Challenges in Starting a Dialog of Peace
CXLV. If ye meet the abased or the down-trodden, turn not away disdainfully from them, for the King of Glory ever watcheth over them and surroundeth them with such tenderness as none can fathom except them that have suffered their wishes and desires to be merged in the Will of your Lord, the Gracious, the All-Wise. O ye rich ones of the earth! Flee not from the face of the poor that lieth in the dust, nay rather befriend him and suffer him to recount the tale of the woes with which God's inscrutable Decree hath caused him to be afflicted. By the righteousness of God! Whilst ye consort with him, the Concourse on high will be looking upon you, will be interceding for you, will be extolling your names and glorifying your action. Blessed are the learned that pride not themselves on their attainments; and well is it with the righteous that mock not the sinful, but rather conceal their misdeeds, so that their own shortcomings may remain veiled to men's eyes.
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 314, 315)
In attempting to keep with my goal of starting a dialog of peace with those I meet I have met challenges strait away. Although most people are friendly and sympathetic to the goal of peace, there are also the down-trodden who are bitter with life and want revenge for the injustice that was committed against them.
Yesterday, while traveling through some parks I talked to a few people that I met intent on inviting them to the July 20th event at Gibbons Park. Many would graciously accept the invitation with some excuse why they would not likely be able to attend, but would consider it if they are in the area at the time, so it was with a bit more bravery that I approached a group sitting in a circle near the peace gardens. I introduced myself and the Sowing Peace Initiative and was met with mixed interest. One lady took a card from me and showed some interest. One wanted me to guess his nationality. When I said “Ojibwa,” I think he was disappointed that I got it right, although he never confirmed or denied it. The conversation led to Columbus and I was informed that to celebrate Columbus Day was to celebrate genocide. I agreed, because I have read much about the genocide that followed Columbus discovering America. Great nations were wiped out and the remnant that remained was treated poorly. Today alcoholism, also brought by the European Settlers, ravages much of what is left of the aboriginal civilization of this continent.
So the challenge is, “How do I as a descendant of these European Settlers start a discussion of peace with one who is a descendant of the defeated nation?” It is well with us to suggest that we put the past behind us and try to go forward learning from the past and not making the same mistakes again, but there is no way we can give life back to those countless numbers that were murdered in the name of progress. We can say that we are very sorry that it happened, but we are living off the spoils of war. We are living on stolen land that we worked hard for and paid for with our labour and earnings. Does the fact that we bought it from someone who bought it from someone make it any less stolen? The fact is that the original settlers originally purchase it from someone who had stolen it or they got a land grant from the invading government who took it from the original inhabitants.
Blankets for land!
Yes, here is a great example of early justice. The original inhabitants, having been put into a desperate state by the invaders, are now offered blankets in exchange for their land. If this doesn’t sound unjust to you, then wait to you hear where the blankets came from. These were not new blankets by any means. They had been used by soldiers who died of smallpox. Now instead of going through the process of burning these decease laden items, they were used to purchase land. Of course the resulting smallpox epidemic wiped put much of a people who had little natural immunity to the deceases brought by the early Europeans.
Over the last few years the injustices of the past have been acknowledged. Those who had committed the crimes are long gone as are the victims, but descendants of both sides now share a blood stained land. We are now all homeless wanderers who have no place to go. Do those who had their land stolen try to steal it back? If we are living on stolen land do we return it and become homeless ourselves? We are living is a very different society the one the early settlers found, but we are only here on this earth for a short time, so it doesn’t matter so much if we have a home here. Let us try to be polite and courteous visitors while we are on this planet so we can be welcomed to our true home when we leave.