by Rick Love
A former Alt-Right hate group leader, a former Al Qaeda recruiter, and a peacemaker walk into a room and all heaven breaks loose!
On April 9-11, Peace Catalyst International convened a “Seek the Peace of the City” consultation at Duke University. Our goal was to catalyze and equip a national network of Christians and Muslims to create safe, just, and vibrant cities.
This was the first time we have been able to gather with our Muslim partners from around the U.S. Over 40 attendees representing 12 cities gathered for two days to learn together and begin forming plans to combine our efforts for the next two years to bring about transformation in our respective cities.
A former member of an Alt-Right hate group and a former Al Qaeda recruiter shared their poignant, painful stories, and we were all struck by the similarities:
- They experienced abuse or trauma when they were young.
- They joined a hate group that gave them a sense belonging and purpose.
- They acted violently.
- They did not blame their past for their acts of violence; rather, they took responsibility for their own choices.
- Their first step out of the bondage of hate came when someone showed compassion to them.
One surprise for many of us was that statistics show that Right-Wing Extremists are responsible for the vast majority of extremist murders in the last decade. As one participant said, “The data our speakers brought regarding the contrast between acts of terror committed by white supremacists and rogue Muslims was illuminating!”
We also heard experts from the Strong Cities Network – a global network of 128 cities focused on undermining violent extremisms – and were thrilled to have Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, Kentucky skype into our meeting. PCI’s Martin Brooks works closely with Mayor Fischer to seek the peace of Louisville.
At Peace Catalyst, our normal events are naturally a lived counter-narrative to violent extremisms. Loving relationships between Christians and Muslims foster greater social cohesion and inclusivity, thereby undermining violent narratives. In other words, we show extremists on both sides that there is a better way.
The focus of this consultation was to expand Peace Catalyst’s focus beyond strictly Christian-Muslim relations, because we realize we need to engage different sectors of society (e.g., government, law enforcement, education, media, business, etc.) for the flourishing of our cities. We were also challenged to love those in hate groups.
During the first evening of the consultation, a few people stood up and said they have great hope because we have gathered together to work for peace. I felt like that was a word from God. I have great hope. Safe, just, and vibrant cities are possible when we work together.