To our Building Bridges community,
Along with the rest of the world, we are watching the violence in Israel and Palestine with enormous fear and sadness. And, we are in contact with our staff, alumni, and participants offering what support we can.
One question we are grappling with is the role that Facebook is playing in moments of violence. It’s such an easy way to keep in touch that it sometimes seems necessary. But it is also an easy place to hit ‘like’ or ‘share’ without a great deal of thought, or even a close reading of what’s being passed along, so it gives a distorted image of people’s ideas and moods.
The way we approach conflict at Building Bridges is essentially the opposite of that. We focus on connection through sharing personal experiences and truths. We call what we teach the ‘practice of empathy,’ that is the lifelong practice of operating under the assumption that other people are full human beings, and that they have reasons for acting and thinking the way that they do that are possible to understand. The practice of empathy involves seeking out perspectives different from your own, and being willing to sit face to face, as we ask our participants to do, and listen to another person’s point of view, even when it is hurtful to you.
This approach transforms conflict from a back-and-forth struggle to decide who is right, into collective problem solving where the goal is understanding.
In difficult times like these, the practice of empathy is harder than ever. It is much easier to choose a side and shout as loud as you can. It is easy to generalize and stereotype. We believe, however, that the practice of empathy is the way forward that leads to life over violence.
Our work continues with a sense of urgency:
- We completed part one of our pilot Colorado program in July.
- We are gearing up for our second facilitator training and summer program for MEUS (Middle East/U.S.) in August.
- We are expanding our Legacy programs for all alumni.
- We are designing new facilitator training and dialogue opportunities for adults.
- We are planning for new programs in 2015.
And much, much more.
Join us. Support our work through your donation of funds, time, or expertise. And join us by reaching out with the intention to practice empathy, and strive to understand someone with a perspective different from your own.
All of us at Building Bridges and Building Bridges East