Day 37: Neil Snarr

Neil Snarr grew up in New York and Indiana in a conservative household. After a stint in the Army and obtaining advanced degrees in Theology and Sociology, Neil took a teNeil Snarraching job at Wilmington College. WC is a small Quaker liberal arts college in Southwest Ohio. Not long after arriving at WC, Neil began attending Quaker meeting and has been deeply involved with Friends ever since.

At WC he taught a variety of courses in Sociology and Global Issues. He also taught frequently in Wilmington’s prison program, which was a central aspect of WC’s social justice-oriented mission. In the 1960s, Neil began taking students to Central America and Mexico to learn Spanish and about the realities of the region. This was the beginning of his decades-long interest in taking students abroad and concern for native people throughout the world.

In the 1990s Neil began taking a handful of students to Spring Lobby Weekend, organized by FCNL in Washington, DC. At Spring Lobby Weekend, students learn about an issue of concern to Quakers, learn how to lobby, and then apply this knowledge on Capitol Hill. What began as a few students in a van has evolved into a charter bus loaded with 50-plus students, faculty, staff, and community members from Wilmington, Ohio.

In the academic realm, Neil has done research on post-disaster housing in Central America, edited a book on Nicaragua, and co-edited a book on global issues (now in its 6th edition). Additionally, he has served on various Quaker committees including Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO).

Upon retiring, Neil has remained active. At WC he raises money for student travel to Quaker-related issues and has researched the history of local desegregation efforts. Most recently, Neil received recognition for selling $10,000 worth of Palestinian fair trade olive oil. His support of Palestinian olive farmers fits well with Neil’s long-held mantra that “if you want to help disadvantaged people, you should buy their products.” Neil has also been instrumental in enabling WC students to join William Penn Quaker Workcamps as participants and leaders in DC, West Virginia and Pine Ridge.

In alignment with his dedication to education as peacemaking, there are these words from Maria Montessori: “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education. All politics can do is keep us out of war.”


Day 13: Dr. Marc Gopin

Marc Gopin is the Director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution (CRDC), the James H. Laue Professor at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia. Gopin has pioneered projects at CRDC in Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Palestine and Israel. Gopin directs a unique series of overseas educational and practice experiences ranging from conflict and peace intervention in Palestine and Israel, to support for Syrian activists and refugees in Turkey and Jordan, to pioneering educational classes in the Balkans and Northern Ireland. The classes are open to all for either a certificate or credit. marc-syria-comment

Gopin has trained thousands of people worldwide in peacebuilding strategies for complex conflicts. He conducts research on values dilemmas as they apply to international problems of clash of cultures, globalization and development, and social justice. The direction of his new research and teaching investigates the relationship between global trends in nonviolence and new approaches to global conflict resolution. His fifth book, Bridges Across an Impossible Divide: the Inner Lives of Arab and Jewish Peacemakers (Oxford, 2012), explores the role of self-examination in the resolution of human conflict as portrayed in the lives and testimonies of indigenous peacemakers.

Gopin has engaged in back channel diplomacy with religious, political and military figures on both sides of conflicts. He has appeared on numerous media outlets, including CNN, CNN International, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Arabiyah, The Jim Lehrer News Hour, National Public Radio, Voice of America, and the national public radios of Sweden and Northern Ireland. He has been published in numerous publications, including the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, and his work has been featured in news stories of the Times of London, The Times of India, Associated Press, and Newhouse News Service. He received a Ph.D. in ethics from Brandeis University in 1993. He was also ordained as an Orthodox rabbi at Yeshiva University in 1983, although he eventually stopped identifying with any Jewish denomination. In recognition of Gopin’s work and dedication to the hard work of peacemaking, take a moment to reflect on his words:

“The fact is that it is easy to demonize, it is the lazy primitive brain’s way out of stress. It takes work to see good and bad existing side by side…I will never again assume that if someone is from a victim group that they have an evolved moral mind, and I will never again assume that education has anything to do with empathy, balance, and the capacity for making peace between enemies.”

(Thanks to much of this information. This site has great postings.)

Day 12: Lydia Mansour and Visions of Peace

‘Ms. Lydia’, as she is affectionately called, lost her sight as a result of measles when she was 2 years old. She well-knows the double-discrimination that women and girls with disabilities face and, having spent most of her life as a Palestinian Christian in Jerusalem, she has lived amidst the myriad of difficulties of that region.

1 Lydia    IMG_3470

Ms. Lydia’s dream was to provide a place for learning and a place to belong for underserved women from Jerusalem and West Bank. Starting with $200 that she raised going door-to-door, she opened the Peace Center for the Blind in 1984. The organization has grown from 4 students to a capacity of 50. Women (and now some men) are taught everything from basic living skills to marketable skills (weaving, sewing, broom and stool-making), and the participants leave empowered and as living witness for equal rights for all those living with disabilities. No tuition is charged, and boarding is free for West Bank students, as borders between West Bank and Jerusalem are very difficult for Palestinians to do on a daily basis.

