The Wheatley Institution

The Role of Religion in Conflict Dynamics

James Patton
November 5, 2014

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Thanks very much. This is nice. This is an intimate crowd. You guys can move forward if you'd like. You don't have to sit so far back so I can see you. I'd like to have a little bit of a conversation so I'm going to share some ideas first, but hopefully leave enough time that we can have some question and answers and really kind of answer your concerns, your interests in a more particular fashion.

But first, I'd like to start off—I should start off—by thanking you all for having me. I appreciate it very much. Fred and Richard and Emily and Mark, other friends for opening this space for me, for ICRD to come and talk about our work. And we've had great experiences sharing ideas here both this week and in February with the WIAC conference. So once again, thank you very much for that.

When I ask you all, "What comes to mind when you put the two words 'conflict' and 'religion' together?" I won't put you on the spot and call anybody out, but I would imagine very few of you think of the unique ways that religion can actually act to heal historical wounds and to heal identity conflicts and to bring people together. Most people immediately lead to our current news cycle with groups like ISIS and others that reflect, I think, the worst of what religious identity can do in terms of human relationships. We at ICRD, however, try to have a broader approach to our understanding of how faith and religious institutions function in human society and particularly in conflict dynamics so that we can engage the best of religious attributes, spiritual inclinations, divine motives, and even just the religious structures to help really mitigate conflict where traditional mechanisms have not been able to prevail.

Anybody know where this photo is from? The younger folks. I would ask the older folks not to answer. Any ideas? These are the killing fields in Cambodia. Cambodia went through a period from 1974 to 1979 where estimates somewhat agree that 40% or more of their population was killed in an internal genocide. Forty percent of the population in four years. At the end of that period there was still fighting going on, and the Kuman Rouge who had led that genocide had fled to the Thai border and was still in an arms struggle with the Vietnamese who were backed by the Chinese, etcetera. Across the border in Thailand was a refugee camp. And there was a little old Buddhist monk in that refugee camp by the name of Maha Ghosananda. One morning he woke up on the border of one of the most heavily mined areas on the planet at the time, and he reflected on his spiritual beliefs, the dharma and the noble eight-fold path. And he said, "Am I sitting here in a refugee camp, me sitting here, is that reflective of the call for me to engage in right action, right reflection, right effort, right intention?" and he decided it wasn't. So he got up and he started walking home. And he walked from Thailand through the minefields, right down the line of conflict back to Pnom Penh. And he caused both sides of the conflict to stop shooting. He was followed by other monks and nuns and people came out of the forests and villages and sat on the side of the road, brought him food. Both sides of the conflict, both avowedly areligious if not antireligious, stopped shooting in order to let these people pass. And in fact came to them and said, "What are you doing? This is crazy. Why are you doing this?" And he pointed to the side of the road to a little girl who had one leg because she had lost the other in a landmine incident sitting by a plate of food that she had brought for the pilgrims. And he said, "This is why we walk. This is what we're doing." Even the Marxist elements of the two fighting forces lay down their guns and started to come to the table to talk. It was the first step in what turned into a long negotiation process. But the Dhammayietra walks, as they came to be known, each year had more and more adherents. Each year had more and more influence on the conflict. He was driven by his faith. It wasn't that he wasn't afraid; it wasn't that he didn't think that he might lose his life. But he felt called by a higher call to act in a different way. And that act had a profound impact on the conflict dynamics in which he was living.

Eighty-five percent of the global population self-describes as religious. So the fact that our institutions, our mechanisms for conflict resolution tend to leave out the question of faith and faith actors, particularly the spiritual component, not so much the institutional or individual element. If the bishop comes to the table because the bishop's an important guy in the country, that is not the same as engaging what drives people in conflict dynamics. (And, I will beg your pardon, I decided to get a little bit of a cold right before I gave this speech. I thought it was a good idea that you couldn't really hear me.)

The question is how do we engage in this stuff? How do we take this seriously?  If it's as serious as the ISIS examples illustrate, as Maha Ghosananda illustrates, in terms of driving people to do things in conflict spaces, in social relationships, but particularly in conflict spaces which is where we work. How have we historically engaged with it? What is a better way to engage in it? So I've put here a list of what I think has been the trend and the shift I would say, probably post-9/11 shift, in our approach to working with religion, religious actors, and faith at our institutional level. In diplomacy, we hewed very closely to our very strict understanding of separation of religion and state in a lot of our institutions. The idea was religious people will talk to the religious, they'll deal with their own thing in their own space, and we will work at the diplomatic level, defense level, intelligence level, etcetera, Iincluding the private sector, economic issues. After 9/11, religion and conflict became a central theme—but not a central theme in terms of engaging people at the level of their belief. Rather, in terms of excluding or decapitating or somehow putting in place countermeasures to violent extremism, which in this moment primarily, unfortunately, we're informing our foreign policy through a singular lens on the Muslim world. In terms of engaging with stay actors in civil society, again, religious actors were largely ignored. Now you'll see a trend in our institutions to silo them, which is to say, allow religious people to deal with religious actors, and then bring some sort of information back from that. But we have not integrated more into the way that we engage with the general, either institutions or civil society, in the countries that we're working with. In terms of working with other religions, there's still a great deal of ignorance about it. I think that there's a lot of nervousness; having come out of the state department, out of US AID, a lot of people feel this is an intangible, an idea that they can't get their head around rationally. They're all trying strategic analysis and intervention, and religious people and religious ideas are ephemeral. And they're not entirely sure how to grapple with it, so their default is to not grapple with it. Our task, at ICRD, and I think the broader task in addition to trying to transform conflict spaces, is to what I call "de-mythologize religion." And by mythologize I don't mean that it's a myth, that religious beliefs are fables, etcetera. I mean in terms of the idea that it's something that can be understood and worked with in a practical dimension.

These are chiefs in south Sudan. This was during the lead up to the referendum for independence period. The religious institutions played a strong role there during this period because around there when the referendum was to take place there's usually a lot of cattle violence, cattle raiding between the tribes. It's the largest swamp in Africa, and as it reduces, people migrate with their cows. There's no money in south Sudan. There are no credit cards. There are no credit card machines. It's cattle. They couldn't believe that a government official from the Department of State was there and had no cows at home. They said, "How did you get married?" they asked me. Because you have to pay cattle for your bride. We had running jokes, of course, "How many cattle would I be worth?" The cattle raiding is a major issue, it's a major marker of their culture. But it's also a way that boys demonstrate their transition into manhood. As we led into the referendum period, the question was "How can we work to mitigate the annual violence so that the referendum comes off in a safe and legitimate fashion so that when they declare independence (which everyone assumed they would, and they were right) it's recognized as something that happened in a stable space?" The government at the time and the local chiefs and communities didn't trust one another. The local communities saw the government as dominated by the Dinka tribe, excluding Neor and other tribes, and so they had a very bad relationship with one another. The government was trying to justify and install its own justice systems, a more formal justice system, while the local actors worked through a kind of customary law system.

What the churches were able to do in this space, it's primarily Christian in South Sudan, the churches were able to play a role linking the local justice practices with the formal justice practices, which built some trust with government actors and local chiefs and at the same time allowed resolution of cattle crimes. Cattle violence was to be dealt with and not escalate in a way that was legitimate for both of the actors, both for the local actors and for the government actors. Only religion, only the religious institutions really had that reach. They could get all the way into the palace of the president and all the way down to the Dinka subtribe in the middle of a place that is impossible to get to that's still living as they lived 2,000 years ago. So it had this institutional reach that gave it the ability to transmit messages and share ideas. And this is the kind of thing that the state department, defense, intelligence increasingly do take seriously and do use. Frankly, the cattle violence dropped 90% in the year of referendum. Unfortunately, we've seen what happened afterwards, so the referendum was taken care of, everybody was happy, and they all went home and things went back to business as usual.

This is Riek Machar, the vice president voting for independence. I was with him when he was declaring the success of this process, and he was actually one of the leaders that travelled around to bring these special corps systems and the formal justice systems together. Of course, we know now. I'm pretty disappointed in Riek because he broke with the formal government and launched a violent attack on Salva Kiir, the president, and now they are in the midst of a terrible bloodshed, more than 100,000 dead, again, after their independence. So unfortunately it was not stable.

