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Third Annual Conference at Esalen Institute – March 2009

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The Abrahamic Family Reunion (AFR)

Third Annual Conference at Esalen Institute

March 29 to April 2, 2009

Conference Summary Contentsesalen-group-photo

A. Processes

  1. Meditation & Prayer
  2. Appreciative Inquiry
  3. Conversation among Abrahamic Faiths
  4. Practicing Nonviolence
  5. Constellations
  6. Case Study in Interfaith Challenges
  7. Abrahamic Journey of Mercy, Truth Peace and Justice

B.  Programs and Organizations

  1. Abraham’s Vision
  2. NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change
  3. Examples of Programs for Teens and College Students: The USC “Fashion Show” and Twinning Events

Overview and Objectives

Esalen Institute has been described by the scholar Jeff Kripal as one of the rare places in America that practices “the religion of no religion.”  This lack of any singular affiliation enables Esalen to serve as something of a pluralistic spiritual place where people from around the world are welcome. Having established a reputation of this kind among the global community of spiritual seekers after nearly fifty years of service, Esalen seems appropriately suited to be the location for a new annual conference series that is dedicated to healing the historical wounds among the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

This document is a summary of the third conference in the annual Spring series at Esalen, entitled “The Abrahamic Family Reunion.” The overarching goal of the project by the same name is to foster reconciliation and healing among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. This particular series grew out of Esalen’s concern about the rise of global fundamentalism in the wake of the events of September 11th, 2001.  With the support of TRACK TWO and the Fetzer Institute, in 2007 Esalen launched an initiative to help heal the historical and cultural wounds among the three Abrahamic traditions.  The organizing and leadership team includes Dulce Murphy, Carol Miskel, Joseph Montville, Eric Nelson, and Tamar Miller, who served as moderator for the gathering.  A special acknowledgment to Dulce Murphy for her clarity of vision, leadership, and tenacity in keeping the gathering on track with the right people from the Bay Area and Los Angeles at the right time in this important point in history.

The objectives for the third gathering in March 2009 at Esalen were to:

– coalesce an inter-faith leadership team of clergy and practitioners in the Bay Area and LA ;

– share theories of change, “best practices,” educational materials, and models for inter-group work;

–  facilitate the “power of combining” and make commitments for the coming year.

Healing the Shadows of the Abrahamic Faiths

Founder and director of the Abrahamic Family Reunion Project (AFR, hereafter), Joseph Montville said that he continues to develop two major components as the project seeks to create a cognitive frame for coming to terms with history and where we neglected our core shared values:

– Identifying Shared Pro-Social Values among the Abrahamic faiths

–  Healing History, a psychodynamic truth-telling process that can bring about the healing of ancient cultural wounds.

Montville is particularly focused on employing this approach as a method to help Christians acknowledge their long history of theologically sanctioned violence.  “For there to be a true Abrahamic Family Reunion, this dark shadow in Christian history must be acknowledged and atoned for.”  Montville said that it is no small challenge to get many Christians to acknowledge their own legacy of violence in the name of Christ and the church.

In the “walk through history,” says Montville, “dignity is at the core of this work and we are all children of God. We seek to get to a set of diverse relationships, to really know each other in a respectful way, and be on guard for those who seek to derail the process.”  Judith added that the walk through history is both to seek objectivity where possible and take the subjective emotional experiences of what happened into account. Huda added that the walk through history may offer a common analytic tool, not based upon religion, to create useful conversation.  Eric Nelson raised the work of Dan Bar On regarding Dual Narratives and the need to create space for multiple narratives to be heard and told.

Montville described the three-step approach to Healing History:

Acknowledgment: Fully and honestly acknowledging the lingering wounds of history;

Contrition: Heart-felt inner transformation that comes from acknowledging the truth of past behaviors and directly apologizing for them;

Forgiveness:   Asking of the offended party (or parties) for forgiveness.

A powerful example: On February 13, 2008, recently elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave an official apology to the aboriginal people of that land, which was broadcast throughout the country.  Rudd read the apology proclamation on the Parliament floor with members from the “stolen generations” present in the hall.  The official apology was received by the public, many of whom watched it live in public settings across Australia.  While at Esalen, Joseph Montville facilitated a public viewing of this apology, which included a discussion forum afterward, with Mariam Abu-Sharkh.   It was a lively and meaningful evening that was attended by members of the broader Esalen community. Please note: this apology can be viewed on video at www.youtube.com, found under: “Apology to the Stolen Generations of Australia”.

Overall, Montville is promoting the effort toward an authentic process of historical self-reflection.  He recently inspired a new graduate academic course and conference series sponsored by The Boston Theological Institute, a consortium of nine divinity schools, seminaries and university religious studies department in the greater Boston area.  The course, “Toward an Abrahamic Family Reunion,” is hosted by Boston College and open to all nine BTI schools.

Montville intends to spread this theory of social healing, particularly at schools of theology in the LA and Bay Area — most notably, the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), located in Berkeley, California.  Montville wants to use his success in Boston and Merrimack College in North Andover Massachusetts to entice GTU in this direction.  There are close to 250 theological schools in the US and Canada that Montville will target for the AFR vision.

Montville described a prize of $25,000 for academics and activists awarded every other year, which he helped to generate.  The Ignac Goldziher Prize will be given by the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack, a Catholic and Augustinian college, starting in 2010, to individuals “who contribute significantly to understanding, reverence and common moral purpose between Jews and Muslims.”  The prize, made possible by a grant from the William and Mary Greve Foundation, is named for the 19th century Hungarian Jewish Islamicist, recognized as Europe’s “greatest scholar of Islam” (Susannah Heschel), and “one of the most profound and original scholars in Europe…” (Journal of the American Oriental Society). Montville, recently appointed a Sr. Associate at Merrimack, chairs the jury for the Goldziher Prize.

As well, Montville is attempting to influence the U.S. federal government to move in the direction of the unifying Abrahamic vision.  For example, Dr. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Florida, is one of President Obama’s favorite preachers.  As a leading evangelical minister, he gave the benediction at the end of the Denver Democratic Convention in August 2008, and prayed with the Obama family on election day, November 4, and Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009. Hunter came to the meeting Montville organized at the University of Notre Dame in January 2007, that was inspired by the Esalen/TRACK TWO workshop on Christian fundamentalism at Big Sur in April 2006.  Montville keeps in touch with Hunter whom President Obama has appointed to his Advisory Group on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and, significantly, also to his Advisory Group on the Middle East.  He sent Hunter the link to the Abrahamic Family Reunion Web site, abrahamicfamilyreunion.org. Montville also is in contact with newly elected Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va), who is a friend of twenty-six years. Connolly is the only member elected in 2008 who was appointed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and, significantly, to its subcommittee on the Middle East.  http://connolly.house.gov/

This session on the theory, aims, and some of the activities of AFR closed with a personal story by Joe about what brings him to this work … and then, a moment of silence to take it all in.

Best Practices

A.  Processes

There are a number of group facilitation skills, as well as, and healing and reconciliation approaches that are employed by members of the AFR network, which were demonstrated and shared during the conference.

