(The picture above is of religious leaders in Sri Lanka -- Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim -- marching together for justice during the economic collapse of 2022)
At OMNIA, we teach religious and civic leaders the art of non-violent social change -- an alternative to war.
Before you dismiss that as impractical and pollyannish in the political sphere, please know that --
The attack by Hamas on Israel was horrendous and we unequivocally condemn it. Israel’s actions, now in a full-scale invasion of Gaza (a densely populated area of 2.2 million people) cheered on by the United States, in addition to its long-term occupation of Palestine, is also condemnable.
Israel’s Defense Minister spoke about Palestinians as “human animals” and must be treated as such. Israel’s President, equally arrogant, refused to concede that there is a distinction between Hamas and the people of Gaza. In his mind, the elimination of Hamas means the elimination of all Gazans, half of whom are children. A ground offensive will be a human catastrophe, another Nakba of unprecedented proportions. It will draw the world into a protracted unwinnable war with dire consequences for the region.
I watched the eyes of Netanyahu and Biden when they spoke last week. They were already shooting bullets. I like and respect Biden, but in this matter, he is wrong. I want to say to him, Mr. President, friends don’t let friends get drunk on vengeance and destroy their countries and their souls. In not cautioning Israel about the morally bankrupt actions they are undertaking; Biden lost anopportunity to demonstrate his leadership.
This should have been an opportunity to view the conflict with the end in mind. The goal, as the international community agrees, must be the establishment of the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders that lives in peace, justice and equity, side by side with the state of Israel. We shouldn't be surprised that Biden dropped the ball. The US has a history of vetoing every opportunity to support this international law. We cannot expect politicians to do the right thing -- only that which is politically expedient. This is why we need courageous and skilled religious leaders to step forward to hold them accountable.
Some in the US media made the comparison of the Hamas attack to 9/11. After 9/11 most US media outlets did a horrible job by not telling the truth and uncritically bolstering George W. Bush’s drumbeat for going to war. The same thing is happening today. There is a tacit expectation that attacking Gaza with vengeance is the normal and expected thing to do. What else can Israel do, they ask.
The key question for me is this: can Israel learn a lesson from the utterly wrong-headed and destructive response of the US government to 9/11. Let me remind you:
And the US and its allies lost that war. The Taliban still rules Afghanistan, the women are still brutally oppressed, and the fundamentalistic regime still seeks to spread its venom around the world.
Cost of War also estimates that globally, the War on Terror has cost $8 Trillion. No doubt, some of us are safer because of that, but large numbers of innocent people around the world have been killed or injured. $8 Trillion is an enormous amount of money. The World Food Programme estimates it will take $40 billion to end world hunger by 2030. With that money, we could end hunger 200 times over. We could find ways to reverse climate change, educate all our children, find cures for diseases and significantly improve the quality of life for a massive numbers of people.
The lesson is this: War does not work. It only addresses the proclivity of the human heart for vengeance.
I’ve come to two conclusions that I want to share with you.
This is what OMNIA does. More than 5,500 religious and civic leaders that we have trained will testify to the efficacy of our method. Now it is up to you and me to take the movement to scale.
There are alternatives to war. The political leaders have no interst in trying them. Religious leaders must step up and lead.Learn More