What are the ways in which I see religion acting in social dynamics and conflict dynamics? Again, I'm taking a very analytical approach to this because most of the folks who leverage resources and engage in these spaces have an institutional, analytical framework. I would say the two most obvious things that are currently being used more often than not when interventions are being designed are these two pieces at the top and at the left: the structure and the community. What do we mean by that? The structure is the kind of thing I was just talking about. You have an institution that can touch people at all different levels of society. And the community is this issue of narrative identity. It's a space where people come together where they feel safe, where they feel connected and collaborative and they can hear or share different messages for good or bad.

The last piece is the piece that religion really has somewhat uniquely in terms of identity markers.  It is this question of values, this idea of transcendence, this sense that, to put it crassly, "God told me to do it." And this can manifest in ways that are wholly irrational to institutional thinkers. It can make people not only stand up in a safe refugee camp and walk across a minefield in the middle of a conflict, but it can make them strap on an explosive device and get onto a bus full of children. These are things that can force people to transcend their fears, their values, their own humanity and engage in acts that don't make any rational sense to most strategic thinkers. But it also gives it a certain potency that other kinds of identity markers and interventions don't have. The details aren't important, but again I've sort of played out a little bit there what are some of the ways in which this manifests in terms of active conflict spaces. 

Why is this important? The guy on the upper left there, in the white, he weighs about 300 pounds because his back is filled with soviet bomb shrapnel because he was fighting with us in Afghanistan against the godless soviets.  Of course, as soon as we'd finished and left, and left most of them in the lurch, they took the kind of Mujahideen training we'd given them, and manifested it as faith warriors.  So this gentleman ended up in control of something like 20,000 madrasas and mosque imams in Pakistan and ultimately was with folks who were training the Taliban, particularly the Taliban elements that bombed the train in Madrid.

ICRD launched a program in this space where we started to engage with the training centers to try and figure how we can reduce this kind of susceptibility to violent extremism and the trends of violent extremism coming out of Madrasa system. This gentlemen is a Deobandi.  I don't know if you know the sects of Islam, but the Deobandi and the Wahabi tend to be the most pure, Islamic sects. They also tend towards the extreme end of identity and also house those who believe that they need to convert others through force. The violent extremists tend to be from Salufis, Diabondi, Wahabi camps. The three men around the table all belong to those different sects. Why do we need to engage with folks like this?  If it had been the US government, this guy would have never been sitting at the table. But these are the people who have the legitimacy, the authority to speak to these kinds of motives in a place where religious identity trumps every other identity. Religious authority trumps every other kind of authority.  If we don't find a way to connect to folks like this when we're trying to transform conflict dynamics, then we won't be able to really reach the folks who most need to be reached.  If you can imagine a Boston, Irish, Italian, ex-Catholic, Quaker, going into the Sunni Madrasas, and saying, "You know, you really need to think differently about how you are teaching the Quran," then I probably would not have been here today. At least not in one piece.

When he first came to a session that was run by the gentleman on the far right with the little bit of white beard who turns out is a Pakistani born Shia who was educated in the United States and was our program director—when he first came to his seminar on tolerance, at the end of it he stood up and he said—this is one of the major leaders of Islamic prudence in Pakistan, by the way.  He's always on the radio, on TV, publishing all the time, and he stands up at the back of the room and he pounds on his desk in front of him and says, "I'm angry. I'm angry because I came here to discredit everything you were going to say, to expose you as a puppet of the American government, and maybe even controlled by the Christians.  And I'm angry now because for the first time I think you've shown me the heart of the Holy Quran. And I feel as though I have been taught, and I have been teaching it the wrong way my whole life.  And I pledge that I will go back and transform the education in my Madrasas."  Which he has done, and he's done it in a very high profile fashion talking about it, publishing about it, etcetera. 