The Center promotes tolerance and understanding in region that often lacks that. It is a place of interfaith education where Muslims and Christians can work and study together. Despite of, or perhaps because of the lack of sight, Ms. Lydia and the Peace Center for the Blind are showing that many obstacles can be overcome.

For today, reflect on the spirit of Ms. Lydia with her own words: “Every child has to be given a chance to prove what they can do.  Some people are going to b e very successful, others not, it has nothing to do with blindness at all, but I believe that everybody should be given an opportunity.

Want to know more about Ms. Lydia or the Peace Center for the Blind?

Peace Center Website

Program Overview

Bittersweet Newsletter about the organization

“Not by Sight” film project

Day 2: Alice Walker

Pulitzer-Prize winner Alice Walker (b. 1944) was the youngest child of Willie Lee Walker and Minnie Lou Tallulah Grant. Willie was a sharecrop farmer (earning $300/year); Minnie worked as a maid, working 11 hours/day for $17/week. Growing up in the Jim Crow south, Walker’s parents resisted the expectation that children work the fields and forego education, instead enrolling Alice in 1st grade at age 4. Surrounded by oral tradition, she grew up listening to her grandfather and started writing on her own at age 8. It was also at this age that she was wounded by a bb-gun shot by her brother resulting in the loss of vision in her right eye (her parents did not have a car and could not get her to the hospital until a week after that incident). Scar tissue formed over the eye (removed when she was 14), causing taunts by classmates and resulting in her feeling like an outcast. She turned to reading and writing poetry for solace. She relates that what she learned about this time, and her subsequent selection as queen and most popular of her class (as well as valedictorian) taught her a lot about people, relationships and patience.

While at Spelman College in Atlanta, Walker became involved in the Civil Rights movement, influenced by one of her professors, Howard Zinn. She also met Martin Lutalice-walker1her King while there. She transferred to and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1965, but then returned to the south and was involved in voter registration drives, campaigns for welfare rights, and children’s programs in Mississippi. During this time, she also worked as a writer in residence for two colleges, and married a Jewish man, Melvin Rosen Leventhal in 1967.

Through her writing and her activism, she has been a staunch advocate for human rights and rights of all living beings. She stands on the sides of the poor and the economically and spiritually oppressed. She participated in the 1963 March on Washington, and 40 years later was arrested for crossing a police line at an anti-war rally on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. She coined the term “Womanism” in 1983 to mean “black feminism” to unite colored feminists. In 2009, she signed on to a letter condemning Israel as an apartheid regime, and has been outspoken in her advocacy and demonstrations for Palestinian rights in Gaza and West Bank, and denouncing Israeli policy. Some have labeled her anti-semitic (despite having married a Jewish man, and working with Steven Spielberg, also Jewish, on “The Color Purple”, a movie based on her most famous writing). Others, including Elisheva Goldberg, have defended her actions, stating that she is not anti-semitic, nor anti-Israeli, but is against state-subsidized racism that she sees in Israeli government policy. Walker has also championed the cause of Chelsea Manning.

In the spirit of Alice Walker, and the recognition that peace work comes with plenty of tension and criticism, take a moment to reflect on these words of Walker:

Once you feel loved by the universe, you’re already accepted, and you’re not really concerned about offending people.

Day 26: Hanan Ashrawi

Hanan Ashrawi (b. 1946) is a Palestinian Anglican. Her family was forced to flee to Jordan during the 1948 Palestine War. During the six day war, she was studying in Beirut. She was declared an absentee by Israel and denied re-entry to the West Bank. For the next 6 years, she traveled and completed her education, including getting a PhD. from the University of Virginia. She was allowed to re-join her family in 1973.  She became a leader after the first Intifada as a Palestinian Delegate to the Middle East Peace process. She has since become a leader of the Third Way party within the West Bank. In 2003 she was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize, drawing praise from the likes of Mary Robinson (former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Bishop Tutu. She is not without her critics (such as making statements denying the conditions of Jewish refugees from Arab countries), but people such as Israeli politician Yael Dayan “think she’s very courageous, and she contributes quite a lot to the peace process.”

While optimism is vital to peacemaking, so is realism. Here are Ashrawi’s comments following one previous accord: “Beyond the emotionalism and the obvious sense of relief on all sides, I think that there is a recognition that reality may intrude, that perhaps the steps ahead and the days ahead are going to be much more difficult than one expects.” In what ways might our work for peace and our resistance to change be creating conflict in our own lives and community?