Sunday, December 07, 2003

Peace in the Middle East
Reflections on Requisite Elements Not Currently Characterizing Any Extant Peace Initiative

There exists a near endless stream of efforts both past and present pursuing peace in the Middle East. Surely each has its place and value, and all to a greater or lesser extent have contributed to mitigate the horrors that have tortured the innocent and well-meaning families in the region.
Here are thoughts positing a distinct ground for the pursuit of Middle East Peace. These basic laws and principles are required for any organization or institution, which sets itself to the task. Absent these conflict will continue unabated.

There are two fronts for this signature, one grounded in the fact that all human phenomena have a spiritual dimension, the second is expressed philosophically.

Spiritual Reality
The key to peace lies with God, and with righting the God-Human relationship. Additionally world affairs are reflected in and related to spiritual reality. The accomplishment of peace is a spiritual undertaking before it is political, social, and scientific. As such religious leaders and believers bear a foundational role and responsibility for this initiative.

The Philosophy of Peace
1. Peace is the establishment of a permanent condition of prosperity, joy, equality of opportunity, and respect for every person and every family in the region. It is predicated upon the complete extirpation of enmity and historical resentment. It is not a project of compromise, but a destiny for mutual embrace, common life, and social care and support for all.
2. Religious leaders and believers are responsible to repent of all past wrongdoing, sectarianism, conflict, aggression, and oppression. Likewise religious leaders and believers are responsible to forgive, embrace, support, and unite with people from other traditions who seek to improve and collaborate to build a future of right relationships and shared happiness.
3. Political and social leaders have a responsibility to collaborate with enlightened religious and spiritual leaders and believers who have reconciled, removed enmity, and achieved oneness through difficult and rigorous, spiritual practices.
4. All sides have problems for which they must repent, and change. Analysis, which has bias toward only one party, can never contribute to the ideal and establishment of enduring peace and happy life for all. The idea of reconciliation and the practice of divine and sacrificial love is greater than the demand for justice.
5. Violence can never result in peace, or liberation.
6. Harmony is achieved through reconciliation by spiritual practice, and only secondarily through the application of scientific analysis and expertise.
7. True peace is measured by the health of family life, and the extent to which social conditions are conducive to promoting the spiritual and material aspirations of all family members from all generations.

Frank Kaufmann
December 7, 2003

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

An Interreligious Summit: How Could, or Should Religions Contribute to Peace
Submitted by
Frank Kaufmann
November 12, 2003
IIFWP Assembly 2003 - Global Governance at a Turning Point, Innovative Approaches to Peace in a Changing World

Thank you Madam Chairwoman.

Distinguished guests, I am grateful for the opportunity to offer some thoughts at this important meeting, on this important subject.

The question “How Could, or Should Religions Contribute to Peace” evokes a sense in everyone that they already know the answer. People automatically think, “The answer to that question is obvious. Just ask me. I’ll tell you.” Not every question evokes the same feeling. For example, “how many calories are there in an apple?” The fact that everyone thinks they know how religions should contribute to peace says a great deal.

We must ask, if the answer is so obvious, then why don’t we have peace already? Can it be that everyone in the world wants peace except religious people? If we can see a clear answer, then there must be something either in religion which is inherently antithetical to peace, or there is something in we ourselves which baffles our own efforts to bring to pass our own desire, and something (peace) which is patently in our own interest.

Whichever way one answers, the essential problem is the same in both cases. That is that there exists something split, divided, a house against itself. All religions teach peace, just as surely as all people desire peace.

Is there some dark shadow in religion(s) which inherently contradicts its own promise, its own core, its own sublime and elevated credenda? Maybe so. Surely people from time immemorial have legitimated war, oppression, and occupation with sacred scripture, and reference to religious obligation.

The other possibility is that the problem lies, not with religion but with we ourselves. Is this where the debilitating and self-destructive, internal conflict lies? Was Paul right, and speaking for us all, when decrying this inner battle? (Romans 2:24-25 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 … on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.)

The modern world supports a battle between two philosophical camps on this issue. One says that the debilitating, internal contradiction lies in religion itself, and that the human being is fine (and perfectly capable of peace), if spared the burdens of fear, guilt, and superstition, and released to enjoy the calm glories of reason. These are the statists, humanists, enlightenment rationalists and so forth. This view is widespread in modern society (commonly conceded at the United Nations, universities, elite media professionals and so forth).

