Kundalini Splendor

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Patricia's Peace Talk, part 1 

The following presentation is by my long time dearest friend, Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Many of you know that she gave me this blog as a gift a few years back, and has generously continued to help me with it over time. Patricia is the most dedicated peace activist, the most remarkable and talented woman (and in many fields including writing, painting, photography, singing, standing up for her truth--and I could go on and on)that I have ever encountered, or could imagine. Whatever she does, she does with total dedication. What follows here is the first part of her description of her activities on behalf of our world in recent months.

I am deeply honored to have her as a friend and colleague. She is one of a kind, believe me.

As we move into this challenging century, it behooves all of us to be aware of the needs of our outer society as well as our inner journeys. Patricia shows us how.

Practicing Nonviolent Dialogue for Peace
by Patricia Lay-Dorsey

"Serenity isn’t freedom from the storm, but peace within the storm"...author unknown.

I'd like to start with an entry I wrote in my blog on September 20, 2006:

What am I harvesting from the plantings of my life? Especially those plants that showed themselves to be robust and full of flavor late this summer?

What comes most powerfully to mind is the fruit of the nonviolent dialogues I had with persons from across the globe during my 18-day solitary vigil in Washington, DC on behalf of Lebanon.

How I learned to listen, to find the common ground upon which even those who disagree can stand, to ask questions rather than make statements, to meet hatred with love.

I also learned that one person can make a difference. But only if he follows the deepest call of his heart, only if she is willing to put herself in positions where she is not in control, where she can be used in ways she could never imagine.

I learned openness to the adventure of life. I learned not to count the cost, whether it be money, comfort or long-held assumptions.

I learned that every human person--at least the hundreds I met--wants those they love to be safe. I learned that those who are filled with hatred are so sad that it would be impossible to hate them back.

I learned that one is never alone when acting on the behalf of others.

I learned that being a person of peace is more important than any action one could ever take.

For 17 years I unthinkingly followed the paradigm set forth by those who had gone before me in the peace movement. Its fundamental tenet being that peace will come if we can get others to think the way we think about war, injustice and oppression. Our task is to find effective ways to wake people up to the truth as we see it.

The means we use include protest demonstrations, rallies, vigils, teach-ins, talks and presentations, filmmaking, writing books, articles and letters to the editor, contacting our elected officials, leafleting, engaging in street theater, composing songs, organizing with like-minded others, putting up web sites and sending out group emailings. To name a few! Some activists travel to hot spots around the world where they stand in solidarity with those who are personally suffering the effects of war and oppression.

Others intentionally and peacefully act in ways that might lead to their being arrested, in the time-honored tradition of civil disobedience.

But whatever the means, the paradigm remains the same: peace will come when the world's leaders start to think like we think.

It was with this paradigm firmly in mind that I took my sign and drove to Washington, DC on July 19, 2006. The war I was protesting was Israel's war on Lebanon, a country and people I had grown to love during my visit there eight months earlier.

Even before that, Lebanon had become dear to me.

Shortly after September 11th, 2001, I began to volunteer in the art classes of a K-5 school in East Dearborn. For over five years these students, many of them first or second generation Lebanese, have taught me about their culture and religion. Hearing their stories and seeing their drawings have opened my eyes to the richness of their heritage. I have been the student, and they the teachers.

In mid-December 2001, I met the wife and children of a Muslim man of Lebanese descent who had just been picked up and detained by the Immigration & Naturalization Service.

In 1991, Rabih Haddad had co-founded the Global Relief Foundation. As one of the two largest Arab relief organizations in the world, it was now under scrutiny by the U.S. government in their post-9/11 targeting of Arab Muslim groups and individuals.

For 19 months, Rabih Haddad--an imam, teacher and respected leader in his adopted Ann Arbor--was imprisoned. Except for a minor visa violation, no charges were ever brought against him. But it didn't matter; he was kept in solitary confinement for 16 of his 19 months in jail. On July 14, 2003, Rabih was secretly deported to Lebanon, the country of his birth, and two weeks later Sulaima and their four young children were deported to Kuwait, the country of her birth.

During the 19 months of his imprisonment, I was one of hundreds of individuals, including Rep. John Conyers, who worked tirelessly to have Rabih Haddad released on bail, or at least treated justly by the immigration court system. As a consequence, I became very close to Rabih’s family--Sulaima and the children--and to Rabih himself through letters. After they were deported, we stayed in touch by phone. It was this family I visited in Beirut in November 2005.

So on July 12, 2006, when Israeli bombs started raining down on the southern suburbs of Beirut close to where my family lived, and one week later when they made a harrowing escape into Syria, I felt like it was happening to me.

On the Wednesday morning after these horrors had been going on for a week, I read in the New York Times that President Bush had said he would give Israel one more week to finish the job. Within three hours I was in my wheelchair-accessible van on my way to Washington, DC. With me was the sign I'd carried the day before in a pro-Lebanon demonstration in Dearborn.

On one side were the words, "Israel out of Lebanon" with three exclamation marks, and on the other, an enlarged photo I'd taken of Rabih, Sulaima and the children during my visit to Beirut. Hand-printed beside that photo was the question, "Who suffers in war?"

My intention was to be a public witness for the Lebanese people by holding up my sign in front of the White House, and the Senate and House Office Buildings.

For 18 steaming hot days, that was exactly what I did.

To be continued...

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