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Things Heat Up
By Audrey White
July 9, 2010
Between exhaustion and failed Internet, I’ve been slow on these posts. Several to come! Friday consisted of a good deal of sitting around and learning about one another. Each faith group - Christians, Muslims, Jews and Believe-It-Or-Not (a group made up of participants from mixed-religious families, those in personal and exploratory phases of their faith life and Alejandro, a Ba’hai LIT from the U.S.) - offered an explanatory and demonstrative presentation to outline the parts of their religion and spirituality they found most important. These were each meaningful and informative, and they gave the participants a chance to share a part of themselves with the group.
Participants from each region also created and presented historical timelines. The U.S. timeline was decked out with cartoons, and topics ranged from the Native American relocation processes of the early 1800s to the cultural shift in 2007 when Cookie Monster became Veggie Monster on Sesame Street. Connlaoth and the rest of the Northern Irish group enlightened us about an important date 40 billion years ago, when the first leprechaun came to be, before settling into a description of The Troubles, Bloody Sunday, and other events that have shaped the history of their conflict. The South Africans got their presentation started with a raucous performance of their national anthem, which is sung in four of the 11 national languages of the country.
But with the Israel/Palestine group presentation, the mood changed. Perhaps it is because their conflict is more present, perhaps because of the individuals in the group, but they were unable to create one unified timeline and so offered a dual timeline, one side outlining the perspective of Israeli group members, one outlining the Palestinian participants’ viewpoint.
As they tried to present both sides of a 2,000-year-old conflict in 20 minutes, they each struggled to be heard, and it became somewhat point-counterpoint. Afterward, Palestinian and Israeli participants both said they were frustrated with how it turned out and disappointed in the image the presentation gave of the conflict.
Throughout the day, different participants sounded off on their thoughts of the presentation, and all agreed it was difficult to digest. But later during cabin time, my co-cabin-counselor Farah and I asked our girls what might have been different in their own timeline presentation if different representatives had come from their regions, people who are still more rooted in the extreme ends of the conflicts or who have more distinctly opposite viewpoints. And they agreed that their presentations could have reflected the same struggle as the Israeli-Palestinian one.
And this is what we are here to do. The relationships and trust we build make it possible for us to all take a hard look at our own circumstances and try to do better, listen more fully, be more fair and create small steps toward peace.