photo unavailable Gathering Place

Laura Crites

Peace enters
one heart at a time

A memorial service next week will
honor those around the globe who
devoted their lives to the cause
of love and nonviolence

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Nelson Mandela, Queen Liliuokalani. They all belonged to groups that had every reason to hate. Rather than taking the path of fear and hatred, they chose love and forgiveness. The example of their lives and their choice of love over hatred during a time of great challenge and conflict make them role models for us all.

After a time of great challenge for me, I came to understand the wounding that occurs when we choose hatred and fear. I recognized that the potential for violence and hatred is within all of us. And I developed a deep awareness of the need for social justice movements to be grounded in the messages of compassion, love and forgiveness -- in spirituality (though not to be confused with religion.) This perspective doesn't weaken the movement, but provides daily strength to members on the front lines. One need only read the books of King and Gandhi, watch the movie, "Gandhi," sing "O Kou Aloha No (The Queen's Prayer)" or study the South African reconciliation movement led by Nelson Mandela to know this is true.

My time of challenge resulted from years of intense involvement in the women's and domestic violence movements. While those years were energizing and in many ways deeply rewarding, they also left many of us wounded. Without a spiritual grounding, our anger and despair over the treatment of women turned into hatred and fear. Too often, we turned the destructive power of these emotions on others who offered another voice, perspective, or perhaps spoke of compassion and forgiveness. Too often we became mirrors of that which we hated.

While we made huge strides in advancing equal rights and safety for women, we missed an opportunity to do that important work in a way that uplifted us all. Instead, for many of us, the personal cost went beyond burnout -- it was soul starvation.

A six-week sabbatical in Europe allowed me the space and time to heal. Hikes through the Alps, meditations in cathedrals, the stillness of the Black Forest and the healing power of silence opened me again to the message of Gandhi: "We must be the change we want to see in the world." This time of meditation and reflection gave me the opportunity to look deep within and explore Buddha's concept of "I am that too." I remembered the original message of love and forgiveness of Jesus. I studied Viktor Frankl's logotherapy, a therapy of meaning, and became aware of how one can transform the most painful experiences into greater levels of compassion. This transformative time lead me to a deep understanding of what was missing in the work I had been doing -- a spiritual grounding.

We are now surrounded with many challenges that invite us to choose love and forgiveness over hatred and fear. There are leaders who call on us to fear and raise arms, to invest in violence as a way to peace. The truly great leaders, however, are those who have modeled the nonviolent path to peace. They knew that when you feel fear and hatred, you become fear and hatred. You contribute that energy to the world. You begin to mirror that which you hate.

Next Tuesday there will be an honoring of those who have chosen nonviolence as a path to peace. The Season of Peace and Nonviolence Memorial Service -- at 6:30 p.m. March 16 at Unity Church -- will honor the courage of Rachel Corrie, who gave her life through her belief in nonviolence and peace. She stood before a bulldozer prepared to demolish the home of her host Palestinian family. Tragically, she died for this act of nonviolence.

This memorial service will honor the gift of Rachel Corrie and others, in different places and times, who have demonstrated that nonviolence is an alternative to generating social and political change. The Service for Peace and Nonviolence also will remember those who are in the midst of armed conflicts, and the thousands of parents and children who silently die each day because of the fundamental lack of universal peace and justice.

These challenging times offer an opportunity for each of us to make the critical choice. They invite us to set aside the punishing perspectives of right and wrong, victim and perpetrator, good and evil and not only see the shades of gray but also to be open to the many colors that are part of the human experience. Above all, we are invited to choose nonviolence on all levels -- mind, heart, body and spirit. Gandhi brought down the British Empire and freed a nation with the power of nonviolence. King liberated us all from the destructive power of segregation. Through their examples, we can truly transform the Earth.

For more information on the peace service, please contact the Unity Church at 735-4436.

Laura Crites is former executive director of the Family Peace Center, co-author of "Peace Begins With Me," a non-violent values curriculum for children, and co-chairwoman of the Peace, Justice and Stewardship of the Earth team at Church of the Crossroads.


E-mail to Editorial Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --