Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Full Circle: Back to the Individual

From the beginning of the course to now, I believe we've come full circle.

What I mean by this is that we started by defining religion, religious concepts, how the individual internalizes religion from society and more. We then turned to community, identity, demonization and how religion works with societal conditions to produce violence.

Now, for peacemaking, we're back to emphasis on the individual in respects to the peacemaker and the person(s) who have changed. As shown through the video on the duo in Nigeria and the reading by Smock; individuals are a powerful potential. I wrote a blog post on the nature of the individual for my class last year, and I stand by everything I said.

However some concepts in that post don't overtly apply to religious peacemaking. As evident, the pastor and the imam have developed techniques which spurred the creation of new peaace accords in ravaged rreligious communities. Though we have looked at numerous groups that do peacemaking, individuals are at the heart of this. The case study of Guatemala in the USIP reading seemed to focus heavily on the actions of a few people which led to the formation of the peace treaty. In the Smock reading, personal tradegy, or experiences lead individuals to challenge their own beliefs and help spread peace instead of people part of the violence.

In essence, it is about taking the indiviudal out of a community, making them question their long-held assumptions, then putting them back in the community to focus on unobtrusive mobilization (from my social movements class). Unobtrustive mobilization is the concept that people work within the system of insitution in order to change the system itself. Though not a social movement, I feel this term has some revelvance when describing how changed individuals work within their religious communities to bring about peace.

After all, change has to come from within before it could spread throughout.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Reflections about The Pastor and The Imam

The movie about the Pastor James Wuye and  and the Imam Muhammad Ashafa in Nigeria was powerful.

Not only did it provide us with a concrete example of religious peacemaking, it also served to show us their methodology. One of the most important things I gathered from the movie (and there were a lot) was that effective religious peacemaking has to come from from the grassroots: local leaders and citizens coming together and spreading the idea. Though peace can be made by politicos or larger religious leaders, those pacts do nothing to bring together ordinary people who see another as an enemy.

Almost everyone in class saw the movie, but here a simplification of the process (how I saw it): bring community together -> separate different groups -> have each group explain their claims on why the "other" is bad -> have each group produce a list of "likes" and "dislikes" of the other group -> bring groups together and go over "likes" and "dislikes" -> do more community building through rituals and prayer. Prayer and ritual are used throughout this initial process along with scriptural readings of peace from the religions in conflict..

As I said, I am simplifying what I saw. However, demonstrated throughout the video, this process is extremely effective. It gives participants time to "vent" in order to get the anger out, and become educated on the other group's viewpoints. It also serve to re-humanize a marginalized group, which is important on many different levels; especially a moral one. In effect, the strategies used by the duo knock down physical as well as psychological barriers.

It was truly amazing to see individuals who once hated each-other, including the pastor and the imam, become changed and become committed to improving their communities. With so many cultures in the world being focused on community rather than the individual, re-humanizing the "others" puts the focus back on solving problems in a community rather than on hate.

I remember the pastor using the simile that him and the imam are like a married couple; if they divorce, their children will suffer. Case in point, the world needs more couples like this.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Implications of Globalization: The Breivik Case

Something I left out of my paper, that I thought I'd expand on briefly...

What implications does the Breivik case have on the globalization theory?

Mass migrations of peoples across the globe have damaged the very notion of the nation-state identity in the international system. Nation-states, states for a certain ethnicity, have been the dominant force in international politics since its inception in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia. One belonged to a state which for their ethnicity - Norway for Norwegians, France for the French, Mongolia for the Mongols etc. etc.

However, with people, ideas, and business moving around the globe in an unprecedented rate the idea of a nation-state becomes a blur. An Iraqi now lives in Norway. An American now lives in Portugal. Nation-states are losing the purpose of why they were created. Thus we come to a point, is the notion of a nation-state outdated? Supra-National organizations as the EU, AU, and the UN all serve to diminish the power of the nation-state and instead foster a collective identity. With collective identity, it means that some identity is being lessened or put on the back-burner. National heritage now becomes a shared regional heritage among a very diverse group of people. Is there anymore national heritage, in this case?