1. Meditation and Prayer

Each morning, the group was led through a meditative prayer or story from members of each of the Abrahamic faiths.  Throughout the conference, frequent breaks were taken as meditative pauses to help the participants slow down and reflect deeply on what was unfolding or transition from points of tension to calmer communication. The practice of meditation or “awareness practice” is used to facilitate equanimity, and gentleness.

Rev. Jim Burlko opened one morning with a story he composed based upon a story in the Koran where Jesus made clay birds fly. Rabbi Haim Beliak created an experiential exercise using rich and varied depictions through the centuries of the meaning of the “Four Sons” in the Passover Hagadah.

At various points in the week, we used meditative and religious music to move away from mind and words. The group members were uneven in receptivity to these contemplative practices.  Many found it useful to mentally focus and emotionally restore.

2. Appreciative Inquiry

Inter-faith activist Paul Chaffee, Director of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio in San Francisco (please see: www.interfaith-presidio.org), facilitated a group exercise, utilizing Appreciative Inquiry (an approach to community that focuses on what works (instead of problems), and on how to promote what is most valued and life-giving to a given community.

In the exercise, Paul asked groups of four to discuss their own sense of the “positive core” shared by the Abrahamic faiths. Then back together, the groups listed some ideas for that positive core:

– Finding the core mystical truth revealed in each Abrahamic faith
-Developing acceptance that is more than mere tolerance
– Moving into broader identities of Oneness
– Cultivating multiple identities in the global village

Next, the group shared some ideas about “how to get there”:

– Sharing personal stories and faith journeys

– Sustaining inquiry and self-reflection into our own biases
– Motivating everyone to learn more about the history of the three faiths
– Learning about the new science of human empathy.

Paul concluded the appreciative exercise with a moving vignette about reconciliation. Catholic and Protestant leaders called together leaders from as many indigenous traditions as they could find in the Bay Area. They apologized for the violence that Christian traditions have visited on Earth-based religions and asked for counsel about how to begin to mitigate that oppression.

Uniformly, the indigenous leaders said, “Taking our land was terrible, and so was breaking up our families; but not the worst. The worst was the assumption that we had no wisdom.” No life of the Spirit, no soul, no humanity. Over and over and over they said, “You must begin with listening. Listen to our stories. After listening all day, start to listen again.” After hours of dialogue, one of the elders who had spoken very little, said, “I think the ancestors are happy tonight.”

3. Conversation among the Abrahamic Faiths

Another best practice employed by AFR is the art of conversation.  Three representatives from the Abrahamic traditions held a trialogue: Imam Faheem Shuaibe, Rev Mary Haddad, and Rabbi Haim Beliak.  Their open discussion evolved along the following lines:

–  How do we account for what religion has done and is doing to bring suffering?

– Is religion inherently pathological?  Or is it the case that religion (which is inherently good) becomes co-opted by people for their own distorted ends? How do we make the voices of love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness stronger?

– What does each faith mean by the name “Abraham”?   How can we clarify and publicize a new meaning for this name so that the qualities of unity and healing become central to it?

Imam Faheem Shuaibe emphasized the complex and misunderstood nature of many words (“like little birds that fly in and out of the room”), such as, “religion”, “culture”, and “human nature”.  These words are used frequently, but those who hear them are not necessarily sharing the same meaning of those who are speaking them.  Shuaibe said that taking the effort to come to a common definition or meaning is a worthwhile endeavor.  With respect to September 11th, Shuaibe said that rage-not religion-was being expressed that horrible day.  It is too simplistic to say that 911 were caused by religion-it was a corruption of revealed religion.  Shuaibe added that the true image of the Divine belongs to God, but people co-opt it for their own purposes.  According to Islam, original human nature is perfect in the design of God.

The Rev. Mary E. Haddad responded by bringing attention to the shared values of the Abrahamic faiths.  The popular religious scholar Karen Armstrong has identified compassion as the truly essential core they all share.  Haddad pointed out that the January 25, 2009 edition of The New York Times published an editorial titled, “How Words Could End a War.” It makes the point that those entangled in the Israel-Palestine conflict would not accept money in place of desired land.  Instead, they want an apology.  This supports Joseph Montville’s contention about Healing History via authentic apology.

Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak said that religion does not exist on a pristine plane and called for repentance and remorse in response to the pathogenic forms of religion. Beliak emphasized the need for healthy shame, to strongly speak out against perversions of the prophetic texts, to engage in symbolic acts like fasting or as Beliak consistently does — speaks out against aggressive Jewish acts, like a recent T-shirt in Israel that calls for soldiers to shoot pregnant Muslims.  Beliak called for a repentant response to this deeply offensive T-shirt.  Overall, Beliak said that we must be emotionally consistent: an outrage is an outrage, no matter what religion has been the banner under which it occurred.

Lastly, the group started to clarify what Abraham mean in each tradition.  Beliak noted that Abraham wanted to sacrifice his son, but that God didn’t allow it in the end of the story.   Beliak’s version of “Abraham” is that he is willing to argue and debate with God as well as obey his will.  Imam Shuaibe said that in Islam, Abraham is a role model of the quest for perfection.  The daily prayers of Muslims include the phrase “make us as successful as you made Abraham successful.”  In Al-islam, Abraham is a noble worshipper of God.

As the conversation concluded, Rabbi Beliak and Paul Chaffee wanted to acknowledge the close inter-relationship between human frailty and revealed religion.  While in contrast, Imam Shuaibe emphasized the corruption of revealed religion by common human emotions and circumstances.   Many of the disagreements among the Abrahamic faiths are really just misunderstandings that need further dialogue and clarification. Finally, Tamar Miller summarized the challenges of the trialogue this way:  What happens to us, our beliefs, and relationships when assumptions of the purity of sacred texts by some are confronted with the critical stance of others?  This is a question that the group will likely address in greater depth next year.

AFR attempts to make room to stop the arguments and hatred long enough to embrace the example of Isaac and Ishmael coming back together again to bury their father together.

4. Practicing Non-Violence

Vanessa Brake addressed the conference on her work with Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, an organization dedicated to nonviolent change through education, community building and action. (www.paceebene.org). Brake led the group through an experiential exercise on the most common responses to violence, and how they make us feel. Instead of avoiding, accommodating, or countering violence with violence, she offered the “Two Hands of Nonviolence” as an alternative. The two hands state your unwillingness to cooperate with violence and injustice, but also offers an open hand to the perpetrator, in recognition of their humanity.  Then, Brake described a variety of programs.  Pace e Bene is engaged in, both in the United States and abroad. In addition to offering nonviolence workshops, educational resources, consulting and movement building; Pace e Bene takes part in direct actions to call for a more just and peaceful world.

Mary Ellen described a family anecdote where she moved from tension and dissent to admitting prejudice and weighting the love of family connections over religious disagreement.

