|Jan. 4, 2006 4:29 | Updated Jan. 4, 2006 13:54By JONATHAN SCHNEIDERWith hopes of inspiring leaders from Israel, the PA and the rest of the world to consider alternative approaches to peace, Dr. Bernard Lafayette, a former colleague and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will give a lecture Wednesday at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, entitled, “In Search of the Global Non-Violent Community.”His talk is part of the “Enlightened Speakers” series organized by the Ben Ammi Institute for a New Humanity in Dimona, which aims at encouraging conflict resolution and peace in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, through principles of non-violence as promulgated by Mahatma Gandhi and King.
Lafayette, a Baptist preacher and director of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island, is currently travelling around Israel with a “Redeem the Dream” tour group, composed of a number of African American leaders, including Senators Donne Trotter and Kwame Raoul from Illinois, who are in the process of planning a trip for 5,000 people to Tiberias in 2007.
The group’s name is derived from a proposed peace pilgrimage to Israel that King had envisioned but never managed to realize. Lafayette claims that the popular civil rights advocate had wanted African Americans to connect with their roots in Israel, a land he had termed “the home of all religions.”
MKs Gila Gamliel (Likud) and Eliezer Sandberg (Shinui) are expected to attend the mini-conference which will be open to the general public. Audience members will have the opportunity to discuss the topic face-to-face with Lafayette.
Event organizer Prince Immanuel Ben Yehuda noted that the main focus of the occasion would be the promotion of non-violence as both a political priority and lifestyle choice. “We feel that this series can go a long way to helping us achieve this aim,” he said.
Lafayette’s talk will also focus on the outlining of a “pathway to peace” that he hopes will encourage community and national leaders from Israel, the PA and around the world, to come to the newly-founded Ben Ammi Institute, where their minds will be “opened to alternative possibilities for peace.”
While not offering any practical solutions to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lafayette hoped that “putting the issues on the table” and discussing them in an objective and rational way would create a change in perceptions at the grassroots level and upwards. He added that given the right attitude and approach, he believed that peace could be achieved in the Middle East within five years.
“We want to share our own experiences of how we overcame obstacles in 1960s America, in order to help establish a paradigm shift in thinking on both sides of the conflict over here,” Lafayette told The Jerusalem Post. “As Dr. King always asserted, constructive dialogue and the concomitant breaking of the cycle of violence is far more effective than maintaining a destructive status quo.”
However, when asked by whether he, in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s position, would deem passivity the wisest response to terrorist attacks, Lafayette answered with a blanket statement about the moral necessity for non-violence.
His only long-term vision for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was to rely on “a change in people’s perceptions” to bring about peace.
He also said that part of the purpose of the future trip would be the actualization of this dream, though, “We also want them to be aware that Israel is a beautiful country, and that harmony does exist on some level between Palestinians and Israelis.”