Furthermore, globalization goes to show that populations of developed countries are just as, or more, venerable as developing nations. Though developing nations have very serve problems, developed nations are now in a struggle for identity. Breivik is a perfect example. Breivik is from Norway, the West. Norway frequently takes high places in development, freedom, and living indexes as well as is known internationally for its peace initiatives. However, Breivik perceived immigrants from the MENA region as a threat to the very essence of who he was, and he framed this fear into a religious perspective. With additional prodding from far-right politicians, scholars, and bloggers, Breivik choose to commit the heinous massacres on July 22. Does religion supersede national identity in globalization cases? Is religious violence the new protest to globalization, as national identity is no longer a safe haven for those who feel threatened?

The implications of globalization is the changing paradigms of international relations and international identity. Supra-national institutions, identities, and ideas (religion) will become more prevalent than belonging to a state. Religion will be brought up to the forefront of a conflict that may be entirely secular. The role religion will play in the future may increase; an irony to the secular way of thought the world operates now.  By no means is this going to happen quickly, but it could certainly be a theme to look out for. Those who are skilled in religious peace may quickly become the newest hot commodity of globalization.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Is the Cure to Religious Violence a Global Mindset? An Irony

Teehan does it again. Though our first reading of his work (about evolutionary violence) opened my eyes, his conclusion certainly got me thinking. In his conclusion, it seems he is arguing for a "common faith that must be nurtured" in "terms of understanding the human condition" (219).

To me this sounds like in order to solve the problems of ingroup/outgroup, ethnic boundaries, and other divisions which promote violence; he argues for a new thought which bonds the global community together. His idea, is to bring a bigger picture to everyone so that boundaries are so small they won't matter. I could be wrong, but this sounds like he is advocating for a global identity.

The reason this is so interesting to me is that, through my research on the Breivik case and our study of many others, is that this global thought (globalization) is a main theory of religious conflict. How could one advocate for a global mindset when it is this thought that spurs violence in the first place?

I understand that with increasing globalization, a global mindset will develop. However, I fell like before this global identity develops (can there be an identity if you identify with everyone?), there will be more violence due to the backlash of the effects globalization has on society. the Norway bombing are is just an example of this backlash. Though I agree that we as society must "zoom-out" to a larger picture, I am also not a religious actor. I just thought it exposed an irony for me - can an idea both support and curb violence?

Maybe I was misreading this concept as argued by Teehan. While I agree that people need to see past divisions, it are these divisions which produce violence in the first place. I feel that this idea can be a component in peace theory, however, I am convinced there are stronger ideas in preventing religious violence.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Intro to Peace Theory: "Think Globally, Act Locally"?

As from our discussion today, Juergensmeyer stood all of us up. He had terrific cases and theories, but at the end let us down. Though his idea of promoting an environment which religious moderates can prosper is a good idea, there was little concrete concepts to promote peace. Sometimes one man doesnt have all the answers, and you have to synthesize ideas to get a clearer picture.

Mark Juergensmeyer

Being a student of political science and security studies, I can't wait to tackle peace theories and strategies. After being exposed to concepts of violence, religion, identity, and root causes of extremism, it will be refreshing to see what policymakers can do in order to make this world more peaceful.

A few good ideas were brought up in class - cross-cultural interaction to decrease total identity, and economic incentives - but I am excited to find out more. I understand that violence is part of human nature and it will never go away.

In addition after our class, cosmic violence is not something that one can "destroy". As much as we fight in Afghanistan, one cannot "kill" an idea. The only way to do that is to kill all who know and/or believe it; that's just validating violence in the first place. Ideas don't necessarily have to be "destroyed" in order to have them be unappealing. Bonding others together, by economics, socially or politically, can make violence unappealing. Moreover, creating a good status quo in society can deter violence. If everyone is benefiting, why disrupt it? Just like the Palestinian boy at the end of the book who wouldn't bomb a soccer field because he loves soccer, it is imperative to build off these common connections.

I am guessing we will see national strategies being employed on local levels. Tip O'Neill's  phrase that "all politics is local" is true, and doesn't just have to apply to politics. It certainly applies to combating violence and misconceptions in society. The Dickinson motto of "Think Globally, Act Locally" is exactly what I think we'll be seeing, or at least its I think what we need to see.

Knowing the in-depth concepts about religion and violence, we are already done with half the process. Now its time to learn how to provide effective policy to these concepts in order to reduce violence. There is light at the end of this tunnel, and I'm excited to see it.