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Violence is a Religious Problem

Not all or even most of the violence in the world is religious in nature, but for religions to evolve and progress, for justice to be the order of the day, and for our planet to thrive, the religious and spiritually inclined among us are called on to take a stand for peace and non-violence.

This is nothing new, and yet it is a radical departure from both the history of religions, and the history of humans.  It would require us to shift our thinking and behavior from thoughts of competition to thoughts of cooperation, from exclusion to inclusion, from dominance to consensus, from uniformity to diversity.  In religious terms it is a shift from a masculine imagining of God to a return of the Goddess. 

I remember an argument while teaching religion class a few years ago with a student who protested the idea of Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus as radical. “Malcolm X was more radical than MLK” he said.   I argued no (let it be known that my own life leans far heavier on the work El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, than on Dr. King, who I respect greatly), Malcolm was arguing for a basic US American principal, the right of self determination, which included the right to defend yourself when attacked.  There is something inherently noble there surely, but radical?  I didn’t see it. 

Dr. King though, along with Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba of Senegal, Jody Williams of the United States, The Dalai Lama of Tibet, Wangari Maathai of Kenya and many other peacemakers have led by example and sparked within some of us a vision of a world without violence.  This is world of active peace, and a world of joyful justice. 

Being for non-violence can’t just mean we are opposed to groups like ISIS, The Lord’s Resistance Army, and the Tamil Tigers (which of course one must be), but also that we are against secular, state, and corporate violence.   More importantly perhaps, we should actively be working for peace.  We should BE peace.  The wisdom traditions tell us to seek peace within and then birth it into the world.

And so we return to the divine feminine.  Whatever our gender identification we are all called on to bring the qualities long associated with compassionate mothering to our lives and our communities. 

Toward this goal there will be an Interfaith Peace Seminar on the Lynn Campus of North Shore Community College, May 1 and May 2, 2015.  Representatives of various spiritual paths including Bhakti, Zen, and Sufism will be convening to take a stand for peace and justice and to work on developing these qualities within ourselves.  If you are interested in helping please contact me (yusef Hayes) at  As poet June Jordan said in her Poem for South African Women “we are the ones we have been waiting for” and now is the time to show up.

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