Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Peacemaking Begins at Home

We often think of peacemaking in terms of negotiating a cease-fire between two warring countries, arranging a truce between street gangs, or even breaking up a fight between two angry kids on the playground. While all of these efforts are important and worthy of our support, we should not forget the importance of modeling peacemaking at home in our personal relationships with our spouses and children.

Below, I have reposted an article from M&M's monthly health update which offers some helpful tips for doing precisely that. While my wife and I do not have children and, consequently, have not used this exact approach in our own home, we are familiar with and, on occasion, have used the speaker-listener technique for couples which is very similar to the method outlined below.

Peacemaking is something that is needed and can be practiced at all levels of society, ranging from small disputes between spouses all the way up to major geopolitical conflicts involving several nations. Perhaps if we were to practice peacemaking more on the personal level, we wouldn't find it to be so challenging in other, more complex areas of our lives.


Occasional family conflicts are normal, so it's best to have a strategy for resolving disagreements. Try a family roundtable with these steps.
  • Gather the group and appoint a moderator. For initial meetings, this should be a parent. As family members learn the routine, the moderator role can be rotated.
  • Explain the ground rules. No blaming, labeling or name-calling. Everyone has an equal voice.
  • Work on one problem. Clearly state the issue to be discussed, such as: "We're here to discuss how to divide the responsibility for walking the dogs."
  • Allow each family member to state his or her opinion. No interruptions allowed.
  • Brainstorm solutions. List all ideas without judging or reacting to them.
  • Narrow the field. Give each person a chance to choose his or her preferred solution.
  • Seek agreement. If you can't agree 100 percent on one solution, look for a compromise. For example, combine two solutions, or agree to try each idea for one week and discuss the outcome.
  • If tempers flare, take a timeout. Meet again at another time.
  • Ask for help. If, after repeated attempts, your family members aren't able to resolve a challenging problem, consider using a mediator, such as a clergyperson or a licensed mental health provider. Some communities also offer local mediation services. Check with your local government to see if one is available in your area.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nicolette Bethel on the Cuban Revolution

Bahamian anthropologist Nicolette Bethel makes some astute observations on the significance of the Cuban Revolution:

"In many ways the Cuban revolution parallels Haiti’s, which succeeded 155 years earlier, and the success of each revolution depended as much in many ways on the reactions of the countries beyond as it did on the will of the people within the nation. Haiti’s revolution ended in abject poverty and long-term chaos for that nation — not because of some inherent flaw in the idea of freedom for slaves and descendants of Africa, but because of the intolerable demands placed on the nation by the slave-owning countries around it. Cuba’s is sliding into poverty, but despite the best efforts of the Cuban exiles in Miami, and despite the fondest wishes of those who believe Communism is an unworkable system, chaos has not yet begun."

"I am not a communist. However, I am fundamentally an admirer of Castro’s Cuba because Castro achieved what the rest of this region, with all its variable riches, cannot even imagine achieving: a sense of self in a post-colonial world, a justifiable sense of pride in that self, and an understanding of the place of oneself in history — all of which are rare in the post-slave societies of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries."

Read the rest of the article here.

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Bahamas Watch

Looks like we now know which cruise ship passenger torched the Carmichael Road Detention Center last month. Didn't it occur to him that some of the people he was trying to free might have gotten hurt?

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Today in Caribbean History

Following the Bahamian election of 10 January 1967, Lynden Pindling of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) brokered a deal with Randol Fawkes' Labour Party to form a black coalition government, thus defeating the white led United Bahamian Party (UBP) and ushering in a new era of Black Majority Rule. As the nation's first black premier and, later, first prime minister, Pindling would remain in power for the next twenty-five years until his party was defeated in the 1992 elections.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Life in the Diaspora

“So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.” Matthew 2:14

When we think of Christmas, one of the first images that comes to mind is the baby Jesus lying in a manger, sleeping peacefully under the watchful eyes of his parents while angels, shepherds, Magi, and even barnyard animals gather around to worship him. Such tranquil images often cause us to overlook the fact that this momentous event—the birth of our Lord—took place amidst great political, social, and economic turmoil.

We forget that the baby Jesus was born into a backwater province of the Roman Empire where strong anti-Roman sentiment characterized the feelings of Jewish peasants who were barely able to eek out a living after paying their share of taxes to Rome. Likewise, we overlook the brutal tactics employed by Roman rulers in order to insure that nobody—not even an innocent baby boy rumored to be a king—would challenge their hold on power. Thus, Joseph and Mary soon found themselves fleeing with their newborn to escape the politically-motivated slaughter of baby Jewish boys in Bethlehem.

While Matthew briefly records Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt and notes that, following the death of King Herod, they were able to return home to Palestine, he mentions nothing about their actual sojourn in Egypt itself. While we can’t be certain, it is not unrealistic to assume that Joseph and Mary might have taken refuge in the large Jewish expatriate community in Alexandria and, as was the case with Jewish migrant communities elsewhere throughout the empire, they undoubtedly faced the stigma of being foreigners in a Gentile world.

Twenty centuries later, Matthew’s account of the flight to Egypt continues to resonate with migrants around the world who have had to flee their homes due to political, social, and economic turmoil. And like the expatriate Jewish communities scattered throughout the Roman Empire (and beyond) during Jesus’ day, today’s migrant communities must also confront the stigma and discrimination so often inflicted upon them by the majority culture.

We first met Kevin two summers ago when a Haitian lady who lives across the street from our church came to register him, along with her own small children and grandchildren, for vacation Bible school. Later we learned that when he was just two years-old, Kevin’s pregnant mother was arrested by Bahamian immigration and, lacking proper documents, deported to Haiti. Since Kevin’s father, who had never married his mother, works on one of the Family Islands and only comes to Nassau once per year, this lady offered to take Kevin in to her already overcrowded home. While accepted into her home, Kevin has never really become a part of the family and, frequently, is blamed and severely beaten for the misdeeds of the other children.

Now six-years old, Kevin has been a regular participant in our weekly after-school homework program for the past two-years. Even though he is in the second-grade, Kevin—like many other public school children his age—is still unable to read. Despite his turbulent home life and poor academic performance, Kevin is surprisingly very pleasant and helpful. He is often the first child to arrive at the church and the last to leave, insisting on helping us to load and unload supplies from our car. And one night last summer when Estela stopped by the church to take care of some things for the next morning’s vacation Bible school, Kevin appeared out of nowhere and followed Estela around as if he were her bodyguard, refusing to leave her side until he saw that she had safely gotten in the car to drive away.

What does the future hold for Kevin? Will he learn to read? Will he someday be reunited with his mother and siblings in Haiti? Will he graduate from high school? Will he regularize his immigration status and find a job? As this year’s Christmas season comes to a close, let us not forget the many Haitian children just like Kevin who—like the Jewish migrants of Jesus’ day—routinely face hardships and discrimination because they are foreigners in a strange land.

This article originally appeared in News from Daniel and Estela Schweissing on 2 January 2009. The painting, titled "The Flight into Egypt," was done by Vittore Carpaccio in A.D. 1500.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Today in Caribbean History

New Year's Day marks the remembrance of two significant events in Caribbean History--Haitian Independence Day and Cuban Liberation Day.

On 1 January 1804, following history's first and only successful slave rebellion, Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared Haiti's independence, making Haiti the second independent country in the Western Hemisphere and the first Black Republic in the world. Today, Haitians throughout Haiti and the Haitian diaspora will eat soup joumou (squash stew) in remembrance of this momentous event.

On 1 January 1959, Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro succeeded in wresting power from right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

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