Monthly Archives: October 2015

Bringing About Peace in an Ambivalent Society

A book published in 2000 jam packed with detailed information about various recent violent conflicts  that have tragically affected dozens of ethno-religous communities and challenged those seeking to bring about reconciliation and peace.  The ambivalence is about how often those with religious conviction use their religion and influence to either bring about the violence in the first place (e.g. jihad) or seek to mitigate it (e.g. the Catholic Community of Saint Egidio.  Religious extremists can be on both sides of a conflict and fully justify it’s propagation in the name of God e.g., the current deadly Sunni-Shite conflict in Syria, the Catholic-Protestant “Troubles” in Northern Ireland.

Suffice it to say that the author goes into excrutiating detail about the factions involved in a large number of late 20th century world conflicts like the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, Guatemala, Mozambique, Ireland, the Philippines, East Timor.  I could not get through it all.

I loved his analysis of militants and religious tolerance based on Diana Eck’s writings:

” Eclusivists” are enclave builders – there is only one way of understanding reality and interpreting the sacred.

“Inclusivists” hold that while there are many religious traditions, communities and truths, one particular tradition is the culmination of the others and is superior and comprehensive enough to include the others in a subordinate position.

“Pluralists” say that truth is not the exclusive possession of any one tradition or community. Rather, this diversity is not an obstacle to overcome but an opportunity for engagement and dalogue with others.

Religious communities such as the Mennonites have a strong call to peace and have been instrumental in teaching people how to bring about peace using their own local cultural tools and traditions. Powerful example. By contrast, Buddhists seeking inner peace are less likely to get involved collectively in conflict resolution work. And of course the extremist Muslim groups such as Hezbolah and Al-Queda are painted as the most intolerant and dangerous. The story of Islam reformer Abu Nasr Zayd is particularly disheartening:

Catholics have been world stage in bringing about peace e.g, Pope John Paul II in Poland and bringing down repressive communist regimes. However Appleby reminds us that in 1968 the RC Bishops in South America affirmed that Christians must pursue political justice, a statement that many took in support of liberation theology protests in Argentina, Brazil and elswhere. So called “Bible and Bazooka” groups.

I recommend this book for those interested in the interaction of religion, conflict and reconciliation as well as recent world history. An exhaustive read but formidable in its scope and insight.

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Jury Duty In A Reluctant Society

I was summoned for jury selection this week and not selected.  There were 80 potential jurors there and my juror number was not called.  It took about 90 minutes to obtain 12 jurists and 2 alternates.

As I was sitting in the court sweating it – what if I get selected -?  It was for a sex assault charge that the judge said would take the rest of the week to conclude.

As I sat there, I decided that I would serve and not try to get out of my civic responsibility.  Now if it had been a trial expected to last several months, that would have been different.  The Superior Court sits in Pembroke, ON an hour by car each way from my home.

Everyone it seemed in that court room was sweating and praying they would not be selected.  About half those who were called up asked the judge to be excused for a variety of reasons – health, family, job.  It was kind of appalling to see.

Fortunately, a sufficient number of jurors did not try to evade their civic responsibility and were accepted by the opposing attorneys.

The judge was very accommodating and thanked us all for coming.  He went on to explain that it is every citizen’s responsibility to serve on a jury if selected – it is a corner piece of our democratic society – it can be a rewarding experience of bonding with others and reaching a common decision.  He also reminded us that now that we know how it works, to better clear the deck next time of upcoming responsibilities and be prepared to say yes.

I guess he is right but many of us don’t seem to consider this a desireable or worthy way to spend our precious time given all the other responsibilities we shoulder. It is all about time crunch!

Enough said.  Fulfilling one’s civic duties like jury duty or voting for that matter is not high on our bucket lists anymore.

My sincere thanks to all those people who do serve on juries and to those who work in the justice system for carrying out justice as best they can in a reluctant society.


After returning home I called Elections Canada because I had not received a voters card. Marie had. I was told I was not in the system at all. Sometimes this happens explained the service agent. Alas the online system for self-registering was down and I was told I can register the day of the election at the polling booth. I hope this is true as by then it will be too late to correct. A reluctant society – an ambivalent government.

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