Now, what happens when you have someone like that who changes their perspective with that kind of authority and that kind of legitimacy and that kind of access? The impact is amazing. It's transcendent.  Once again, the state department and defense department never would have gotten to a person like this. He was too close to Mela Omer; he was too close to radical elements. They may have just killed him. But the impact that someone with the ideology can have if they start to interpret the same ideology in a nonviolent fashion is dramatic. When I was working with gangs in Latin America, it was always different. When I was talking to 15 year old kids who were out in the streets stabbing people about this is what your life could look like, and this is how you need to change and transform.  And they said all right you know, "Gringo," whatever. But when we brought the guys from Mexico who had survived their gangs and they had the scar on the face and they were missing an eye and they were all tatted up, and they said, "Listen—I lived through this, I can tell you the whys of being involved in it and of not being involved in it, and I can give you some guidance on how to get out of it."  These are the most potent conflict transformations that you can find.  So ICRD really tries hard to locate not just institutional or NGO partners, civil society partners but elements within the faith traditions that are mobilizing conflict that can help become mitigating factors for the conflict.

So, what is this?  Any of you know the spaghetti map, the famous spaghetti map from Afghanistan. No?  Look it up on Google, it's fantastic.  Someone did a conflict analysis for the generals in Afghanistan about what were the conflict drivers and what were the relationships, and it looks literally like a plate of angel hair pasta. It's incredibly difficult to read. And in fact, he said this is the reason we're not winning. Because this is the way we think. But it's absolutely necessary to try to understand, again, how do we demythologize religion. Try to understand it as one of the elements in the conflict dynamic, one of the elements that create conditions for the emergence of violent conflict. I don't believe in direct causality. So, for example, poverty does not equal violence. There are plenty of poor people who are killing no one. But extreme poverty, exclusion, lack of resources, lack of opportunity, lack of employment definitely increase the conditions for potential conflict. So where does the religious element in the place we're in engaging in fit in to this?  And then the law, of course, the circles are meant to say how important the thing is or how the size of the thing is in the social dynamic, the thing being institutions, people, identities, etc.  This is value neutral. Just name what's involved in the conflict dynamic and then name the relationships between them which are the lines.  When I go to the state department and talk about this kind of stuff they pay attention. When I go to DOD and talk about this kind of stuff, they pay attention. If I'm in Columbia with a group of indigenous Shaman, I won't put this up on the screen because they would all fall asleep or go get coffee.  But the idea is as we do this kind of thing we really need to normalize this concept of faith and religion in terms of one of the elements that's moving people to behave in a certain way, right?  It's a transcendent element, there's another piece to it particularly for believers, but the truth of it is, it is a driver of behavior, and if we want to change behaviors we need to engage at the level of that driver and as a nation our institutions are still failing to do this in a way that's effective. You have to then bound the kind of things you're going to grapple with. You can't grapple with every variable in these kinds of conflicts bases, but naming the things that are causing conflict and choosing a place to put your energy into it is crucial so that you actually don't continue to have the idea of faith, the idea of religion stay outside of the process of intervention as an intangible, which is something that happens consistently. Again, as I talk through this, this is kind of some of the methodology and the strategic thinking of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy so you'll know how we try to function in the field.

Why is this important? Because peace requires people and you don't make peace with your friends. So whereas governments are really good at things like demobilization, disarmament campaigns, they're really rotten at dealing with historical trauma, for example. The Havana Peace Process in Columbia is a good example. We don't call it in our work in Columbia, we don't call it the peace process, we call it the Havana Disarmament Process because there are two armed groups deciding how to stop shooting at each other. But when people come out of the woods, leave the paramilitary organizations, leave the military, leave the FARC and the ELN, they're going to go back into communities that have been impacted by the conflict. And how are those communities going to react, and how are those people going to react, when they meet those social dynamics? Right now, one of the main problems in the kind of work that we're trying to do is that there's massive social rejection for these folks that were part of the armed groups. They come out of the jungle, they've been carrying weapons for 20 years, they never got an education, they have no other skills, but they do know where the routes, the routes are, they know how to get leaf to the coast and get it on board ships and so they get into a town even if they want to leave their armed group  they get into a town, people reject them for their historical identity, and the pain that they've gone through and what are they going to do?  As we've seen with the paramilitary demobilization in Colombia, they just go back home and put on a different hat, you know, they go back into the same thing they were doing they go back into the illicit traffic, they go back into a group where they feel that they belong and are recognized and their skills are valued, and continue to engage in destabilizing behaviors. How do we get these folks back into a relationship that's functional?  And who is in the position to do that?  When a young man sees his older brother who's his hero shot up and bleeding out in front of him, no vocational training is going to address that wound.  When a Catholic nun who I work with sees one of her children shot in front of her, another one has disappeared and her husband has disappeared, no restitution from the state that helps her rebuild her home is going to address these other issues.  So who and how can we address these issues in terms of healing, getting past these things, getting above our base instincts, and getting to another kind of relationship? We think that the faith actor is perfectly positioned to do that.

