“Whether the MSM prioritizes conflict over peace is a result of an attempt to sell more advertising or some darker conspiracy is almost irrelevant. The fact is incontestable that the heroes of reconciliation don’t get much coverage. This is especially frustrating since their efforts in the past have been so effective. When problems between Northern Ireland’s Catholics and Protestants drop out of the news no one asks why things got better. The same for Cypriot Greeks and Turks, Serbs and Croats Bantus and Watussis or dozens of other conflicts that gradually got resolved or radically improved. I call that the real news and unlike violent military confrontation it’s something every one of us can be apart of.”
This comment is Linnemeier’s response to a line of comments that followed his wonderful opinion piece in Monday’s local Herald-Times. Read it, for both instruction and initiation into the people’s work of our time. So grateful.
February 22, 2016
This guest column is by John Linnemeier of Bloomington, author of the book “How an Average Man Lived an Adventurous Life” and a candidate in the 2015 Democratic mayoral primary.
I just returned from a trip to the Middle East. Over the years, I’ve worked in and visited the area many times. One of the things that I was most struck by this time was that, in the midst of all the hate and chaos, I kept running into people who gave me hope … people dedicated to binding up the wounds of war and building bridges of understanding. They’re rarely found in the headlines, but in my opinion, they’re the real heroes. They need your help. To say that we’re helpless is pure bunk, and I’ll give examples of things you can do.
Peace journalism doesn’t ignore conflict, but it addresses conflict and legitimate grievances from all sides, while avoiding inflammatory rhetoric. In Beirut, I interviewed an inspiring young woman named Vanessa Bassil who explained how an organization she founded called Media Association for Peace is trying to implement peace journalism in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East. You can contact her at Vanessa.Bassil@maplebanon.org.
Six million refugees have fled the war in Syria. In the camp I visited in Kurdistan, most families were living in poorly heated, overcrowded tents. A check to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) could help them survive decently till the situation improves and they can return home. It’s less expensive and more humane than having them make the long dangerous journey to Europe.
If you’re a runner, consider the adventure of running in the Beirut Marathon. A courageous woman named May El Kahlil started it in 2003. In October of 2007 when Lebanon was limping by without a parliament, prime minister or president it still had a marathon. In that war-ravaged country the race gave a compelling picture of unity in diversity. Last year the marathon had 37,000 runners from 71 countries.
Israel has many peace organizations that strangely never get much press. The question is often asked, “Where is the Gandhi of the Middle East?” The simple answer is, they’re all over the place, but the media never give them much attention. Watch the TED talk by Julia Bacha called, “Pay Attention to Nonviolence,” then Google “Israeli peace organizations.” Go through the list, find one that you can relate to and dive right in. As a combat veteran, I was especially interested in an organization called “Combatants for Peace.”
Members of J Street, a “pro-Israel pro-peace” organization, are working to resolve the biggest impediment to peace in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Support them. Attend their annual convention in Washington.
The state of the world is far from hopeless. At the risk of sounding like a sneakers ad, Just Do It!