Response to San Bernardino

Fill in the blank about yesterday's tragedy in San Bernardino. Was it a terrorist attack by two Muslim Pakistani-Americans? A mass shooting? A workplace disagreement turned violent? It is critically important to ascertain the cause and motive of this particular incident, and at the same time, I share the view that all of these types of events have become altogether too commonplace. It is strange to me that in my small hometown in northern California, I'm employing tactics that I used to use in war-zone Iraq. A few weeks ago, for example, my husband and I went out to see a movie, my first one in many months due to the realities of having a newborn baby! I found myself scanning the exits and playing through various scenarios in my mind in case of an attack. Would I hit the ground and crawl if a shooter entered, or play dead? Was I close enough to run to an exit? Do I stay with my husband or scatter? (As a person of faith, this was when I realized I needed to start praying right then about this.)The realities of life in America today is that no school, place of work, church, or location is "safe" from the threat of lethal violence. That's just wrong and needs to change.Euphrates is doing its part to build bridges between the Middle East and West in order to support and expand the capacities and voices of moderates and marginalize extremists. We also work to highlight the efforts of others in this field of peace building, more broadly.The work of The Peace Alliance, an activist organization that lobbies for peace building legislation and policies, is one of these. It is promoting that Americans make fundamental shifts in how we are organizing ourselves in America and around the world when it comes to dealing with violence and conflict — shifting towards systemic healing and restorative oriented approaches.I appreciate their holistic and whole-sale advocacy that shifting away from violence and towards peace has to happen at all levels and in all arenas--from the home to the school to the justice system to the international arena. I think letting our leaders know we support this shift, for which the Peace Alliance is lobbying, is an important step, but as we've emphasized many times before, ultimately, true change will start at the grassroots, and the last to fall in line will be the people and structures at the top. (This is from our model of social change based on Everett Rogers from Stanford Research Institute's report.)The following is from a newsletter the Peace Alliance sent out in response to the San Bernardino shooting.Our hearts go out to all in the San Bernardino area. Regardless of the motivation of these shooters, it is clear we need to make fundamental shifts...Many parents need increased skills to nurture their children and function better amidst conflict. Our schools must bring social and emotional learning skills into the classroom, teaching kids how to better deal with conflict and get fundamental emotional needs met. Our communities need to have structures and programs in place to better alleviate and prevent the ravages of violence. Our justice systems need to focus on restorative approaches that focus on repairing harm done. Internationally we must focus on peacebuilding efforts that are already showing tremendous effect in war-torn regions. There is much that can and must be done.Growing breakthroughs within these five key Peacebuilding Cornerstones offer great hope, demonstrate proven effectiveness and are ready to forge bold and comprehensive national policies:

  • Empowering Community Peacebuilding
  • Teaching Peace in Schools
  • Humanizing Justice Systems
  • Cultivating Personal Peace
  • Fostering International Peace.

SIGN PETITION: Join the Peace alliance in the effort to tell your Members of Congress and the President that you want them to support Five Peacebuilding Cornerstones.An interesting article published earlier this week is by Mark Heley (in which, incidentally Euphrates and our Visionary of the Year, Zuhal Sultan are cited), entitled "The Whole World Needs Healing." It discusses the tendency for us to have certain responses to tragedies based on our relationship and proximity to them. For example, the West reacted much more strongly to the attacks in Paris than we did to those in Beirut, which occurred just a few days prior. Haley writes that this selectivity "appeals to the default neurological patterning of humans...which leads people to see ‘their’ tribal members as more important, more human and more real than those who are distant from them. The problem with this, is that we no longer live in a tribal society where space and distance separates different cultures, we (whether we like it or not) live in a global village that is interconnected, interdependent and becoming increasingly so." Mark continues, "Instead of tribal empathy and selective outrage, somehow we must rise to the challenge of moving into planetary empathy and universal compassion. So how exactly can we do this?"In essence, the ubiquity and randomness of violence in America might lead us to bypass more quickly the normal distinctions of tribal empathy and selective outrage. We can't remove ourselves from those attacks/that violence that happen to 'those people way over there' because, indeed, they're happening right here at home, all the time. We have to care, because it's happening not just to "them", but to "us," too.Finally, for an excellent read on what should be Muslims' response to the San Bernardino attacks, I recommend whole-heartedly Fareed Zakaria's piece in today's Washington Post. He writes, "While I believe that Muslims do bear a responsibility to speak up, non-Muslims also have a responsibility not to make assumptions about them based on such a small minority. Individuals should be judged as individuals and not placed under suspicion for some “group characteristic.” It is dehumanizing and un-American to do otherwise."Zakaria continues, "The reality is that Muslims are today the most despised minority in America. Their faith is constantly criticized, and they face insults, discrimination and a dramatic rise in acts of violence against them, as Max Fisher of Vox has detailed superbly. And the leading Republican candidate has flirted with the idea of registering Muslims, a form of collective punishment that has not been seen since the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s."May voices of reason like this prevail in the swirling of anti-Muslim backlash occurring.