Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Quaker Meeting--a huge sign: “Meeting…for the torturers and the tortured.”

With so many humans opposed and hostile to each other in the U.S.:
Conservatives versus Liberals,
Republicans versus Democrats,
Muslims versus Christians
Atheists versus Theists,

Russia versus Ukraine,
Palestine versus Israel,
Spain versus Catalonia,
India versus Pakistan,
Syria versus Sunni Fundamentalists,


The beginning for peace-activist Gene Knudsen Hoffman of a transforming, life-changing experience hope came about this way:
FROM a powerful article at

After seeing a huge sign in front of a Quaker Meeting: "MEETING FOR WORSHIP FOR THE TORTURERS AND THE TORTURED"

GENE KNUDSEN HOFFMAN: “I was on a world tour of peace centers...
I’d long known I should listen to the tortured
but listen to
the torturers?

“I’d never thought of that.

“I began wrestling with the idea that I should listen to both sides of any conflict and when I arrived in Israel I began listening to Israelis and Palestinians. I found it changed my perspectives on each. I began to practice it everywhere I went.
“Reconciliation is the most difficult of peace processes because it requires the resumption of relationship between those in conflict. It means the coming together in harmony of those who have been sundered.

“My sense is that if we would reconcile, we must make radically new responses to the radically new situation in a world where violence is mindless, hopeless, meaningless and so many nations have nuclear weapons…

“We peace people have always listened to the oppressed and disenfranchised. That’s very important. One of the new steps I think we should take is to listen to those we consider ‘the enemy’ with the same openness, non-judgment, and compassion we bring to those with whom our sympathies lie.

“In 1989 my work-focus became the Middle East, and in that year a small group of us from the Fellowship of Reconciliation went to Libya to listen to the Libyans after we’d bombed Libya twice, first to kill Khadaffi and second after we’d downed two Libyan planes over Libya. We knew our governments’ side and we wanted to hear the other. We did.

“After ten days in Tripoli, as guests of the Libyan government, we learned a lot. We met with Libyan leaders, professors, government members, religious representatives.
“Our government wouldn’t listen to us, since we’d gone there illegally. So we wrote our articles, spoke publicly where we could and were considered ‘dangerous.’

“My next efforts were on my own. Between 1989 and 1996, I went to Israel and Palestine some seven times to listen to both sides. I listened to Israeli psychiatrists, Settlers, government members, peace people, writers, publishers and plain people.

"In the West Bank, since I stayed in Palestinian homes, I had more opportunity to listen to the people: refugees, families, parents whose sons had been killed, some of their sons who hadn’t, academics, peace leaders, and twice I met with Yassir Arafat. Out of those experiences came Pax Christi’s Just World book of 1991 called Pieces of the Mideast Puzzle.
“Now we are preparing for our first formal Compassionate Listening delegation, which will bring Rabbis and Jewish community leaders to listen deeply to Israelis and Palestinians representing all sides of the conflict.

"Compassionate Listening is adaptable to any conflict. The listening requires a particular attitude. It is non-judgmental, non-adversarial, and seeks the truth of the person questioned. It also seeks to see through any masks of hostility and fear to the sacredness of the individual and to discern the wounds suffered by all parties.

“Listeners do not defend themselves, but accept what others say as their perceptions. By listening they validate the others’ right to those perceptions.

“I’m not talking about listening with the ‘human ear.’ I am talking about discerning. To discern means to perceive some thing hidden or obscure. We must listen with our ‘spiritual ear.’ This is very different from deciding in advance who is right and who is wrong, and then seeking to rectify it. And, it’s very hard to listen to people whom I feel are misleading, if not lying. Hard to listen to such different memories of the same event – hard!

“Here are two definitions of reconciliation we use. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese teacher, peace-maker, and poet, describes it as “understanding both sides.”

“Adam Curie, senior Quaker mediator from England, says “We must work for harmony wherever we are, to bring together what is sundered by fear, hatred, resentment, injustice, or any other conditions which divide us.
“…Thich Nhat Hanh asks this of us: “In South Africa the black people suffer enormously, but the white people also suffer. If we take one side, we cannot fulfill our task of reconciliation. Can you be in touch with both sides, understanding the suffering and fears of each, telling each side about the other? Can you understand deeply the suffering of both sides?”
Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace, Parallax Press, 1988

"Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart...

"Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time...You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing."
Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace
“Finally, I treasure this quotation from the poet Longfellow: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”6
Gene Knudsen Hoffman

Gene Knudsen Hoffman expands on this theme in her 1995 Pendle Hill Pamphlet: No Royal Road to Reconciliation. (Pendle Hill, Wallingford, Pa.)

READ the rest at…/compassionate-listening-fir…/

Also, check out her site at

“Compassionate Listening is

A personal practice – to cultivate inner strength, self awareness, self regulation and wisdom

A skill set – to enhance interpersonal relations and navigate challenging conversation

A process – to bring individuals or groups together to bridge their differences and transform conflict

A healing gift – to offer a compassionate listening session to a person who feels marginalized or in pain”

In the Light of Listening, Caring, and Working for the True and Good,

Daniel Wilcox

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