The other camp says the opposite. Religion is fine (in fact good), and it is the human being which is wracked by this contradiction and split. In fact, it is precisely this human condition of being at war with the higher self which is the exact raison d’etre for religion in the first place.

A resolution to this debate is possible, but it is one which nods a touch in the direction of the religious side. It would state that religion given by God is without the shadow which is leads to war. But insofar as it must be received, constructed and maintained by human beings, it comes to be contaminated by the internal contradictions of its administrators. This resolves the modern debate so that both religions, and the human being bring to the table an inner contradiction which results in a world of war and terror.

Back to the question: What must religions do to contribute to peace? They must purge themselves and their leaders and believers of internal contradictions. In the case of religion, the battle rages between the higher part of each religion which says the religion must exist for the whole world and for every person. This battles with the impulse, likewise in all religions, which says that the religion exists only for its own sake, and the sake of its own believers. Our only concern is with Catholics, we have no compassion or concern for any other sort of religious believer. They are not my problem. (Or only Jews, or only Buddhists and so forth.) This impulse to devote oneself only to self interest at the expense of the greater whole contradicts the higher truth in all religions to serve the whole world, and every person.

The human contradiction is identical. There is a natural aspect of our make-up which altruistic, and conversely a part which is oriented to our own ways, habits (traditions), and self-preservation and promotion. As with religions, these parts of the self must be harmonized, so that the higher (interpretation of) self takes the lead as the primary force guiding our existence.

So, is there a way religions can or should contribute to peace? Yes there is. Enlightened leaders in each tradition must analyze the root revelation and sacred origins and development of each respective tradition to determine which aspects call for serving the whole world and every person, as well as to find in each those impulses which interpret in the direction of greater parochialism, and self-preservation and promotion. Finally these leaders must harmonize this contradiction into a seamless and unified whole in such a way that the narrow parochial elements support and fuel the Divine indwelling which calls believers to love the whole world and every person.

To the extent that each tradition can accomplish this is the extent to which religious difference will cease to be a causus bellum, and shift to become an indispensable voice and contributor to peace on earth.

Monday, June 16, 2003

The Interfaith Movement and the Launch of the Roadmap

Frank Kaufmann
June 16, 2003

Recent world events awoke the average lay person to the wisdom and necessity of interreligious dialogue. Professionals in the field enjoyed a new environment in which they no longer were met with confused disinterest when sharing their lives with strangers in planes and ariports. Instead they are met with appreciation and admiration. “Huh?” was replaced with “Lord knows we certainly need that.”

As with much of the positive change in the wake of 9-11 (such as heightened social awareness, and restored humanness), newcomers’ enthusiasm for interreligious dialogue also dulled a bit as time went on.

This dulling of the temporary spike in appreciation of interfaith does not bring us back to pre 9-11 levels of unknowing. Events brought new development to the movement, some good, some bad.

The good development is that there has arisen a lot more interfaith activity since 9-11. This has (at least) two benefits: 1. Interfaith projects, events, and awareness has moved far deeper into the grass roots (this is long overdue), and 2. The increase yields a much more variegated landscape,so that many more creative and innovative ideas for approaching interreligious problems and challenges are cropping up. Each new project tends to bear the signature of the leading visionary acting under inspiration.

The negatives include the fact that a sudden but relatively untrained interest (in a world of increasing superficiality and impatience), coupled with the inability of the interfaith movement to produce recognizable results in the world’s most watched, religious trouble-spots (such as Israel) create the danger that the public will return to its prior dismissal and disinterest in the interfaith movement, only more dangerously this time, not merely from ignorance, bit from a conscious and deliberate assessment of the ineffectiveness of the movement. Thus the interfaith movement stands at an important crossroads.

I believe the warm glow will last long enough to produce some fiscal solace by matching the over wealthy with the over needy, but this too will meet rough roads ahead if the interfaith movement does not find a way to do more than assuage the givers social conscience, and instead start to produce some tangible progress in the world of interreligious relations. Very few fundamentally new ideas are coming forth. To benefit from events without taking responsibility for one’s failures, including even those which led up to the very horrifying events themselves is to chase fools gold.