5. Constellations

Gestalt psychologist Gordon Wheeler and Esalen Director of Programs Nancy Lunney-Wheeler guided the group through a powerful and surprisingly revealing experiential exercise called “Constellations.”  This method of group work was founded by Bert Hellinger and was influenced by the work of psychologist Virginia Satir.  It has a unique ability to distill the inherent wisdom and intelligence of a group of people who have come together to understand each other better.  It does this by accessing the unconscious of the group and gathers data through the body and then represents that information in sculptural form by placing group members in various places in the room.  For AFR purposes, what came through was moving from founder to leadership in the network, and to what is still missing for getting from theory to practice. For more information on this method of group work, please visit  http://www.systemicfamilysolutions.com/

6.  Case Study in Interfaith Challenges in the San Francisco Bay Area

Judith Fleenor, a Religious Science minister with the United Centers for Spiritual Living and is an active participant with the Marin Interfaith Council located in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Judith offered a “case study” in interfaith reconciliation called the “Marin Peace Talks.”  The two primary groups involved are Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC of the Marin region) and Marin Peace and Justice Coalition.  Fleenor noted how challenging it is to get many political and justice activists to value the process of dealing with feelings and complicated emotions and yet that is often exactly what is needed to make progress.

After describing many of the complicated details in this case (which are being omitted for confidentiality), Fleenor summarized some issues that all facilitators of inter-faith reconciliation and healing need to be aware of:

– How do we encourage people of the Abrahamic faiths to understand the crucial value of the type of sensitive process work that happens at places like Esalen?

– How do we create an effective training that can facilitate the kind of psycho-social shift that Joseph Montville is aiming at, while at the same time have this training be standardized and inexpensive so that it can spread broadly?

How can we quickly and effectively train people in the Abrahamic faiths to more harmoniously interact with one another when addressing contentious issues?

Fleenor led the group in a brief brainstorming exercise to address these kinds of challenges that apply to all efforts at interfaith reconciliation.  The participants reported back about how to more effectively train people to lead inter-faith processes and to raise money for this cause.  Some of the ideas included:

– Making sure there is shared or distributed power among any set of facilitators so that all sides feel represented.

– Training facilitators to be comfortable with conflict and tension.

– Making sure facilitators know that all training is ongoing.  There needs to be a continuous feedback loop between the theory of training and the actual practice of working with groups in conflict.

– Focusing on values first, and realizing that financial support will always follow values and good intentions in the world.

Fleenor concluded by noting that at the end of the day money is not the real issue in resolving the contentious issues among those in conflict.  Too often, it is only an excuse to delay engaging in the emotionally challenges of authentic interfaith reconciliation.

7. The Abrahamic Journey of Mercy, Truth, Peace, and Justice

Eric Nelson of Fetzer Institute, along with Tamar Miller described ongoing work with the four-fold combination of Mercy, Truth, Peace, and Justice.  They gave a brief overview of several psycho-social, psycho-political, and healing trauma models including those of Ken Wilber, Debbie Ford, Mark Gopin, and others.  For example, Nelson described some of the models for how to overcome the “Perpetrator-Victim” cycle of violence and trauma.  Nelson focused in particular on the issue of violations to one’s sense of dignity.  In the Israel-Palestine conflict, the war is not simply over land.

For information about the progressive work of the Fetzer Institute, please see their website at:  http://www.fetzer.org/.  Nelson has been involved in Fetzer’s Love and Forgiveness campaign, which can be found at:

http://www.loveandforgive.org/

B. Programs and Organizations

1. Abraham’s Vision www.abrahamsvision.org

Co-directors Aaron Hahn Tapper and Huda Abu Arqoub gave an overview of their experiential educational organization, Abraham’s Vision.

The two main programs of AV target high school and university students to teach them a variety of important psychological, political, and social skills, such as individual and collective awareness, gender issues, power dynamics, group process (vs. dialogue) and social identity theories. The underlying pedagogical methods upon which their work is based they described the guiding philosophy that informs their two main programs: the Vision Program and the Unity Program.  These programs address US-based populations of Jews, Muslims, Israelis, and Palestinians, some of whom are actually international students as well.  They do comparative conflict analysis to “de-exceptionalize” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in particular. Funds permitting, the program travels to Bosnia for this purpose.

One of the first issues they address in their program concerns multiple narratives and multiple identities.  For example, they teach about Jews who come from Iraq: Should they identify as Iraqis first, or as Jews first?  How does someone with multiple identities live effectively in a world that often demands allegiance one way or the other?  They said that many familiar stereotypes about identity are deconstructed during the course of their programs.  Hahn Tapper said that they are not in favor of “identity reductionism” by which he means the approach that simplifies human identity down to the lowest common denominator of our bare humanness.  Instead, their program builds the skills to engage with multiple layers of identity, which are conditioned by location, gender, and religion, and to deepen students’ awareness of these layers and explore how integrally they are tied into societal status.  One of the main goals of their workshops is to deepen awareness of social inequalities across all sorts of borders – ethnic, religious, gender.

Students also learn about how power dynamics in their own small group setting reflect those in the world at large.   “Power is more often given away than taken away.”  For example, women in their training groups will often defer to men without even knowing it.  When this is pointed out gently, the women have an opportunity to see why they habitually do this.  According to co-director Huda Abu Arqoub, their method of teaching helps elicit the wisdom within the students and within the overall group.  Their facilitation style is aimed at empowering students to find their own solutions.  They focus on recognizing the dynamics within the group of students first, which is then shown how they reflect the larger gender and global dynamics of the world.

The students also learn about the conditions underlying the world’s vast social inequality.  This is accomplished through a variety of methods, but one of the peaks of the Abraham’s Vision program is a summer trip to the Balkans, which is taken by a select group of Jewish and Palestinian university students. While in the former Yugoslavia, the students see the impact of power imbalances up front, and they learn how to apply those lessons to other regions of the world.

Overall, Abraham’s Vision is a growing program that helps Jews, Muslims, Israelis, and Palestinians to think with greater nuance and complexity about the conflict and the issues surrounding it.  The co-directors see their work as primarily an inquiry into group dynamics with the intention to empower students to transform the world’s social inequalities-not inter-faith work per se-but by learning these skills, the application to inter-faith topics is quite tangible.  Lastly, the Abraham’s Vision programs teach their students that the conflict in the Middle East is not cosmic and eternal. Rather, it is a historically conditioned situation that can be overcome with effort, intelligence, and compassion.

2. NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change

Aziza Hasan and Malka Haya Fenyvesi co-direct NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, which is located in the Los Angeles area.  Aziza and Malka began their presentation with values exercise, asking several questions as people placed themselves on a continuum of ‘strongly agree or strongly disagree’. Sample questions: Is interfaith dialogue important to the survival of our own individual traditions? And, is religion a source of violence?

They then gave an overview of the variety of activities facilitated by NewGround, which includes both inter-faith and intra-faith education and outreach.  NewGround was launched in 2007, and the Mayor of Los Angeles attended the event to give it the city’s blessing.   Since that time, NewGround continues to grow its programming opportunities for new students as well as returning alumni.

Fenyvesi report key findings of a recent survey that was conducted to more accurately assess the needs of the religious community.  The need for shared leadership was a crucial discovery and that the need for both talk and action was one of the primary responses on the survey.  To address this, NewGround brings together its members and alumni for frank discussions about issues such as gender, identity, politics, and pluralism in religious life today.  So far, NewGround has been primarily focused on educating American Jews and Muslims, but they do hope in the future to broaden their scope of influence and outreach.  Right now, NewGround is building deep roots in the Los Angeles.

Because NewGround serves a diversity of constituents within each faith, some of the best results from their educational programs are actually intra-faith, rather than inter-faith.  For example, the opportunity for orthodox and reformed Jews to come together and discuss their religious practices has been rewarding.  In the wake of the Gaza war, winter 2008-09, NewGround provided a more objective forum for people to come in and share their sometimes emotionally charged responses.

Many of the students who take NewGround’s foundational 10-month program are in their 20s and 30s.  Their new program in comparative sacred text study has been very popular.  This program, for example, has looked at how the story of Moses is told from the vantage point of different texts.  But for those who are not willing to dig through the texts, NewGround is pioneering a new film series, community service and engagement project, conflict resolution workshops, and skill-building to train rising leaders.

3. Examples of Programs for Teens and College Students:

The USC “Fashion Show” and Twinning Events

As the new Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, the Rev. Jim Burklo discussed how his own attire — no stiff white collar, in order to project an approachable image to others. He wears a collarless shirt, which looks somewhat clerical, for doing weddings and baptisms.  Imam Faheem Shuiabe mentioned the purpose of the beard in Islamic tradition, as a symbol of sanctity.  Benina Gould illustrated that for her as a young Jew, she was taught to dress unusually well so that she could “fit in” with a predominantly non-Jewish culture.

Burklo did this exercise to demonstrate a pedagogical device for interfaith learning.  One of his USC students came up with the idea for an interfaith fashion show (April 09). Students will display their religious commitments in their clothing choices, and they will also discuss particular clothes they avoid.  This and discussions about faith-based music choices are another way that inter-faith dialogue is taking off among youth.

The Twinning Weekend event was a national project pairing synagogues with mosques in many cities to enable their members to learn from, pray with, and dialogue with each other.  USC was the only university in the US that held a Twinning event – USC Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, the Omar Mosque across the street from campus, the Hebrew Union College a block from campus, and the Muslim Student Union, Chabad (Orthodox Jewish) and Hillel (Reform Jewish) organizations.  Jewish students prayed in the Mosque, Muslim students participated in Shabbat at Chabad, and panels initiated conversation among students.

Burklo offers other programs, including “Souljourns”, which involves inter-church visits in the Los Angeles area.  Burklo is also developing a program whereby college students of different faith traditions visit local high schools to educate about them about world religions.

New Initiatives

Religion Based Peace Education: Educating Youth in Abrahamic Unity

Psychologist Benina Gould discussed her growing work with high school students on interfaith topics, focused on bringing interfaith awareness to that age group by gently introducing the word “religion” into high school educational settings.  Because this can often be challenging, Gould said she sometimes substitutes “ethical education” instead of “religion”.

Recently, Benina Gould and Dulce Murphy went on a tour of The Bay School, which is a private high school in the San Francisco area.  www.bayschoolsf.org.  Gould said that they have one hour of teaching on ethical precepts every day, led by a Zen priest.  This remarkable school was originally started by an Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco.  At one point in the day when Gould was visiting, all the students were meditating in silence.  In response to this report, the group discussed how to more effectively bring such progressive ideas to public schools.

On this note, Paul Chaffee shared a success story from Modesto, California.  A number of citizens in this town were adamantly resistant to calls for increased tolerance of racial and religious diversity.  So, instead of asking for religious tolerance, the facilitators who were called in to work with the community talked about the core value of safety.  When the citizens were asked if they wanted safety, they all said “yes”. The key idea was to obtain “buy-in” to the concept of safety, and only in that shared context was the issue of treating people of different faiths respectfully handled.  The moral of the story: The way something is framed is crucial for successful outcome.  As a result of this work in Modesto, the inter-religious violence in that area has been reduced greatly.

Benina also mentioned an International educational exchange model called “Co-Emergent Young Leaders”, which is more issue-focused and gets youth to dialogue with each other.  Students go to Bali and learn about the diverse religious cultures there in co-ordination with the Bali Institute.  Because Indonesia is a pluralistic country, it is an ideal place to continue the TRACK TWO work of citizen diplomacy, which might develop into a “Youth Diplomacy Corp.” Gould hopes to pass on the effective diplomacy principles developed during the Cold War.  Bali is predominately Hindu and Buddhist, whereas the rest of Indonesia is mostly Muslim, so Gould hopes to learn about their unique interfaith context.  Jews are not accepted among this otherwise pluralistic environment, so Gould is interested to learn more about that.  Gould also said that other academics interested in religious pluralism in Bali are opening to the AFR concept, particularly with the “Muslim Youth Internet Project.” The more progressive students and teachers are committed to bringing pluralism into the schools.

Lastly, Gould facilitated a brainstorm session on how parents and caregivers can encourage high schools to adopt interfaith values of Abrahamic unity.  A number of ideas came out of the session:

– Use silence as a non-sectarian practice of peace

– Respect the church/state separation but still teach interfaith topics

– Teach the undistorted history of the prophets of the Abrahamic faiths

– Discuss the Golden Rule in all the faiths

– Address the problematic issue surrounding the word “God”

– Focus on moral and ethical development

– Teach acceptance of seemingly irrational religious beliefs and practices

Gould recommended two books for further information: James Heft (editor), Passing on the Faith; Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims; John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, God is Back; How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World.

Guidelines for the Work of Reconciliation

Dulce Murphy and Carol Miskel guided the group in a brainstorming session to develop general guidelines for the Abrahamic Family Reunion project.  Murphy has three decades of experience in cross-cultural healing and reconciliation, which she has engaged in under the auspices of TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy.  See: www.trackii.com.  Her expertise is in Russian-American relations, and she offered to this group some of the guidelines that she has developed in that area of healing and cross-cultural understanding.

After a spirited brainstorm session, the group came up with some preliminary guidelines and inspirational principles that relate to the Abrahamic Reunion Project.

The 25 Principles of Citizen Diplomacy listed below were compiled at a 25th Reunion of Citizen Diplomats in 2006 that worked closely together during the 80s and 90s.

25 Principles from 25 Years of Citizen Diplomacy

Citizen diplomacy complements the formal diplomacy of government officials. It builds trust and mutual understanding based on face-to-face relationships among citizens of different cultures, regions, and religions. Humanity gets a chance to speak when ideology is put on hold by creative human contact.

Esalen’s Soviet-American Exchange Program-TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy’s earlier incarnation-played an important role in bringing an end to the Cold War. By nurturing a network of deep human relationships, by holding annual conferences and other meetings that built upon those relationships, by creating and maintaining The Luchkov Library of Psychological Literature at Moscow State University, and by hosting Boris Yeltsin’s first visit to the United States, we created a crucial communications backchannel that served the needs of the 1980s and 1990s.

