By Erika Thorne, Managing Director, FNVW
“Shukran jazeelan!! [Thank you very much!!] “You have given us a wonderful conference. I came away with more of a sense of HOPE for peace than when I came this morning.”
“Great conference! Lots of good information and exposure to a range of ideas. Really appreciated hearing the perspective of Afra Jalabi and the role of women.”
These two participants seemed to speak for many others at the end of Ways of Peace II: Non-Violence in the Islamic Traditions, held April 9th in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was jointly sponsored by the University of St. Thomas and Friends for a NonViolent World (FNVW).
Ways of Peace II was a fountain of information about Islam from its roots to the present day, about Islam’s relationship to other faith wisdom traditions. It provided a steady stream of personal experiences, stories from written and spoken texts, individual opinion and interpretation as well as widely-accepted teachings. There were droplets of conflicting views and controversial analysis. All this will be available for view at our website within three weeks. If you didn’t get to attend in person, you can absorb a great deal through these excellent videos. So I won’t try to summarize the entire conference here, but I can describe a compelling aspect of it:
- The conference speakers and audience together found a delicate balance of respect and curiosity, assertions and gentle challenges, scholarly certainty, new discovery and recognition of ourselves in each other.
- For an entire day we created with each other a heightened sense of openness.
- We took chances to address challenging topics such as mis-use of Islam for political violence, women in Islam and in majority-Muslim countries, and how the scholars and activists present regard Islam’s approach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
- People heard about nonviolence at the very root of Islam, about nonviolent practitioners on the ground right now in the Twin Cities and in at least 10 more countries.
- Everyone who attended, listened and/or spoke came away with plenty of new perspectives to digest, new ideas for action, and perhaps more urgency for taking action. In short, together we created the kind of dialogue, relationships and mutual inspiration that truly can transform society nonviolently. All of us at FNVW are profoundly grateful to have been part of it.