The Zen Peacemaker Order has decided to continue the peace work process in Bosnia while postponing the retreat to 2017. Please read ahead on some of our reasonings. We at the ZPO are grateful for all those who have contributed, participated and supported this process to date. We are particularly grateful and excited to keep our collaboration with our friends at Center for Peacebuilding in Bosnia as we develop and listen to the process of bearing witness, to take action, together.
We say Never again. But the impulse towards having one way of life in a particular area, is a very familiar one right now. It’s the wish to look around us and see people who look like us and speak our language, whose children dress and behave like ours. It’s our resolve to preserve our heritage and way of life to the exclusion of others whenever we feel they’re threatened. Many of us deeply feel the reality of Europe these days. Thousands of thousands refugees flocking there seeking safety and met with kindness and hospitality from some and violence, fear discrimination from others.
In Bosnia, Muslims have lived together with Christians since the 15th century. Sometimes one dominated, sometimes another. Walking along Ferhadija Street in Sarajevo is a tour of both space and time, bearing witness to different religious and cultural streams as they come together and split apart. The architecture, the places of worship, stores and restaurants all testify to that unmistakable quality of aliveness when different cultures come together in a spirit of mutual respect and appreciation. Not so the thousands of bullet holes in the walls of almost every building built before 1992. Not so Srebrenica. more than 100,00 Muslims Roman Catholics, and orthodox Christians were hurt and killed. The complexity that is Bosnia/Herzegovina requires more listening.
Times of great change test us strongest. It’s easy to lower our voices and withdraw in the face of violence by extremes on both sides. It’s easy to say that we don’t know what to do. Already today innocent people are persecuted even as a great, silent, fearful majority waits to see what happens. On this day the drowned, washing ashore on Mediterranean beaches, amidst our indignation and shame silently call us to action.
This action, as practiced in the three tenets of the Zen Peacemakers, rises from not-knowing and bearing witness. As we witness Europe today and deliberated on the design, scope and purpose of the retreat, we realized that more listening and more bearing witness needs to take place, the action has not risen in the form of a Bearing Witness retreat yet.
The Bearing Witness Retreats are a result and a continuation of a long process of relationship-building. Bernie and a dedicated group returned to Auschwitz over twenty times to result in the acclaimed retreat we hold there every year and have affected so many lives. Roshi Genro Gauntt’s Sixteen years of listening finally translated into a retreat in the Black Hills when the conditions were right.
Our process in Bosnia, in collaboration with Center for Peacebuilding in Saski Most and headed by Vahidin Omanovic and Mevludin Rahmanovic, continues. In March 2016, we are planning on sending Jared Seide, director of Center for Council and head trainer of Council facilitators in ZPO Bearing Witness retreats, to train locals in the practice of Way of Council.
Postponing the retreat will also allow us to concentrate on the Black Hills and Auschwitz retreats 2016 while building a clearer infrastructure of administration and staff that will facilitate three retreats in 2017. To support that, we will concentrate on nurturing and developing the Zen Peacemaker Order in the US and Europe.
We would like to repeat that the ZPO is grateful for all those who have contributed, participated and supported this process to date. We are particularly grateful and excited to keep our collaboration with our friends at Center for Peacebuilding in Bosnia.
We invite you to follow this process. We will inform everyone with our further steps. By all means, read the papers, keep informed on what is happening in Europe and throughout the world. Our Bosnia/Herzegovina Facebook group will remain open and will feature updates and reflections.