Thursday, February 20, 2003


Friendship is a peculiar thing. Because it is one of only two deliberate human relationships, it is prey to the same exacting and frequently unsatisfiable demands which refine and intesify themselves in all other parts of life. Think of the insatiatiability characteristic of the rich and famous. The search for satisfaction leads to Leno's acre of cars, Hollywood collections of husbands and wives, and gourmands dissatisfied with a $500 dollar meal and $1500 dollar wine.

The desire for the "perfect" this or that was built into us to make us good, but mixes with our selfishness to dissipate our gratitude and contentment (see Buddha's 4 Noble Truths). This ever greater and more refined sense of our preferences has an impact on the possibility of finding a true companion. For me, a companion moves effortlessly with you to the essence of your concern that moment, and then moves deeply and rapidly beyond. You quickly become of one mind, and then swim together like fish in the sea.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Some Elements in Reconciliation

Clash, and conflict derive from usually unexamined core or foundational differences, combined with myopia. Not "getting along" comes from the inability to imagine that any way of doing things which differs from my own A. can be a good way of doing things, and B. be done with integrity.

Ways of doing things are not merely personal. On a deeper level they reflect cultures. Cultures in turn grow out of worldviews. (Most worldviews grow out of religions, except for the small few that grow out of religiously held anti-religions).

Meta-religious (cultural) difference includes the Oriental/Occidental rift, the the sacred-whole/post-enlightment-atomistic-rationalism split, as well as the democratic/monarchic split.

The Oriental worldview is often considered "vertical culture." Position dominates, the status of elders signifies "more true," and "more correct." The occidental worldview is often characterized as "horizontal." It tends to be more merit based, and breaking molds is often more prized than preserving the eternal "original superiority" emboddied in the elder. It can be said that in oriental mentality postion trumps person. In the West person trumps position. The split between the "monarchical" worldview and the "democratic" one, parallels the Oriental/Occidental worldviews.

I had presumed these categories to comprise the major divisions in world view. I considered East and West to be the main and final line of cultural division. The largest categories; the spectrum within which all others fall.

A friend however introduced poles of a culture conflicts that never crossed my mind. It was presented as a clash between the dialogical and communal qualities the essentially Jewish culture, and the conscience based subjective certitude of the Protestant experience.

These sorts of culture-rooted differences are antecedent to efforts at reconciliation. They inform the respective partners in ways that confound communication at interior levels beneath consciousness.

Mediation and resolution requires that players become able to live inside worldview of the other to the extend that that view alien to the self is recognized as one which can be held with integrity, and and seen as viable. The position of the other must be recognized as not inferior by definition.

Friday, February 14, 2003

The Night Before Blix

From among the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Belgium, Iraq, the United Nations and Al Qaeda, the one which is most contemporary, most avant garde is Al Qaeda. The second is the United Nations. It is possible that the US is the highest minded from among the group listed, but unfortunately there are enough inconsistencies in the overall collection of US positions internationally, to create at least to some eyes "the appearance of impropriety." The case of the US sadly is NOT "cut and dried," "beyond a shadow of a doubt." This is most unfortunate, and it is in fact the preeminent matter about which the US should be concerned. More concerned in fact than the rise and fall of terror alerts. If anything should happen to cement suspicion of the America's goodness (to the neutral observer), the future of the world will be badly damaged. This is what the US risks with its currents threats of unilateralism.

At least as problematic as the risk of the US squandering its reputation as good, is the fact that the US has shown itself to be dull-witted, flat-footed, uninspired, and behind the times in its wasteful floundering about since 9-11. The age of the big army is obsolete. With the rules re-defined by the 9-11 attacks, and the incessant terror of the intifada, the lesson to be learned is that brute power is a waste of human and material resources. Martyrs and Tyrants are unthreatenable. Once they don't mind themselves and their people dying you might as well put your army away. The billions of dollars spent in fireworks over Afghanistan, and the billions more hovering around the Gulf should be spent on intelligence (for the sake of security), improving the societies of allies and neutral countries in need, and in dissolving the hatred of our enemies.

Of the powers listed above, only the United Nations and Al Qaeda intuit the nature of the world to come. The remaining powers including the United States (in its current behavior) are stuck in a dated and outmoded concept of international relations. The powers which intuit a future world transcending the passe dynamics of the nation state are the one's defining the war, and ultimately pointing to a new future.