Supplementing official summitry, groups of different professionals, from psychologists to astronauts, have been meeting for years. By letting the commonality of their professional-and human-interests speak louder than the differences between their nations and cultures, the members of the TRACK TWO network have spanned the globe with bonds of growing friendship and mutual understanding. TRACK TWO diplomacy flies beneath the radar of official treaties, age-old enmities, hardened ideologies, and partisan politics. When people with similar interests can talk face-to-face about the things that interest them, “Faces of the Enemy”-the title of a book and video born of TRACK TWO diplomacy-are replaced by human faces and real communication.

There is impressive evidence that Esalen’s TRACK TWO work contributed significantly to the transformation of the Soviet Union and Russia’s relationship with the U.S. Now, relations between Islam and the West are strained. Indeed, we in the US may be more in need of building friendship and understanding through citizen diplomacy than at any time in the past century.  It is clear that Track Two diplomacy has a place and a very important contribution to make between Israelis and Palestinians and among the Abrahamic traditions in the US and beyond.

The so-called “wars” we are asked to fight may be un-winnable without new thinking and new practices like citizen diplomacy. We are not fighting along established geo-political battle lines. We are struggling for hearts and minds, commitment, understanding, and intelligence. There are plenty of opportunities for inter-cultural jiu-jitsu-highly focused, citizen-led efforts that fly below the radar of official, high level diplomacy.

Rooted in the context of Esalen’s explorations of human potential, TRACK TWO will continue to give voice to the growing constituency of individuals who feel disheartened and powerless vis-à-vis governments that don’t get it. Citizen diplomacy involves non-governmental individuals and groups that aim to fill the moral and intellectual voids of official peacemaking leadership. TRACK TWOs major goal is to re-humanize relations that are dysfunctional. It works to make relationships better.

In April 2006, Esalen and TRACK TWO sponsored a 25th reunion of the many pioneers who then chronicled the principles they have distilled from their work with Russia and the former Soviet Union. These principles, they believe, can be applied to other problematic relationships around the world, over the long term. More than thirty Russians and Americans contributed to the conversation during the reunion week at Esalen, the meetings facilitator, Jay Ogilvy-took notes and wrote up the results as follows:

Aspirations

Dream the dream, even if it is “impossible.” You must have an overarching goal, but no cherished outcome.

You can do things that governments can’t. It’s important not to give power away to the leaders as if they knew what they’re doing.

Know that everyone wants something greater to emerge.

Believe your instincts, not your government, or your media, or your conditioning.

Networking

Find allies. Develop personal connections, and trust. We all have friends in curious places. Respect the importance of community. Collegiality is crucial.

Diversity is essential. Don’t be afraid to gather people who don’t like one another.

Get good people together. A small group can make a difference.

It is important to create a safe space and have expert facilitation.

Practical Engagement

Become engaged, and then see the possibilities. Do your homework, but adopt beginners mind. Don’t imagine that you can complete a strategic plan and come in with the right answers.

Be prepared to be surprised by what you find:

Listen carefully. Listen to what wants to happen. Listen for a conspiracy of opportunities.

Tolerate ambiguity. Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly.

Unexpected benefits are as important as the expected ones.

Aim for a balance between surrender and action.

Work from a non-adversarial place. This means:

Never stimulate factionalism.

Conduct bi-national or multi-national, not unilateral planning of projects.

If you have an axe to grind you might be ground down.

Don’t do it for them lest you end up doing it to them.

Instead of facing each other, sit shoulder to shoulder and face “the problem” together.

Always speak from equality.

You cannot condescend.

Practice empathy. In whatever way possible, become the other. When we humanize the other, we humanize ourselves.

Show up and keep showing up. Perseverance furthers. The antidote to the biggest force is gentle contact. Large institutions are like inertial masses resting on frictionless surfaces. Lean against them long enough and they will move. Hurl yourself against them expecting immediate results and you will only bloody yourself.

Always ask: Who is doing this? The internal work you do on yourself prepares for the external work you do in the world. Beware of ego. You must be willing to be anonymous.

Engaging in this work is an adventure. Enjoying it is a matter of attitude.

Creative Engagement

Find the acupuncture points. Look for the best leverage points. Look for where self-interest aligns with common interest.

Think out of the box! Exercise creativity on-the-spot and in real time.

Conduct a multi-pronged approach with several simultaneous agendas.

When you do exchanges, pick topics that both sides are good at: e.g., movies, environmental issues, astronauts and cosmonauts.

Look for metaphors and symbols of transformation, e.g. teenagers from two countries climbing a mountain as an example of citizen “summitry.”

Be a catalyst for others. Give away all that you have so that others may spread the work. Remember Lao Tzu: “That leader is worst whom the people fear; that leader is better whom the people revere; but that leader is best of whom they say after he or she is gone, we did this ourselves.”

Further “Admonitions”

In all things, practice care and give a damn. But also care in a less Teutonic, warmer way, for example observing the birthdays of close foreign colleagues.

Success brings its challenges. Beware of grandiosity when playing on a very big stage.

You are bound to fail from time to time, but failure is an essential part of success. Venture capitalists in the 1990s looked for leaders who had already had at least one failure. Your failures can be turned into later successes through learning.

META RULE: you can’t know which of the above principles will best apply in each new situation.

Participants who identify with the Abrahamic Faiths added principles with the AFR philosophy in mind:

Share wisdom without proselytizing

Bring our blessings and privileges

Seek the truth in relationship

Plant seeds for later generations to harvest

Transcend categories

Don’t fill in the blanks too quickly

Go into the unknown

Unity is found in diversity

Importance of face-to-face contact in the age of the Internet

Giving the other the freedom to be heard

Practice humility and discernment

Practice strategic patience

Opening to wounds and healing is risky

Do not exercise leadership by forcing authority on others

Honor differences

Include religious, secular, and atheists in Abrahamic work.

Next Steps and Commitments

Joseph Montville and Eric Nelson presented accomplishments and where we want to go:

–          course work in academies of higher learning and seminaries

–          engage religious communities around overcoming fear

–          survey critical needs and goals of other Abrahamic partners/initiatives

–          What catalytic role can Fetzer play?

–          Increase awareness of healing powers of partnerships

–         Consider coordination of funding sources

–         Help to form a network to train and support facilitators

–        Activate contemplative ways of knowing in religious and civil society.

As the conference closed, Tamar Miller led the group in journaling and sharing in Marshall Rosenberg’s approach to nonviolent communication as a way to facilitate the expression of unfinished business and think through requests people in the network can make of one another over the course of the year.

The exercise has 4 simple steps to the method of communication:

  • I observe. . .
  • I feel . . .
  • I need. . .
  • I request. . .