I was asked by a military colonel in Colombia, "What about us?  What about our families?  What about our security?  What about what we've lost?"  So here is an element of the government of Colombia the government that is actually engaged in the demobilization process, the "peace process" quote unquote, and even he is not satisfied with the idea that the FARC is going to turn themselves in and put their guns down.  There's resentment, there's pain, and there is rancor.  And these things are difficult to engage in but absolutely necessary for transformative relationships that then take away those conditions for the emergence of violent conflict.

Now this is just a side note, again, sort of going back to why engage with these certain people like the Deobandi gentleman that I was talking about before in terms of legitimacy and authority to be able to mobilize other folks. Something I try to challenge the US government to recognize is that there are different motives within extremist groups or violent groups. Oftentimes religion is not actually the issue. The religious language, religious narratives, religious identities, might be actually pulled into play to mobilize groups of people, but their grievances might be different. They might feel excluded, they might not feel like they have a place to belong, they might not feel like they have income. And this is a place where they can solve those problems. Your mobilizers tend to be folks who are either ideologically committed to violence or who are pursuing other personal interests, whether it be or power or economics. Those groups require incredibly different intervention strategies. So to work with someone who is fighting under the banner of a religious movement because their family is starving and that's how they're going to get income requires an entirely different intervention strategy than someone who came out of a middle class family somewhere, was bored, started reading extremist materials, and decided that they wanted to be a leader of a revolutionary movement or some such thing.  Very, very different motives, very, very different intervention strategies. Again, going back to the idea that if we're going to work with religion, we also still have to deal with it as a rational element of conflict dynamics.

Anybody know who these guys are?  That's Pastor James and Imam Ashafa from Nigeria, the pastor and the imam. There's a very good film, two films actually, out about them right now.  Pastor James loves to start his conversations, his presentations, by raising his rubber right arm and pointing it at Ashafa and saying, "he cut my arm off." Which, not sure if it's technically true, but it's close enough.  Not sure if Ashafa had the machete, but his guys did.  And James's guys killed at least one of Ashafa's sons and nephews.  And they were finally sat down by actually by women leaders in Nigeria who said to them, "You two can heal this country, if you can find a way to meet one another at the level of your desires for the future of our nation rather than the divisions that you have around your doctrine." And they did. They sat down, they took a long time, they needed mediation, they connected, but now they are traveling all around the world, particularly in the hot spots of Africa conducting the same kind of work.  So the fact was that Ashafa was in a militant group but can now go and talk to people in Boko Haram or Al-Shabab about how they are misinterpreting their call to act in the world, and James can do the same thing with Christian groups. The replica impact of what they have done and what they have learned is immeasurable, frankly. 

