Introduction to this Issue and this Resource Guide
From Rob Keithan, Director of the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy.
The issue of Peacemaking-and this Resource Guide-kick off a new chapter in the Unitarian Universalist Social Witness Process, thanks to major bylaw revisions made at the 2006 General Assembly. The primary rationale for those changes was to give Unitarian Universalist congregations, groups, and individuals more time for thoughtful engagement of the issue, including time for implementation, in a way that could be better supported by UUA staff. The new Congregational Study/Action Issue process will last for four years (rather than two), and allows for a full year of implementation for statements of conscience approved by the General Assembly. For more information on the new process, including a chart, visit the website of the Commission on Social Witness.
I believe that "Peacemaking" is an issue that is ideally suited for this new process. It demands urgent actions and begs for long-term engagement. It's equally relevant to our most intimate relationships and to international relations. It calls us to look inward and to speak out.
I anticipate that many congregations will wrestle with the question of when
to look inward and when to speak out. I believe that it is critical to view both
of these activities as vitally important; not as mutually exclusive but an
ongoing cycle of education, action, and reflection. I believe that our
religious movement is long overdue for a thoughtful and challenging
discussion of our history and theology related to issues of war and peace. To be
successful, this discussion has to be personal.
We must hear each other's stories and honestly reflect on our experiences and beliefs-and why we have them. We must be willing to disagree with each other in ways that are healthy and respectful. We should pay special attention to those who have suffered and continue to suffer the effects of violence, hearing their stories and providing support when possible.
Our world is also overdue, for an end to the suffering and violence in the Middle East, in Darfur, and in our own communities and homes. Action is needed. The world we seek and the word we live in are not the same, but it is only through our human actions-and for some of us the grace of God-that we make our vision closer to a reality.
The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations General Assembly has passed dozens of statements over the years on issues of peace and war, and based on those statements the UUA has opposed the unilateral, pre-emptive war in Iraq since its beginning. This witness will continue, and congregations and individuals have the freedom to be involved-or not-as they like. This freedom is one of the hallmarks of our polity.
Whatever the action, I hope that congregations chose to do something! There are ample opportunities in the peacemaking arena for Unitarian Universalists to have an impact on culture and public policy; and this guide lists resources for how to make that happen.
This guide provides tools for congregations and congregants to study how conflict and violence plays out on a personal, interpersonal, and international level, and to delve into the theological teachings on violence, conflict, war and peace, from both Unitarian Universalist sources and other religious traditions. From that foundation this guide offers resources to help in the process of developing Unitarian Universalist peacemaking principles, and then encourages participation in a variety of initiatives that will enable those principles to be put into action.
To increase the overall effectiveness of the Study/Action Process, UUA staff and the Commission on Social Witness have created a Peacemaking SAI Implementation Committee composed of activists, experts, and theologians. In addition to creating this guide, we are developing a curriculum and more specific recommendations for a study process that will be piloted this spring and available for congregation use by September 2007. The CSW and Implementation Committee are looking for congregations that would be willing to assist in using the pilot materials and helping to refine them. If interested, please contact John Hooper, jhooper [at] optonline [dot] net, or Judy Morgan, judymorgan711 [at] yahoo [dot] com.
The success of the Congregational Study/Action Issue Process depends on congregational participation. I hope this guide will be useful! Feedback on the Guide and the overall Study/Action Process is appreciated; a feedback form is available at the Commission on Social Witness.
Lastly, a special thanks to the many contributors to this guide, especially Barbara Bates, John Hooper, Judy Morgan, Larry Shafer and Sharon Welch, the core team of volunteers who made this guide possible. Thanks also to Adam G. Gerhardstein, the Legislative Assistant for International Issues at the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy, for coordinating the efforts of such wonderful volunteers.
Director, UUA Washington Office for Advocacy