reaction to the conflict? How does it feel about it. Here we can read some passages from our scriptures or recall simply some stories we learn from the spiritual patrimony of our religions about God’s attitude in front of human suffering.

Step 10: God’s punishment.

And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.’

Genesis 4:11

This step may be difficult for those who believe and stress very much forgiveness as a way of reconciliation. As much as forgiveness is essential justice must be done. God’s punishment here means justice. Believers in the Holy Land should think seriously when they call this land “holy”. This land “has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand”. The punishment of Cain is that he will suffer to get the fruit of his labour, he will be an eternal fugitive, and wanderer, spiritually? Morally? Whatever is the case he has lost his security. And this is where the sharing has to move to: what are the lasting consequences of our conflict? The punishment given to Cain by God is more of the result of his action. He will live for ever as an insecure person. Is that not what all our conflicts have put us into? The sense of insecurity leads to fear. Fear leads to violence. We are led to a vicious circle. Participants need to perceive such catastrophic long term consequences of the conflicts.

Step 11: What is our reaction to God’s punishment?

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.’

Genesis 4:13

And he became repentant.

Qur’an 5

This step is important. It shows the seriousness with which the participants understand the consequences of the conflicts. Superficiality has characterized too much our spiritual and social life. Indifference will destroy our society. Cain understood the punishment. He sees clearly what type of life he is going to live. He definitely do not want it. He is sad about it. He says what the punishment means for him. This is important. The participant should spell out how they the life they are going to live if the conflict persists. They should realize the danger and react to it.

Step 12: The way forward.

Then the Lord said to him, ‘Not so!* Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance. And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.

Genesis 4: 15

That is why We laid it down for the Israelites that whoever killed a human being, except as punishment for murder or other villainy in the land, shall be deemed as though he had killed all mankind; and that whoever saved a human life shall be deemed as though he had saved all mankind.

Qur’an 5:32

How is God helping us to move forward? God promises to protect us from the evil that may overpower us. To live with the promise of God is hope filled. It gives meaning to your life. It feels you with hope. It feels you with strength for the future. We should always remember the scriptural passage of Jeremiah 29: 11: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” In step 12 we need to spell out concretely the future with hope that God promises. What is God’s vision of a peaceful society? What is the society we are called by God create. What is the type of relationship God is calling us to live?

Step 13: our actions.

Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch.

Genesis 4:16-17

What do we have to do? Cain moved. He did not stay lamenting himself all the times, drowning his sin in alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. He did not go to retreat center or recovery center. He did something. He lived. He gave life. He built a city. His wounds were transformed into strength to work for the world. The methodology we propose is important for 3 reasons: first we look for a solution to our conflicts through a dialogue with God. It is in his name that we love. It is in his name that we kill. So we want him to guide us. Second, instead of listening to him in each religious traditions we listen to him together, and we answer to him together. It is an important moment of feeling that we are in communion with one another. And thirdly, we seek for a solution together in sincerity and humility. Nobody has a ready made solution. If you dream alone it will always remain a dream. If we dream together our dream has already become reality, said Don Elder Camara.

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