Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Identity and Listening to the "Other"

from Musalaha, one organization working for reconciliation in the Middle East, and worldwide:

"Identity is complex, and in many situations, we find that others want to impose an identity on us. Yet, it is more important to know and discuss how we see ourselves. In many cases, what others call us is different from what we call ourselves."

"The way people discuss identity in conflict can be very combative, and we often find that people build their identities at the expense of others. As a result, identity tends to be the first casualty in conflict, something we and many others have observed in reconciliation activities."

[My own aside: Notice how this is happening to a very tragic degree in the current U.S. Election. Each side demonizes the other sides' identities, and in contrast, sees its own identity as heroic, just, and good.]

"...see how many identities we have in our small countries. Due to the mixed nature of this group, with secular and traditional Israeli Jews, traditional and religious Palestinian Muslims, and Palestinian Christians, we had a long list of identities we prepared for the activity:
secular Jew, religious Jew, Orthodox Jew, Jewish Israeli, Jewish, Israeli, Israeli Arab, Israeli Palestinian, Palestinian, Palestinian Muslim, Muslim Arab, Muslim, Palestinian Christian, Christian, Christian Arab, Immigrant, Foreigner, Arab."

"One of the important points we emphasize during our meetings is that we should allow others to self-identify."

"This is an instructive activity because it allows participants to define themselves, and it gives others the opportunity to learn why each group member identifies as they do."

"It also shows how diverse our groups are as we are not just Muslims, Christians and Jews, but many different types of Muslims, Christians and Jews."

"When dealing with many different types of identities, external forces seek to simplify them by imposing labels upon them. In Arab Christians in British Mandate Palestine: Communalism and Nationalism, 1917-1948 by Noah Haiduc-Dale, he discusses important issues Mandatory Palestine’s Christian community faced as the British began redefining religious identification..."

"...the Palestinian women drew a picture of an olive tree, Jerusalem, a kefiya, and a number of religious sites. They wrote that their identity is comprised of religion, land, refugees, culture, existence and historical/religious sites."

"The Israeli group, in contrast, wrote at length about what it means to be Israeli, emphasizing parts they love about their cultures, issues they struggle with, and more."

"Afterwards, I asked the ladies to identify what was missing in each of their identities. As we usually see in these sorts of interactions, when we discuss our identities, we do not include the other side...."

By Salim J. Munayer and Musalaha Publications Department

Read the whole account
(and other thoughtful, reflective articles) at

In the Light of Reconciliation,

Daniel Wilcox

No comments: