Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Last Night's Meeting of Dialogue Across Differences

As I have mentioned in previous posts, there is a great neighborhood project in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, called "Dialogue Across Differences". It brings together people from a pretty wide variety of ethnic, national, class, and religious backgrounds. Last night's meeting involved two working groups, including the one I joined on providing new English speakers in the neighborhood (especially adults from ESL classes) an opportunity to practice English by conversingon a regular basis with volunteers who speak English already. I think it's very worthwhile and hope to get further involved. If I'm lucky maybe I can learn a smidgen of Arabic or Spanish or Russian while I'm serving as a conversation-partner for an immigrant, but that of course is not the purpose; it's for us to help them ;-).

The main thing I want to note on this post, however, is that before we broke down into working groups we had a program of brief reflections from three spiritual leaders about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. The reflections came from a Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew. All three were excellent. And all three speakers felt very comfortable drawing on their own traditions and scriptures to point us toward a concern for justice, peace and reconciliation. I heard a wonderful story about Mohammed, some real wisdom from the rabbinical tradition of Judaism as well as some more familiar (to me) Christian wisdom. This was somewhat unusual in our group, since although we come together to dialog we don't usually dialog about religion per se (that isn't our primary objective by any means). On this occasion I think it worked very well. I appreciated it because no one seemed to be in a defensive or victim-conscious state of mind (as is sometimes - I'm afraid - the case in Quaker Meetings). It was OK to share, and all three speakers had very powerful things to say.


Blogger Lorcan said...

Victimness is hard to get thy hand around. My father used to say to me that he did not understand me mum, as she was not Jewish... in practice, in her childhood, or her mother's. But what he could not know was the internalized understanding that my mother, my grandmother, and I found when called, "Yid", "Kike" or all the other dirty names. Yes, Richard, there are days we can speak of the greatness of understanding, but there are other times when we must learn to listen about the difference. Yes, Richard, I would love a time when I can talk with not sense of victim, But, to be in the deepest refuges of my soul, my Quaker meeting I grew up so comfortably within, or my Irish traditions, and because of my mother's eugenic inheritance, as translated by the "other" I am made to feel "other", hear me dear Friend, when I tell thee, race matters. There are times to bend towards sameness, and times to see the pain in difference. How nice to be forever White, and not have to face these things.

8:09 PM, January 22, 2006  

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