Miller asked a number of participants to come forth and share their commitments to action as they left the conference.  Some of the requests, commitments, and key learnings included:

– employing  the “Walk through History” approach to inter-faith work in the San Francisco Bay Area

– teaching of shared values in elementary school settings

– visiting the Los Angeles area and learn from and work with the educational materials being developed there and to do some fundraising

–  educating others about the diversity within the Jewish community

– continuing to build ties after the conference is over, staying in touch and offer the Interfaith Chapel as a convening venue; peace is possible in the Middle East

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– deepening understanding of the practice, especially as it applies to youth

– figuring out how to get process work to be valued

– helping grow the network and publicize our story

– exploring subtle activism based Brian Cox’s work in Kashmir using prayer circles to support conflict transformation deliberations

–  applying organizing principals to AFR practices;

– making the plurality of Abrahamic voices audible

– using our core group to invite those who are not in the room

– using USC as a convening place

– supporting and nurturing the core one day a week; 1st congregation in Oakland

– taking this work to the West Bank to provide hope; (“give me prayers”)

– helping to connect MPAC, New horizons in LA; USC help reach more people

–   convening a facilitators  annual meeting/retreat to support relationship and follow-up sessions around contacts; local events for people who are already engaging with quarterly pot lucks; information sessions on AFR with a wider circle of participants who may not be as sympathetic; fund development events outside of Abrahamic circle

– connecting with PJA offices in Northern California for  funding collaborations and field mapping

– strengthening relationships to help clarify our own perspectives, viewpoints, and then begin to strengthen and widen our base;

– expressing gratitude

– adapting AFR resources into AFR programs and organizations

– creating opportunities for regional fundraisers

– using interactive AFR website more and exploring PR connections

– chronicling stories on website; creating webinars; bring in some of researchers on forgiveness; engaging California blogger who would like to hear our stories

– reviewing literature; following up on impact of the training program a year later

– continuing to feel so hopeful and connected to this work; organic nature is feeling very powerful; connecting LA and San Francisco in a conscious way;

– inviting everyone to use Grace Cathedral as a venue.

– marketing and branding this work to get it out.

As the conference closed, the group shared in a silent powerful exercise of eye gazing, as the participants walked silently and slowly past each other in a spiraling circle.  This was intended to be a source of inspiration and to solidify mutual commitments to take into the world of inter-faith activism.

Celebration!

Participant Biographies

Huda Abu Arqoub is co-executive Director of Abraham’s Vision.  She is one of twelve children, was born in Jerusalem and raised in Hebron.  Her parents were both teachers and she chose to follow in their footsteps, obtaining her diploma in teaching English as a Second Language, a BA in Education and English Literature from Al-Quds Open university, and a Master’s degree in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University, where she served as a Fulbright Scholar from 2004-06.  Huda is active in grassroots Palestinian initiatives focusing on issues related to human rights and gender equality, and is a Palestinian focusing on issues related to human rights and gender equality, and is a member of several local Palestinian organizations that work on empowering women to be more active in building a healthy society.  Through her activities she has worked with organizations such as Doctors without Borders, Save the Children International, United Religions Initiative (URI), and the Boston-based University of the Middle East Project (UME). Prior to joining Abraham’s Vision she worked as an educational consultant for the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education.  Huda is also a Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Center for Transformative Education.

Miriam Abu Sharkh is currently residing at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. She holds a grant by the National Science Foundation of Germany (Deutsche Forschungs-gemeinschaft) to study the evolvement of worldwide patterns of gender discrimination in the labor market with a special focus on Arab countries.

This research builds on her previous work as a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law as well as her dissertation on “History and Results of Labor Standard Initiatives”(“Summa cum Laude”, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany – joint dissertation committee with Stanford University). It also draws on field studies in Gaza and the West Bank on the social movement dynamics of the first Palestinian uprising (Intifada).

Before returning to the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, she was employed by the United Nations. As the People’s Security Coordinator (P4) at the United Nation’s specialized agency for work, the International Labour Organization (ILO, Geneva, Switzerland), she analyzed and managed large household surveys from Argentina to Sri Lanka.  She also worked for the Arab region for the Report on the World Social Situation for the United Nation’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York. Prior to that she was a consultant for the German national development agency (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit, GTZ) in Germany.  Abu Sharkh has written on the spread and effect of human rights related labor standards, as well as on welfare regimes, gender discrimination, child labor, social movements and work satisfaction. She has traveled extensively, both professionally and privately, loves to dive and sail and speaks English, German, Spanish and French as well as rudimentary Arabic.

Haim Dov Beliak is the Executive Director of HaMifgash: An On?Going Conversation Among Jewish Intellectuals, a 501c3. The most recent project of HaMifgash is called High Marks Justice Productions in honor of Wally and Suzy Marks. Their long time support of Jewish – Muslim reconciliation will be celebrated in a documentary on the Tunisian Jewish community in Djerba. The Djerba Jewish community dates to 576 B.C.E. and has developed a strong relationship with its Muslim neighbors especially the Hajira Muslims.  Recently, www.JewsOnFirst.org wrote a rebuttal to “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” which owes its genesis to AFR’s Fall 2008 conference.  The web site: www.JewsOnFirst.org larger purpose addresses the “Christianization” movement’s attempt to nullify the First Amendment of the Constitution.  Together with Jane Hunter, Haim co -founded The Coalitions for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem (www.stopmoskowitz.org <http://www.stopmoskowitz.org> )   Beliak was born in a DP Camp in Munich, Germany and grew up in Mason City, Iowa and Phoenix, Arizona. He attended Phoenix College, Occidental College, Hebrew Union College, Hebrew University and The Claremeont Graduate University.  In 1988-90 Beliak was as a Jerusalem Fellow in Jerusalem, Israel.  He is a member of the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) and Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP).

Vanessa Brake holds a M.S. from the Institute for Conflict Analysis & Resolution at George Mason University. As a graduate student she worked at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy & Conflict Resolution, which engages in practice, research and education concerning the contributions of world religions to conflict and to peace.  Her capstone master’s project dealt with the creation of an interactive curriculum for middle school students, based on the nonviolent

principles of Martin Luther King Jr.  She also has bachelor degrees in psychology and religious studies from Arizona State University.  Currently, Vanessa works as research assistant to Joseph Montville on the Abrahamic Family Reunion. She is also an office manager and nonviolence trainer with Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service in Oakland, CA.

Rev. Jim Burklo is the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.  He is an ordained United Church of Christ pastor with a Masters of Divinity from San Francisco Theological Seminary.  He has served churches in Sausalito, San Mateo, and Palo Alto, and was the ecumenical Protestant campus minister at Stanford University.  He was the organizer and director of the interfaith Urban Ministry of Palo Alto, which serves homeless and low income people.  He writes about theologically and socially progressive Christianity (his books: OPEN CHRISTIANITY (2000) and BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS: Meditations, Prayers, and Songs for Progressive Christians (2008); his blog, MUSINGS: www.tcpc.blogs.com/musings).  Jim has recently taken a job at USC, so he will update his bio soon.

