TODAY, WE OPEN A NEW BOOK FULL OF HOPE FOR PEACE,
DRAWING ON WISDOM—FROM BANKSY, BONO, GANDHI, CESAR CHAVEZ—
TO DALAI LAMA, PAULO FREIRE, JOHN LEWIS & FREEDOM RIDERS
How can we dare to hope?
How can we keep pushing against the tide of violence? When one war is finally brought to a weary end, another breaks out with horrifying ferocity. There is no end to the work of peacemaking.
These are words from “Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” debuting today.
It’s a book and, over time, it will become part of an expanding online effort at ReadTheSpirit to highlight and connect readers with voices of peace.
OUR WORK SO FAR …
We have asked for your help: We asked some questions we hope readers will answer about your favorite authors and small groups. Then, we followed up with a second request about favorite books.
Today, we are publishing Daniel Buttry’s book, which is an international event. Even before launching the book in the U.S. today, Buttry was part of a peacemaking delegation visiting one of the recent hot spots in Kenya. After a violent political conflict that nearly tore Kenya apart, reconciliation now is taking place. In addition to taking part in peacemaking programs and in symbolic acts like planting trees, Buttry donated copies of this new book to Kenyan activists. Here is a Kenyan London News story about that recent delegation, including a photo of Buttry planting a tree.
You may already own Daniel Buttry’s earlier books: Interfaith Heroes Volume 1 and Volume 2. Those books focus specifically on courageous men and women who crossed religious boundaries to save lives, make peace and build stronger communities.
His new book, Blessed Are the Peacemakers, has a much bigger goal: In 62 inspirational real-life stories about peacemakers around the world, Buttry tells the largely unknown story of how peacemakers from many backgrounds have shaped our 20th and 21st centuries.
WHAT ARE THESE UNTOLD STORIES OF PEACEMAKING?
Here’s just one example: Wonder what touched off the Arab Spring? Millions of people around the world are amazed at the seemingly spontaneous explosion of revolutions around the Arab world. It turns out that many young activists across northern Africa and the Arab world have been reading the influential work of Gene Sharp—some of Sharp’s work in Arabic translation and some in English. Sharp’s peacemaking strategies helped to revolutionize the Arab world.
Another example: “Who the Hell is Diane Nash?!?” That was U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s explosive response, 50 years ago this summer, at the peak of the Freedom Rides that broke open the American civil rights movement. The Kennedy brothers had been content to monitor the overall movement through contact with a handful of leaders such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. During the violence of the 1961 Freedom Rides—when flames, beatings and imprisonment were used to intimidate civil rights activists—the Kennedys discovered that they knew very little about the real peacemakers organizing this movement. One of those crucial figures was the virtually unknown Diane Nash. That’s why Bobby Kennedy was so surprised.
QUESTION: Both Gene Sharp and Diane Nash are profiled in this new book—and their photos appear on the front cover. In fact, Sharp and Nash both are in the enlarged rows of photos at the top of today’s story. Can you pick out their faces in those tiled portraits above?
Stay tuned all this week to ReadTheSpirit for daily excerpts from Blessed Are the Peacemakers.
Today, from the Introduction …
BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS: WHAT IS A PEACEMAKER?
BY DANIEL L. BUTTRY
Here are a few paragraphs from the book’s introduction, titled “What Is a Peacemaker?” Tomorrow, we will publish the first of several sample profiles of peacemakers—from the heart of the new book. Care to read this entire introduction? We have a convenient link here.
Here are the opening paragraphs of the book …
In these pages, you will meet heroes.
The world is troubled now and has been troubled in many earlier eras. In these pages, you will meet men and women who were not afraid of the worst that humans can unleash through ignorance or ill will. Like all of us, the people in this book agonized over the tragedies they encountered in the world. Sometimes they were terrified, too, but ultimately their faith in a wide range of religious and ethical traditions won out in their lives. They summoned the courage to make peace. Depending on your own spiritual tradition, you might call many of these men and women saints.
What you will discover in this book is that their heroism did not depend on the qualities our popular culture celebrates in heroes. As a group, they were not exceptional in muscle, martial arts, great beauty or wealth. Their gifts lay in the way they communicated their love, hope and wisdom—through teaching, preaching, organizing, mediating and protesting. Some shared their great visions to move millions. Some communicated through music and the arts. Some gave their lives and were martyred in the pathway toward peace.
This book will inspire you to evaluate your own life, your own response to the world’s troubles. But inspiration is not all you will experience.
In these pages, you will find world-famous names, including Gandhi, King, Tutu and Bono. You will rub shoulders with Nobel Peace Prize winners. But in most cases, you will be meeting men and women unknown to the larger world. Flip through the chapters. You won’t recognize most names. For each King we celebrate standing on a mountaintop, there are thousands of nameless peacemakers changing the world. In reading this book, you will learn that generations of peace activists—each building on the work of others—have been circling the globe for many years. This book makes visible for the first time networks of peacemaking that are invisible to most people in our needy world. By reading their stories, you become a carrier of those stories and spread their light. You become a part of the unfolding network. As you read, you will find ideas in these pages about acting on your new wisdom.
These ideas are potent! In 2007 on the island of Trinidad, a 13-year-old girl had been reading about the life of Gandhi and decided to act on his teachings. Choc’late Allen was concerned about the high levels of urban violence around her, so she began 12-hour-a-day fasts at local libraries, reading books about peace aloud to children. Her actions drew widespread attention and soon she was traveling around the Caribbean, especially to urban centers such as Kingston, Jamaica, where her message reached thousands. Choc’late declared: “We have the power of making the right choices! We have the power of accepting responsibility for our action! We have the power of doing anything!”
So, brace yourself! Join me in these true stories—and this true journey. The world needs us.
The world needs you.
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Originally published at www.ReadTheSpirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.