Saturday, February 16, 2008

Returning Love for Violence

Act in accordance with the counsels of the Lord: that is, rise up in such wise, and with such qualities, as to endow the body of this world with a living soul, and to bring this young child, humanity, to the stage of adulthood. So far as ye are able, ignite a candle of love in every meeting, and with tenderness rejoice and cheer ye every heart. Care for the stranger as for one of your own; show to alien souls the same loving kindness ye bestow upon your faithful friends. Should any come to blows with you, seek to be friends with him; should any stab you to the heart, be ye a healing salve unto his sores; should any taunt and mock at you, meet him with love. Should any heap his blame upon you, praise ye him; should he offer you a deadly poison, give him the choicest honey in exchange; and should he threaten your life, grant him a remedy that will heal him evermore. Should he be pain itself, be ye his medicine; should he be thorns, be ye his roses and sweet herbs. Perchance such ways and words from you will make this darksome world turn bright at last; will make this dusty earth turn heavenly, this devilish prison place become a royal palace of the Lord -- so that war and strife will pass and be no more, and love and trust will pitch their tents on the summits of the world. Such is the essence of God's admonitions; such in sum are the teachings for the Dispensation of Baha.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 34)

These are wonderful, inspiring, amazing words, but how can we live them out in our daily lives? For most of us this will be forgiving the relative who is unkind, helping the co-worker who may have slighted us, offering a helping hand to a neighbor who may have been uncaring. But today I listened to the Speaking of Faith NPR podcast No More Taking Sides, which illustrates living these words despite a seemingly unbearable amount of pain: for Robi Damelin the loss of her son to a Palestinian sniper, for Ali Abu Awwad the loss of his brother Yousef to an Israel soldier. In the midst of their grief, these inspiring people refused to return hate for hate. Ali Abu Awwad says that the pain and suffering of his people is too great to be used for political ends, he cannot imagine creating this same pain in another human being in an act of retaliatory violence. He meets Israelis who have also suffered loss, and he begins to understand the common humanity which unites them and the fear they all carry. Robi Damelin knows the searing grief of a mother who has lost her child, and she reaches out to mothers on all sides of the conflict who share the same common human pain. She says "the biggest problem that we have as two nations is that we don't know each other".

I recommend listening to No More Taking Sides as a wonderful example of living peace in time of war, and the healing power of forgiveness in the midst of conflict.


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