Paul Chaffee spent 13 years growing up in Asia, son of Presbyterian missionaries. That background provoked his own interfaith vocation, building bridges of respect and relationship between different spiritualities and religions. Howard Thurman was a mentor when Paul was a student at Pacific School of Religion and pastor at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in the seventies. For two years he was church coordinator at the San Francisco Council of Churches and has been a trustee of the San Francisco Interfaith Council since 1993. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, he has devoted more than 20 years to interfaith activities.  In 1995 he became founding executive director of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio. He is actively involved in the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN), the United Religions Initiative (URI), and the Parliament of the Worlds Religions. In 2002 he chaired the planning team for the first URI-North America summit and in 2008 did the same for NAIN’s 20th anniversary conference in San Francisco. He has addressed, facilitated workshops, and collaborated with Buddhist, Brahma Kumari, Catholic, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Neo-Pagan, all manner of Protestant, Quaker, Seventh Day Adventist, Sikh, Shinto, Spiritualist, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan, Zoroastrian, ecumenical, interfaith, peace & justice, and student groups here and abroad. He has taught interfaith studies at Dominican University of California and Pacific School of Religion.  His books include Accountable Leadership (1997), which addresses law, finance, and ethics in faith communities, and Remembered Light (2007), the catalog for a collection of 26 new stained-glass and art objects utilizing shards of stained glass picked up in sanctuaries destroyed in World War II. Shared Wisdom (2004) is a handbook about generating and nurturing grassroots interfaith activities. It can be freely downloaded from “Interfaith Resources” at www.interfaith-presidio.org.

Malka Haya Fenyvesi is the Co-Director of NewGround: A Muslim Jewish Partnership for Change and is the Interfaith Program Coordinator at Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA). Malka is a first-generation American and the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. She has a M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR), where she graduated with honors. She also studied Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding from the Abrahamic faiths traditions at Hamline Law School’s Program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the US Institute of Peace.  Malka has been active in the domestic Jewish peace movement for many years. She has participated in a number of local and national coalitions and interfaith efforts to bring a peaceful and just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has traveled throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories. She has led workshops on Judaism, Reconciliation and Conflict Resolution to groups of International Scholars, Community Organizations, and at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. She is also the founding teacher of Yavneh on the Hill, a Hebrew school program on Capital Hill in Washington DC.  Malka is a trained mediator. Prior to working for PJA, she worked at Search for Common Ground, an International Conflict Transformation organization based in Washington DC.

Judith Fleenor is a Religious Science minister with the United Centers for Spiritual Living.  She is on the Marin Interfaith Council’s Education and Celebrations Team.  She is a panel moderator for the Islamic Network Group’s Interfaith Speakers Bureau.  She is an active member of both the programs committee and finance committee at the Interfaith Center at the Presidio in San

Francisco.  Prior to receiving her masters in Consciousness Studies from the Holmes Institute and moving her career toward ministry and Interfaith work, Judith held various roles in project  management and technology training for companies domestically and internationally.  Highlights of her career include: being on the opening team for Euro Disney, doing a Sale Force Automation

rollout for Seimens/Rolm, creating the policy and procedures and training schedule for the Internet to the desk top roll?out for Seagate Technologies, and working as the Worldwide Director of Training for  Netscape Communications/AOL.

Benina Gould received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Fielding Institute, Santa Barbara. California. She was awarded a Carnegie Fellowship at the Belfer Center for International Studies at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Mellon Grants from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley.  She is Director of the Social Transformation Program at Saybrook Graduate School in San Francisco and a visiting scholar at the University of California, International and Area Studies. Her most recent book is Living in the Question? A Critical Oral History of the Berlin Wall Crises. At present Benina is conducting research on the role of the Internet for Muslim Youth with colleagues at Pesantrens in Solo and South Sulawesi, Indonesia. The purpose of the research is to examine the stereotype that “madrassas” are the breeding grounds of fundamentalism” and to understand “the students who say ‘no’ to fundamentalism.”  This research has also taken place in the Islamic community in California and in Pakistan.  The outcome of this research will further our understanding of the next generation of Islamic youth.  Benina is also consulting to the development of curriculum for Junior and High School students on the “Religious Basis of Peace Studies” a long-term project with the Ministry of Education in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The Rev. Canon Mary E. Haddad was born and raised in Canada. She earned her B.A. in Communications from the University of Windsor and worked for ten years in television for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Unexpectedly laid off, Mary subsequently worked as a publicist for the University of Windsor, owned and ran a French café, and, briefly, sold cars in Detroit. In 1992, she moved to California as the live?in verger at All Saint’s Episcopal Church. In

1997, Mary began studies at the General Theological Seminary and, upon graduation in 2000, became Associate Rector at St. Bartholomew’s Church.

Mary visited Jerusalem for a ten?day seminar in 1994 and again for a conference on Christian Zionism in 2004. While at St. Bart’s, she was a Steering Committee member of Jerusalem 2000, a fund?raising campaign, and formed a grassroots Middle?East advocacy group called “Just Peace.” She began her ministry as Canon Pastor at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco in January 2007.

Aziza Hasan Co-Directs NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change. The program is a joint endeavor between the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) and brings members of both faith communities together for frank, substantive dialogue. Facilitated conversations, explore issues at the personal, local, national and global levels. New Ground doesn’t shy away from discussing the tough topics such as, identity, gender, pluralism and Israel/Palestine. Dialogue sessions are based on the premise that honest communication forges meaningful relationships; from these grow camaraderie and genuine friendship.  Aziza also coordinates inter-faith relations for MPAC by working with religious leadership in Southern California in the areas of social justice, community education and outreach, and youth engagement. She has led numerous workshops for international scholar forums, at conferences, university/college campuses, civic and religious groups on inter-faith dialogue, community organizing, and youth leadership training. Aziza has given various speeches to audiences across the country that included introductions to Islam, forgiveness and peace in Islamic tradition, and conflict resolution in Muslim communities.  She has appeared on CNN, National Public Radio, KCRW, Arabic Radio and Television, The Mennonite, The Jewish Journal, InFocus, The Wichita Eagle, The Newton-Kansan, The Halstead Independent, Hutchinson News and The Bethel College Collegean.  Her undergraduate and graduate background is in history, social science and conflict resolution. While at Bethel, a four-year liberal arts school in Kansas, she was active in student government, debate and forensics and social justice organizations. During her two years as the first Muslim Student Body President at Bethel she organized numerous teach-ins, speaking events and charity fundraising projects. She is experienced in Small Claims Court mediation, and coaching individuals and leading groups in conflict resolution. Her two years of AmeriCorps service gave her hands-on experience in community organizing and group problem solving.

During her time working for Inter-Faith Ministries, in Wichita, KS, and as an active member of the MPAC Wichita Chapter, she worked on multiple educational and political issues. Aziza chaired the MPAC Political Action Committee, which successfully organized political forums one of which the Kansas Governor, Kathleen Sebelius, was the main speaker. She also authored the More Alike than Different Project, a joint effort by Wichita, Ks organizations such as the local MPAC Chapter, Inter Faith Ministries, and the National Conference for Community Justice. The project was made to be duplicated and to educate the community about the basic tenants of Islam and dispel misconceptions about the religion. More Alike than Different was presented to several different businesses personnel, schools, government employees, and social service agencies.

Tamar Miller consults to social change organizations with a focus on the contemporary Middle East. She was co?director of the New England regional office of The New Israel Fund; VP Education and one of three founders of an international company, American Higher Education, inc,; and Partner in Middle East Holdings, a business development firm based in Boston and Dubai. Tamar

was Director of Leadership Development and then Executive Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East at Harvard University. Earlier in her career, she directed social service programs in New York, Jerusalem and Cambridge, MA. for disturbed adolescents, pregnant

and parenting addicts, and families of psychiatric patients. She also was a community organizer in Ethiopian, Yemenite, and Moroccan disenfranchised communities in Israel.  Tamar holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Judaic Studies, Master of Social Work from Yeshiva University and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University.   She currently is active on the board of directors of Parents Circle – Bereaved Family Forum, IPCRI (Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information), and the Alliance for Middle East Peace.

