Friendly Book Collaborative

Breaking Down Divides: Acting on Conscience

By Rustam Musaev, Venera Minazova, Ram Paudel, Kins Aparece, Shushma Giri, Ratih Puspito, Chris Hunter, Nadine Hoover, and Kevin King

This interactive AVP-mini workshop for youth and adults showed how to use stories with people from different walks of life in a virtual space to experience and practice peace. We settled in by relaxing. Stopping in our bodies and minds. Letting go of stress and tension. Opening our eyes, and looking around. Life is a great treasure given to us as a gift. Notice how you can cherish this gift. Feel the love within and around you. Feel the truth within and around you. Feel how love and conscience give you strength. Listen to your breathing, to the great blessing of life.

In Russian, Nepali, English, and Indonesian, we struggled with new interpretation technology. This Zoom feature is designed for one-way webinar communication, not highly interactive communities of peace and justice. But we persisted! 

We introduced our name, location, and one feeling I have when I do the right thing… 

We remembered our Agreements: 1. Affirm myself and others; no put-downs or put-ups. 2. Stop, listen, and don’t interrupt. 3. Speak simply and truthfully, without fear of mistakes. 4. Speak from my own experience. 5. Care for each person, the group, the community, and the natural world. We hope everyone practices these in the workshop and in daily life.

Then we read Bayard Rustin’s Experiment in Fairness and asked what people noticed about the story. In small groups, we shared stories of experimenting or seeing somebody experiment with fairness. Then in different small groups, each group wrote one statement.

Speak Out
We are speaking to _(person or group)_. It’s unfair that _____. Can we try _____?

We are a Nepali-US Coalition for Peace in Myanmar. We ask the Myanmar Military to stop the killing of people and brutal violence against protestors. We ask for dialogue and discussion with the military leaders.

We are speaking to the student council. It is not fair that the student council negatively compares the skills of male and female students. Can we try to appreciate the diversity of skills of male and female students?

We are speaking to math teachers. It is unfair to distinguish between smart and less smart students. Can we try to find a good solution so that we all can fulfill our desires to learn?

We are speaking to Zoom developers, We ask them to make it easier to do simultaneous translation of multiple languages. It is unfair that we pay so much money for the interpretation but it is not working well. Can you please double your efforts to make languages accessible and to give us our money’s worth.

We are speaking to all Nepali. We are deeply upset with caste or color-wise discrimination or discriminatory systems that are unfair. We urge everyone to raise your voice against caste and color discrimination.

We are speaking to the privileged castes in the world. It is unfair how you benefit from discrimination. We urge the less privileged to raise their voices and the privileged to give up their power and position.

Dear Fathers, Sisters, and Brothers, the responsibility for our family is not only with our mothers. Nurturing is not only “mothering.” Can we try instead “familying”, where everyone supports, respects, and nurtures?

Participants commented:

“It is important for me to continue to be brave and talk about what is important and what can be done for justice and truth.” Elena Melnyk, Ukraine

“I can only be clear and constructive when I feel comfortable with my core self. Otherwise, I will be more concerned with protecting myself than with finding a nonviolent solution to a situation.” Deb Wood, USA

“It is important to speak up against injustice. It is more impactful when accompanied by an experiential process that empowers us to have a chance of opinion.” Stacie, Singapore

“Thank you for the opportunity to meet people from different countries who are ready to do good and create peace. It is a very valuable meeting for me, especially the communication in small groups.” Olga Klimenko, Ukraine

“I will remember to honor and respect the humanity of those who cause harm and disrespect others. Only love can build bridges and change hearts so that people become more together as a community.” Peter Clay, USA

“I need to continue seeing the humanity of others, especially if I disagree with their ideas or actions.” Jonathan Vogel-Borne, USA

“For me it’s important to raise my voice rather than being silent on unfair issues. Thank you everyone.” Ratna Maya Lama, Nepal

“Bayard Rustin made a change when he said out loud that the situation was not fair, thought about what the problem was for the restaurant owner, and then by coming up with a real idea for an experiment. It takes all 3. I get stuck at the first part, just noticing what is unfair. I need to practice seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view and coming up with a concrete thing to try.” Anne Collins, USA

“Ah yes, EMPATHY!” Tom Martin, USA

We closed with a warm feeling of connection around the world and across language divides. MARSHALLA (warm greetings) from Chechnya. Being at home, at the same time being with you – on the whole planet! This is a MIRACLE that is possible!!!! Thank you everyone!! Blessings to each one of you!! Love and connecting is the story, the lesson. A global event at this time is very important. Thank you for the connection and love. I liked the story and hearing it with all of you. Plus, learning a way to connect is exhilarating. I liked hearing every voice. This is wonderful to stay calm and enjoy every moment. I liked how everyone was patient, stayed present, and learned together. YIPPEE, fairness. It’s good to be reminded that we need to speak up when we see injustice. It reminds me how to think clearly and speak out for justice. It helps to be practicing together! Remember familying!!! Loved the ideas of familying–developing new vocabulary–from mothering, to parenting, to familying! I was uplifted just by being here! Namaste! I’m glad to see you all! I have new FRIENDS! Thank you for creating spaces like this, where we can learn and our voices are heard. I enjoy so much the intercultural experience. Even with the cultural differences, we are able to connect. I really hope that, Spanish speakers from Latin American can participate in the future training, since it was not possible to do it in this one. I was happy to see all the smiles but sorry my internet connection was not good. Pretty lovely to be able to meet so many more people! We spoke different languages, but we say the same things about the most important matters. Love to all and taking all the love and blessings from you all with me. I hope we meet again. Thanks to the organizers; this was an amazing meeting. Peace is possible friends ✨ Let Peace begin with me.

Da vostorzhestvuyet spravedlivost; may justice prevail!