Forum on Faith: Planting seeds of peace fixes brokenness in the world
by Rabbi Nelly Altenburger
There are things that make you feel good. There are things that make you feel great. There are also things that make you feel honored.
Hosting the Association of Religious Communities' Interfaith Peace Camp makes you feel honored.
Why is that? It is hard to feel that you make a difference in this world. According to the Jewish tradition, we live in a broken world, a world that has needed tikkun (fixing) since its inception -- and will need fixing until the very end.
Brokenness pervades our very experience: diseases, tsunamis, poverty, school shootings, pain, the rat race and wars, to name but a few.
And now, when we have the possibility of being connected to all of the world, 24/7, it is impossible not to feel overwhelmed by the brokenness.
But Jews are not supposed to throw in the towel and call it quits.
"It is not your task to finish the job, but you are not free to give it up either," says Rabbi Tarfon, in the Pirkei Avot (in English, "Ethics of the Fathers"). So we labor and fight and argue and try to create a better world -- even if it feels like we are swimming against the current.
And now and then, our efforts are rewarded. We get a glimpse that the world is moving in the right direction. When Congregation B'nai Israel hosted ARC's Interfaith Peace Camp, it gave me such a glimpse.
It is easy to think that religions are bad. Terrible things have been and are still done in the name of one religion or another. Many political conflicts were and are fueled by religion, or by leaders who speak in the name of religion.
Differences become a rift that becomes a gorge that suddenly becomes a chasm, and those who are in truth very similar to us become the Feared Other.
When any religious leader decides to bridge these gaps and work for peaceful coexistence with leaders of other religions, he or she is swimming against the current of bigotry and hatred, of a simplistic view that divides the world as "us" against "them."
Such leaders exist, some of them because at a certain point in their lives they experienced an awakening.
I have a few colleagues from all religions that one day, just like that, woke up and understood they were doing a disservice to the world. They then began to try to fix the apparent chasm, and the pain it engenders.
But others exist because the seed of peace, the seed of understanding and compassion, the seed of the universal inside each particular religion, which was planted so long ago they didn't feel it germinate and grow.
It is instead an organic part of their being, something that was always there and now finds its way to the light. They have never seen the chasm, they only see the bridges.
When children attend ARC's Interfaith Peace Camp they visit mosques, synagogues, churches and monasteries. This makes an impact.
But when the child actually makes friends with another child -- and this child wears a hijab (the Muslim headgear) or a yarmulke (the Jewish headgear) or only wears dresses or never cuts his hair, the seed of peace is planted.
With time, the practical lesson on coexistence learned at the Interfaith Peace Camp will surely germinate, helping us all to fix the brokenness of the world. This fixing will be of an incredible purity: These children will have never seen the chasm, but they will make the bridges our world so sorely needs.
That is why we at Congregation B'nai Israel feel honored every time that ARC's Interfaith Peace Camp visits us. Here, publicly, I commend all from our community who came to help plan, prepare, cook and receive the campers and counselors from Interfaith Peace Camp.
You all swam -- among laughter and games, among words of peace and coexistence -- against the current of mistrust and fear. We all fixed the world on that day a little bit.
And we want to thank the Association of Religious Communities for the privilege of planting the seeds of peace in unsuspecting hearts. There is no greater fixing than that.
Rabbi Nelly Altenburger is rabbi of Congregation B'nai Israel in Danbury~
http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Forum-on-Faith-Planting-seeds-of-peace-fixes-1749892.phpPosted 8月 8th, 2011 by Oneness Blogger