Carol Miskel began working with The Russian-American Center (now TRACK TWO) in 1997. She has helped coordinate conferences involving the former Republics of the USSR, and working with Esalen’s Center for Theory and Research helps coordinate projects co-sponsored with TRACK TWO. From 1982-1994 she was in the entertainment retail business, owning a compact disc and video store in San Francisco and three video rental stores in the San Francisco Bay Area.  From 1979-1981 Miskel was the marketing director of Blume, Middag and Associates, a West Coast entertainment promotion and marketing company for music recording companies.  After college and until 1977, she was in the music publishing business for shelter Records in Hollywood, California and published songs for artists such as Tom Petty, Leon Russell and Phoebe Snow.

Joseph Montville is director of the Beyond Fundamentalism seminars sponsored by the Esalen Center for Theory and Research and TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy. He also is director of Toward the Abrahamic Family Reunion, the Esalen program to promote Muslim-Christian-Jewish reconciliation.  Montville also chairs the board of TRACK TWO.  He is Senior Adviser on Interfaith Relations at the Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation, Washington National Cathedral, and a Distinguished Diplomat in Residence at American University. He is also Senior Fellow at and chair of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, George Mason University, and Senior Associate and adjunct professor at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at GMU. His expertise includes conflict resolution: East Central Europe, the Baltics, the Middle East, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Russia, Canada, and Latin America. Montville founded the preventive diplomacy program at Washington, DC’s Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1994 and directed it until 2003. Before that he spent 23 years as a diplomat with posts in the Middle East and North Africa. He also worked in the State Department’s Bureaus of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and Intelligence and Research, where he was chief of the Near East Division and director of the Office of Global Issues. Montville has held faculty appointments at the Harvard and University of Virginia Medical Schools for his work in political psychology. He defined the concept of “Track Two,” nonofficial diplomacy. Educated at Lehigh, Harvard, and Columbia Universities, Montville is the editor of Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies (Lexington Books, 1990) and editor (with Vamik Volkan and Demetrios Julius) of The Psychodynamics of International Relationships (Lexington Books, 1990 [vol. I], 1991 [vol. II

Dulce Murphy is a founder and was a director of the Esalen Institute Soviet American Exchange Program that began in 1980. Murphy then became the president and executive director of The Russian-American Center (TRAC) in San Francisco, a continuation of the same program. For the past twenty-eight years she has been on the cutting edge of non-governmental Russian-American relations.  In the spring of 2004, The Russian-American Center changed its name to TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy, that expands its mandate as a non-profit organization to include other countries, teaming up with our Russian colleagues to that end.   Track-two diplomacy involves non-governmental individuals and groups that aim to fill the moral and intellectual voids of official peacemaking leadership. TRACK TWO’s major goal is to re-humanize relations that are dysfunctional, working to make relationships better.

Imam Faheem Shuaibe is a highly respected and well-known national leader in the Muslim African American community in America.  He is the local spiritual leader of Masjidul Waritheen in Oakland, California, and serves as the Director of its school system, the Mohammed Schools of Oakland–primary, elementary, middle, and high schools.  Imam Shuaibe has been part of several distinguished delegations that have taken him around the globe on various educational, religious, interfaith, and peace missions.  He has contributed his efforts to delegations in Rome, Italy, Sudan, Malaysia, Egypt, Caribbean, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.  Imam Shuaibe enjoys broad recognition receiving proclamations and the Keys to the City in several municipalities across the country, as well as the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity’s Notable Citizen Award.  Faheem is currently working with an “A list” of intellectuals, professionals, religious leaders and career diplomats on the “Abraham Family Reunion Project,” a national interfaith project.  The Institute for the Advance Study of Black Family Life and Culture has inducted Imam Shuaibe into the African American Intellectual Royal Family along with other well-known black scholars such as, Dr. Asa Hilliard and Iyanla Vanzant.   Also, he is the President of New Africa Investment Group and Board Member of Islamic Networks Group (ING), an international interfaith education organization. Imam Shuaibe has been recognized by Black Business Exposition Ltd. as one of the 101+ Men Making A Difference. Imam Shuaibe’s lectures have been a source of inspiration to elementary and high school students across the country and their communities.  He has been a vital source of information for large and small companies and organizations including The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco CA, AT&T, Chiron Corporation of Emeryville CA, Yale University’s School of Law, Howard University, University of California at Berkeley’s Department of Affirmative Action, Fordham University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, New York University, University of Washington in St. Louis, Xavier University, and Buffalo State College.  Imam Shuaibe supports interfaith organizations wholeheartedly. His comments on contemporary issues are cited by the Muslim Journal, The Wall Street Journal, The Oakland Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, USA Today, and many others.  Additionally, he is recognized as a consultant and has been utilized on documentary film projects for PBS.

Aaron J. Hahn Tapper, is the Founder and Co?Executive Director of Abraham’s Vision, a conflict transformation organization running programs for American?based populations of Jews, Muslims, Israelis, and Palestinians. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he is currently an Assistant Professor in the Theology and Religious Studies Department of the University of San Francisco, holding the Swig Chair of Judaic Studies, and is the university’s founding director of the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice, the first formal academic program of its kind in the United States. Currently living outside San Francisco with his wife, Rabbi Laurie Hahn Tapper, and son Isaiah Everett, he previously lived in the Middle East for five years-four years in Jerusalem and one year in Cairo-and traveled extensively in Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, and Syria. Aaron

received a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, majoring in Psychology, a Master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School, focusing on World Religions, and a PhD in Comparative Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since 1990, Aaron has been involved in Jewish education, shifting his focus towards Jewish-Arab and Jewish-Muslim education in 1998. In September 2008 he became the Co-Executive Director of the Center for Transformative Education, a new educational initiative aiming to create empowering educational programs to transform societies into their potential, which he co-founded.

Gordon Wheeler PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist with over thirty years of practice, teaching and training widely around the world.  He is noted for his work using the Gestalt model to integrate relational, developmental, self, narrative, and evolutionary psychology, and his related work in integral education.  As author or editor of some dozen books and over 100 articles in the field, he has focused on themes of co-construction of experience, lifelong relational development, intimacy and intersubjectivity, dynamics of support and shame, gender, narrative, values and culture, multicultural work and post-Holocaust studies.  His edited works include a number of translations, and his own work has been translated into more than a dozen other languages.  As Editor and Co-Director of GestaltPress (publishing with Analytic/ Erlbaum), he has brought work by over 100 other Gestalt authors to print.  Gordon serves as President and CEO of Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA, which offers some 500 public and intern programs to 15,000 students each year, and hosts the world’s largest and longest-running Gestalt-based residential community, now nearing its 50th year.  Gordon and his wife Nancy Lunney-Wheeler have eight children, and make their home at Esalen and in Santa Cruz, CA.