Preserving the Beloved Community

Some of the beloved community that OEP thanks and appreciates for
their collected support; 2019.

Written by Mary E Boria, of the Anti-Racism Transformation Team, for the 2020 OEP Spring Newsletter. In response to the OEP value Beloved Community. 

Two months ago, around the beginning of March 2020, this would have been a very different discussion. The ongoing realities of life's struggle and increasing disparities between those with and those without privilege was a very familiar refrain. The stress and strain of poor and communities of color was evident in all aspects of people’s lives from health to income and feelings of safety and security in the world. Many made do (while others did not), and some at least held the hope that things would get better for their families and communities. A more direct and public outcry challenged the status quo to eliminate oppression and inequality. The Anti-Racist Transformation Team (ARTT) of On Earth Peace has helped to shape an understanding of the Beloved Community within the context of these realities. Dismantling systems that oppress, and transforming others, is a slow and arduous undertaking. Understanding the role of racism, gender oppression, and poverty have become foundational to the work of OEP. Changing culture and institutionalizing new practices takes time (even as we think of its urgency); 

But, in the midst of our slow but determined progress, out of the ashes comes the Coronavirus (COVID -19 ) early in 2020. The world stopped, and our lives have rapidly changed, leaving uncertainty, pain, and death to follow. For some, our relative comfort and security has turned to fear and massive loss.

What is the hope for the Beloved Community in our yet to be determined new reality? And how do we live out our values of anti-racism, non-violence, action towards justice, welcome and hospitality, and Radical Christian love?

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Work Towards Equality

Protestors at the US/Mexico border call for welcome

Written By Ben Leiter-Grandison, member of the OEP Anti-racism Transformation Team, for the 2020 OEP Spring Newsletter. In response to the OEP value Anti-racism/Anti-oppression.

 

For at least the past five years, On Earth Peace has been moving, in fits and starts, from a multicultural institution to an antiracist one. Making this shift has meant moving from a mindset and practice of hospitality to one of accountability. A multicultural institution opens its doors to people of color and other socially oppressed groups but does little to change the preexisting culture, policies, and decision-making structures that tend to favor superiority. It extends a welcome, but one that is implicitly conditioned on following rules “the welcomed” did not write, much like being a guest in someone else’s house. Hospitality, while generous and kind, keeps unequal power relationships intact. Indeed, to be hospitable, one first must have, and remain in control, of the power and property to host. 

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Intergenerational Leadership

A quick snapshot from the 20th Song and Story Fest in 2016.

Written by Bev Eikenberry, OEP Board Member, for the 2020 OEP Spring Newsletter. In response to the OEP value Intergenerational Leadership.

 

Parent to a three-year-old son: “Maybe Grandma would like to play on the Wii with you.” 

Three-year-old son: “Grandma doesn’t like killing”

 -- a moment of teaching from an elder.  

“Sometimes [people] just need a friend rather than a time out;” a four-year-old reflects on how to support a fellow preschooler who is being disruptive in class

 -- a moment of teaching from a child.

As a young adult, I thought as we grow older, we become wiser. So I often asked questions of elders. I realized with time that my generalization’s thought, we grow wiser with age, was not always true. There were some who became wise and some that offered me no wisdom. 

One learned professor, who traveled widely and regularly, presented on current events with astute historical knowledge and understanding and offered a unique kind of wisdom. His conclusion was that “history repeats itself.”  While living with that understanding, this man actively worked for peace and supported efforts of justice. His choice to pursue peace and justice, when he understood the world to not be changing, is an inspiration for me.

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Peace Beyond Pacifism

Painting #18 from the exhibit, Nude Truths: An Odyssey in Poetry, Painting, and Prose created by Kristi Ylvisaker, painter, Mary Ylvisaker Nilsen, prose writer and using lines of poetry written by Denise Levertov. Used with permission of Zion Publishing.

Written By Matt Guynn, Director of Organizing for On Earth Peace, for the 2020 Spring Newsletter, in response to the OEP Value Positive Peace.

 

The poet Mary Ylvisaker Nilsen writes, “Peace pleads for redefinition: From non-violence to robust creativity.  From the absence of war to the presence of compassion, cooperation, and collaboration.”  If all wars ceased tomorrow - if all police forces were demilitarized - if all armed forces in the world disappeared - there would still be systemic injustice and interpersonal conflict everywhere. 

Along with Nilsen’s writings, the Kingian Nonviolence approach (which On Earth Peace learns and teaches) asserts that pacifist non-hyphen-violence is ultimately only aspirin for the world’s problems and not the antidote for violence and injustice. On Earth Peace has claimed Positive Peace as one of our core values. Positive peace builds on and presses beyond pacifism - all war is sin - toward creative engagement with underlying causes of the problems we face. Anti-war and anti-violence pacifism is a good place to be rooted, but I suggest that pacifism must mature to prepare for involvement with the world. This requires values of compassion, informed by a fearless analysis of justice and oppression, and equipped by skills in conflict transformation and active nonviolence. 

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Finding Jesus in Our Community

Written by Jennifer Keeney Scarr, On Earth Peace Board Member, pastor of the Trotwood Church of the Brethren in Ohio and reservist with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Barrancabermeja, Colombia for the OEP Spring Newsletter. In response to the OEP value Jesus-Centered Spirituality.

Jesus is our teacher, our brother, our faithful friend. 

Jesus is where our inspiration for peacebuilding holds it’s foundation. 

Jesus is our center. 

 

One of the most captivating stories about Jesus in the scriptures is the one often celebrated on Palm Sunday. Very publicly and loudly, Jesus marched into Jerusalem on the eve of Passover, a commemoration of the Jewish liberation from the bondage of slavery under Pharaoh. The Jews of Jesus’ time resonated deeply with this powerful story of their ancestors as they lived under the oppressive occupation in Rome. They longed for another Moses, a Messiah who would deliver them from Rome as  Moses delivered them from Pharaoh. As Christians, we believe that Jesus was that Messiah. His method of salvation wasn’t the violent military victory expected but a daily commitment to kindness and compassion toward the overlooked and under-valued. To illustrate the kind of Messiah he would be, Jesus threw together a D.I.Y. nonviolent protest. With his people waving branches, and a donkey to carry him, Jesus marched into the heart of Jerusalem’s prestige and power. He identified the injustice of the system before him, illustrated by the tables upon tables of vendors and religious elites taking advantage of low-income people, travelers, and foreigners. Anger burned in Jesus’ belly and in a mighty symbolic, nonviolent act, he turned the tables over, upending the harmful systems at play if only for a day. With this action, he grabbed the attention of everyone in the courts and then began to teach another way of living. 

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