This is meant to be a little discussion about humility and adaptability. If any of you who are planning on being in this kind of work this is a practical piece that one has to absolutely keep in mind. As John Paul later says, "The spider webs that hold societies and people together." First of all, you have to be very careful to tread lightly so you can see what is happening. Take your time, go slowly and when you pull on one side of the spider web, the rest of it moves. That is to say that when you affect a system, a social dynamic, you are going to have social consequences to what you do that you need to be attentive to. So as a practitioner, it is extremely important to build programs that will allow you that kind of adaptability, and when you go into this, go into it with a sense of humility. Our work, for example, in Pakistan, functions because we work out of the history, the heritage, the beliefs of the people that we are working with. This is true of all of our work, but Pakistan in particular is a really interesting example. We were looking at the Madrasas and the susceptibility of youth when they got out. Why? Because they are studying an Arabic text and they only speak Urdu. There are no other kinds of classes that they get. There is no social science, hard science, etcetera.  So we saw there that there was a religious element to the violence and there was a non-religious way for us to begin an intervention and eventually get to the point where you talked about religious tolerance and peace.

The intervention was based on pedagogical training. How do we get the officials in Pakistan as well as the Madrasa Oversight Board and Ministry of Education and teachers to engage in a program where they will change the way they teach? We sold it in terms of economics. These kids will come out and they cannot do anything. So in order to solve that, we reached back into the heritage of the very people that we were working with and we showed them how the Madrasas were the source in many parts of civilized western world of university training systems, the multidisciplinary system, the endowed chairs—all the different things that we think of in terms of our Western university education emerged from the Madrasas in their hay day. They had this incredibly rich history of education which then was diminished successively as Islam got more and more pressure from the crusades and they got defensive and they reduced themselves down to this single, purest sense of identity.  The idea was that they would be better Muslims, better Madrasa teachers, better Madrasas based on their own heritage if they engaged on their own heritage, if they engaged on the things that we wanted them to engage in. Of course, again, it wasn't needed in the programming. It was a Pakistani Shia and so there was a certain amount of authority and access that he had that we wouldn't have had. Over time, that turned into tolerance education, and now they are putting a Quranic peace text into the Madrasas. We have worked with 4,000 Madrasas out of 20,000 plus Madrasas. Not a lot, but these are all in these radical areas, the Deobandi area and the Wahabi areas.  So the impact is significant. And now we are actually bringing the Madrasa teachers to the formal university systems to get formal certificates in pedagogy. So when it works, it is really impactful. It is really powerful. There are lots of challenges.

This is a workshop that we were doing in Colombia outside of Metagene with indigenous shamans. The idea was how can we work with their cosmovision of healing in harmony to try to link with other religious actors, primarily Abrahamic traditions, primarily Christian traditions around Christian ideas of reconciliation and forgiveness? How can we find a way to get these two disparate doctrines and disparate groups to sit down at the table together and work on the work in the world that they feel called to do that is compatible—peace building—despite the fact that they have doctrinal differences? Because I will tell you right now, the narco-traffickers, they don't care what identity group you come from. They don't care about your gender or your ethnicity, your faith tradition. As long as you are doing the work they need you to do, it doesn't matter. Yet within the peace building community, we continue to separate ourselves along different lines of identity, particularly religious identity, and make ourselves profoundly weaker in the face of the kind of thing that we are trying to fight.  As my Christian friends would say, "Bringing the kingdom into the world."

This is an example of how hard some of this work is.  I have yet to find an indigenous shaman who will sit down with an evangelical pastor in Antioquia where Medellin is located, one of our pilot areas, because they have such a history of conflict amongst them that even as peace makers, they won't work together because they won't trust one another.  On the other hand, I work with a group of ecumenical women peace makers who found in their faith not only a way to bridge divides between Catholics and Protestants, which down there is very strong down there. I couldn't tell you a Methodist from a Presbyterian and I have a Masters of Divinity degree.  In my grandparent's era, I could tell you that that was a very serious deal. It is the same way still in Colombia. When I say ecumenism and interfaith, they mean Protestants and Catholics. It doesn't even occur to them to bring in Muslims, Jews, and Animists to the table. But they have decided to become reconcilers, to become agents of peacemaking. These women, 50 core women that we trained reached out to 300 women in eight conflict-impacted regions in the country.  All of them were victims of violence. One little nun the last time I was there, 75-year-old nun and she is about this tall, stood up at the end and she is just this sparkling, she has got this incredible energy.  She reads poetry, she gets everybody singing, she does all sorts of theater based on the New Testament. And she was signing off and she said, "Well, I guess I had better go back to my community now." Where, as I was leaving, the paramilitaries knocked on my door for the third time and said, "You really don't understand. If you keep doing this work, we will kill you." Now, the paramilitaries in Colombia, they don't mess around. I mean, some of the famous things they have done is chain sawing an entire village during Easter holy week to send a message to folks. They are perfectly happy to practice what they preach to get their way. She said, "No, I can't stop. I have to go back. This is what I do. This is what I am called to do." So much like Maha Ghosananda, she got up and she went home. I have a lot of fear that something is going to happen to her because she is an extraordinary resource there.

