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What peace activists can learn from a classical swordsman

In the famous Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, one of the key teachings is about attention:

The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy’s cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him. More than anything, you must be thinking of carrying your movement through to cutting him. You must thoroughly research this.

Now of course as a peace organizer, I have no intention of cutting anybody. But I do respect Musashi’s point about the need to have fierce dedication, focus and intent with each movement.

In our organizing and activism, every movement should be focused on peacemaking. If we hold a meeting, it should be to bring us closer to peace. If we rally and protest, it should be to bring us closer to justice.

If we think only of rallying, only of meeting, only of protesting, we will be unable to bring peace. If our efforts are only because they are things we should do, then we will waste effort.

Let us bring the same focus to stopping violence that Musashi brought to prevailing through violence.

The power of a faithful witness for peace

I’ve just finished reading the Pastoral Letter from Friends Church in Kenya (FCK), a response from the Quaker Church in Kenya to the recent violence.

It’s brilliant. And I say that as someone who is deeply ambivalent about the value of “words on paper” to create social chance.

The letter reaches to Quaker tradition and Biblical texts to call for actions based on truth, peace, economic justice, and reverence for life. It lays out a proposal for addressing the impasse in Kenya that respects civil society, all ethnic groups, and fair process.

Spiritually-rooted activists here in the US can learn much from their example. And in the meantime, we can pray for peace and reconciliation in Kenya.