I have spent a lot of time this last year reflecting on the past 6 years, and looking ahead to the next 3 or 4. As we are entering a new year, I thought I would share some of my reflections with you.
The Past Six Years
Over the last six years I have spoken to over 10,000 people to counteract religious-based bigotry, especially toward Muslims. I have seen marvelous moments of healing. When people are freed from fear, when they no longer allow it to sit on the throne of their hearts, it is a miracle. A real one. These last six years have truly been an honor and a blessing.
I have learned some things while doing this work. I see now how vulnerable human beings are, collectively, to fear, in-group bias, confirmation bias, and to the terrible efficiency of dehumanizing language.
I realize more deeply than ever that the major wisdom traditions are all attempts to help human beings see human beings as human. These traditions enable us to recognize and resist these vulnerabilities – and to leverage our great potential to build a more peaceful world.
I have also learned that it doesn’t take much to turn these traditions into their own kind of exclusive in-group, deforming their wisdom into war. We see the same kind of thing from people who claim to be beyond religion, of course, refusing to take out the log in their own eye.
I have experienced in the last half year the cost of this work to myself. Coming into contact with that much fear, hate, and misinformation began to really weigh me down this year. It felt like tar stuck to my heart and it often kept me from breathing deeply. But I am not alone.
With the support of my family, friends, coworkers, healers, elders, the PTU board, and so many of you, the tar has begun to lift. All together, they have brought me to a new place and renewed my energy for this work. They have also helped me understand that an integral part of this work is giving the hate and fear of others to the Creator, not carrying it for too long.
The Next Four Years
In 2014 and 2015 I could feel the energy being put into anti-Muslim bigotry. I knew I had to do my small part to counter it. I will continue to do that work with joy.
On the horizon, I can see climate change adding more disruption and scarcity to our world. This will make people more likely to become subject to the vulnerabilities we all share as human beings.
- We will likely see more in-group vs. out-group tensions.
- We will likely see more anxiety that can become so easily focused on minority groups.
- We will likely see more violence toward minority groups.
Many of the events of the last year are early results of this disruption and scarcity and our responses to them.
How will PTU proactively respond to these challenges?
PTU will work to create and strengthen multi-faith partnerships. In every neighborhood, town, and city there are communities of wisdom who also sense these challenges coming. They want to do their part to create stronger ties of love, respect, and cooperation between people of different wisdom traditions. When people of strongly held practices, beliefs, and values work for stronger communities it lights the way for another approach to the challenges coming our way.
- It builds social capital.
- It builds stronger communities.
- It helps people to see that they are not alone and that we can face the future together.
PTU will be working to prepare communities of wisdom for these relationships. We are working on a set of resources to help communities of wisdom engage their own tradition more deeply and find their motivation for working with those of other traditions. Given how racism and religious in-group bias have formed us, we all have some things to learn as we work with others.
We will be creating this material with leaders of many wisdom traditions. We want the process by which we create this program to reflect all our values and the goal of multi-faith cooperation.
There is much to be learned. There is much to be done. But there is
- so much wisdom to draw on
- so many good hearts ready to engage one another
- so many who are ready to act together.
Just as many supporters helped me through a difficult year, we all can walk with each other on a path to greater understanding, compassion, deep thinking, and collective action through the years ahead.
We are not alone.