So let me just close with one thing about the example that we can set in using our faith and engaging others of faith to transform conflict. Here we are in Nepal. This is the group that I was showing you earlier. You can see Ashafi, the heavy guy in the back, Aussie Hussein, who runs the Pakistan program in the green shirt. What happened here at the end of three days of sitting down with Deobandi and Wahabi imamsand megachurch pastors from the United States, Evangelical megachurch pastors, 20,000 people in the church, TV shows, etcetera. They were talking about how we can interpret our individual faith traditions in a way that allows us to help each other protect religious minorities in each other's context. So protecting Christian minorities in Pakistan and working against Islamophobia in the United States. Megachurch evangelical pastors and former Taliban trainers sitting down to talk about this. On the last day, the Muslims went out to the prayer area for the Muslims and the Muslims had their prayer and then they explained it to the Christians and then they invited the Christians into the prayer space to pray. So you had a 300-pound war veteran, Islamic jurisprudence, Taliban-training Deobandi sitting there watching and listening to Christians enact and explain their spiritual practice. There was one Pentecostal there who threw himself on the ground said, "You guys get down and put your foreheads on the ground just like us! I didn't even realize that we had so much in common!" So you can imagine what they impact is having someone like that making this kind of a journey with people with different identities. 

Now, if you will forgive me, I would like to close with this. I would like to lean a little bit into my own heritage. I grew up Catholic and am now Quaker, a biblically based tradition. So does anybody recognize this story? I would imagine that everybody knows. So Matthew 14 is the one that I look to and the story basically goes that there is a bunch of fisherman out on the lake. There are a lot of waves and a lot of wind, a big storm and all of the sudden a big and terrible storm comes across the water and calms the storm down and all of a sudden they realize it is Jesus. No big deal. I mean, Jesus walking on water. It is Jesus. And what does he say to them? He doesn't stand there and say, "Look at me, I can calm the storm. You guys just hang out there, you will be fine and I will take care of you." He doesn't. He reached his hand out and says, "Come." Right? So we got a guy who grew up in a fishing village.  Anybody boat here? Fish? You know what it is like to be on a boat when the seas are rough or the lake is rough? Probably his dad and his grandpa were fisherman. His family, his brothers, his cousins, everything. He has been in fishing his whole life. He knows, he has it written into his genetic code, when you are out on the lake in the storm, where safety is and where danger is.  Can you imagine the decision he made to forget all of that and step out of the boat?  I mean, growing up Catholic I heard, "Well, he didn't have enough faith and so he sunk and mea culpa, and we are terrible and go to confession and etcetera. That was the lesson we were meant to take away. Sorry for my Catholic friends.  But I thought about it years later and I thought, "Wait a minute. He took a couple steps on the surface of the water. Right? Jesus walking on water fits the paradigm. But Peter getting out of the boat first is ridiculous and irrational and borderline stupid. But then he walked a couple of steps on the water. Sure, he sunk. But he walked." So what happens that night back in town at the local pub? Peter is in bed because he is exhausted. Tough day, but his buddies are sitting around the table with their steins of mead and saying, "What was he thinking?" They are calling their buddies over and saying, "Come here, you have to hear what Peter did. It was insane." So in that moment of actually breaking out of his own paradigm of what was actually safe and secure and what was dangerous, he had a ripple effect that he could not have possibly imagined having and just shattered the paradigms of other folks that had the presumption that he had of where safety was and where danger was and what they were called to do. Much like Goh Sananda and others. So I will end there. Thank you so much for your time. 

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