The Makings of a Bridge
I have been grappling with writing this post for several days. As I shared last week, I have been in Kosovo attending a most engaging gathering. It has sparked many thoughts, calls for prayers and hope for the future.
A central theme of the gathering was exploring leadership and reconciliation. The co-hosts model these ideals by overcoming years of hatred and hostility through discovery of common ground. As a Serbian and a Kosovar, they have experienced years of division and opposition, yet have chosen to come together in hopes of creating a new standard for stability and peace in the Balkan region.
I am struck by many of those who gathered to learn how to serve their communities, their leaders and each other in a spirit of reconciliation. It is impossible for me to truly understand the volatility of war, the violence and the decimation that so many have experienced. Over the years, I have had the honor to sit with and hear stories from child soldiers, from survivors of sexual brutality, from children of parents who were victims of ethnic cleansing and from those who violently fought against neighbors in the name of righteousness.
The spirit of the survivor is one of the most tremendous wonders I know.
What is it that allows some not only to survive, but also to seek peace and reconciliation in the face of seemingly insurmountable pain? We all experience some level of divisiveness, pain and trauma - some schism that gives us the opportunity to choose. Do we find the fault line and dig in, or look to explore the makings of a bridge? The list of factions can be made infinite, whether it is Kosovar or Serb, Christian or Muslim, Conservative or Liberal. Finding the differences is the easy part, but where do the foundations of bridges and common ground begin? A starting place is a willingness to be in relationship with someone or a group we don’t understand. What would happen through knowing, perhaps trusting, dare I say even loving a representation of that which we don’t understand? This seems to me to be a brilliant start.
I often find myself internally and at times externally struggling to understand what Christianity has come to represent in the West. I was raised in a church-going home, but feel a deep judgment and rigidity from many of the ‘Christians’ I know. This has formed an ever calcifying perception in my mind of how we have interpreted Christianity and the expectations therein. I have experienced this firsthand, and know it would be much easier for me to settle in my verdict, and whenever I meet a self proclaimed Christian to have a set of prejudices coloring my lens. I can find others who agree and we can rail against them, why the Church has ruined faith, why the Christian right has gone off the deep end, and on and on. We can feel supported in our proclamations and even grow our judgment among one another. I have been in such conversations and am not proud to say it was a rather gratifying experience.
What is much more challenging than coalescing around bias is to acknowledge this judgment I am holding and to walk the talk of reconciliation. I believe shifting the energy from finding the differences to seeking common ground can seismically shift our human experience.
I feel a deep responsibility as a global citizen to speak the truth I see in the world, to break down the deeply held prejudices I keep and to open dialogue to explore those I don’t even realize. This is a team effort, if there ever was one. I would love to hear from you. What does recognizing and overcoming judgment and prejudice mean to you? What does reconciliation mean to you? And how can you or do you seek it in service of a more peaceful global community?