For the first time in the festival’s history, SXSW broadened its 2018 programming to include a series of workshops and panels exploring spirituality in the 21st century. With topics ranging from spirituality in political activism to the challenge of creating spiritual communities online, the inclusion of the series represents a shift in the traditionally arts- and tech-focused festival to include a wider audience, and demonstrated a willingness to tackle deeper cultural issues of inclusion, connection, and meaning.
Center for Council Executive Director, Jared Seide, spoke on a panel, “Finding Spiritual Community Both On and Offline,” as part of SXSW’s new spirituality series. Seide, along with Rabbi Neil Blumofe, explored the triumphs and challenges of community building in the digital age. The discussion shed light on a multitude of ideas and challenges we face in our technology-heavy world, one in which we are increasingly connected to our screens, but not each other, and the information we receive about our world is carefully curated, particularly through the algorithms engrained in the social platforms we use. Much of the information that comes to us is intended to confirm our biases, and sometimes stoke our fears, in service of the agendas and platforms that want to keep us engaged.
Seide explained at the panel, “Our brains are designed to process complex, non-linear, environmental information. We orient to and depend on a diversity of input to understand community, to figure out how we feel about safety, about belonging, about compassion. We depend on sensations and micro-expressions and body language and that mysterious sense we get when we feel ‘some kinda way.’ That stuff doesn't come to us through technology, at least not yet. We really need to show up, with other humans, face-to-face, in real time. We need to convene. We need to connect. And I'm worried that our over-reliance on our screens just reinforces our diminishing experience of real relationships; it diminishes our relational skills; it diminishes community. We crave connection, and human contact, but that's not what we get from screens. Online interactions, and now VR, can extend some experiences, and maybe extend our reach, but these things cannot replace human connection."
Center for Council is thrilled to be at the forefront of these exchanges. In a time that favors advancing technology, how can we hold on to practices that reinforce human connection, build community in the physical realm, and foster compassionate relationships between individuals?
Immediately following the Council training workshop that Center for Council’s Director Jared Seide led for the NGO Dejusticia in August of 2017, Dejusticia staff traveled to southwest Colombia to hold a conference with human rights activists from around the world. Council practices and perspectives were incorporated into the conference, as Dejusticia’s Executive Director César Rodríguez Garavito shared in the email he sent to Center for Council, excerpted below.
We’re still recovering from the exhilarating workshop with 19 human rights activists from around the world last week. One of the first things I wanted to do post-workshop was to thank you kindly on behalf of the Dejusticia team and the community of fellow activists that was established last week, thanks in no small part to your teachings and generosity during the Council training.
Center for Council Director Jared Seide recently traveled to Bogota, Colombia, to consult with and lead a Council training workshop for the human rights organization Dejusticia. Below is a reflection on his experience there, and the tremendous importance and applicability of Council in today's world.
Two days before our Bogotá Council Training began, FARC guerillas handed in their remaining guns. The historic Colombian peace accord, agreed to in the Fall of 2016, stipulated that all arms be surrendered between June and August of 2017. And while the peace process has been hailed as a success, some signs of trouble have appeared. In a referendum intended to demonstrate public support for the negotiated agreement, the vote was very close – with “NO” votes garnering slightly higher number than “YES” votes. Underlying this ambivalence were some profound cultural issues that may prove a real hindrance to a lasting reconciliation and peace. As coalitions mobilized to advocate for a political solution, issues of religion, economics, gender, as well as forgiveness and justice, were activated and in some ways played out just under the surface of the public relations campaign around the referendum. Cultural issues touching on “traditional values,” economic disparity, environmental degradation, and political corruption seem to have corollaries to the American political landscape.
Center for Council Director Jared Seide recently traveled to Auschwitz to coordinate daily Council circles at the annual Bearing Witness Retreat in partnership with Zen Peacemakers.
Read a detailed description of this incredible, invaluable, and powerful work.
Center for Council, in partnership with Zen Peacemakers, offered a Council training workshop in Sarajevo for a group of Croat, Serb and Bosniak peacemakers, organized by two dynamic Imams.
“Coming Back to Ourselves: Notes on a
Lawyers Guild Hour Radio Show (KPFK 90.7) aired a show on 6/5/2014 about "Council in Prisons."
Host Jim Lafferty weaves interviews with in-studio guest Jared Seide, along with call-in guests from several active Council programs, including:
With the imminent release of over 20,000 former genocide perpetrators into communities where unspeakable crimes were committed, the Rwandan government and its people seem eager to embrace a model for deepening community resilience and affirming shared values. The resonance of council (or “Peace Circle”) with indigenous Rwandan traditions like ibitaramo is striking and we are thrilled to be partnering with local Rwandan peace workers in supporting the emergence of a program and a practice that serves this critical moment.
- Therapist Marie-Josee Ukeye, Butare, Rwanda
It takes unimaginable will and courage to move ahead after trauma. For many of the women of Butare, Rwanda, there has been much to survive. Many of those who lived through the genocide lost family, friends and children. Countless numbers were victims of rape; some went on to raise the children born of those rapes, and many live with HIV.
Therapist Marie-Josee Ukeye has been using the practice of Council for the past 2 years in her work with the courageous women of Butare. She will be one of the participants of the training being held by Center for Council at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
"We can't heal ourselves or other people, unless we bear witness."
Center for Council is part of an extraordinary movement that is bringing reconciliation and healing to the sites of some of the worst atrocities of our time.
This April will mark twenty years since the beginning of the genocide in Rwanda, in which over one million people were killed. Women who were victims of the mass rape used as a tool for war, now live with and care for the children born of those rapes, and many were also left with HIV.
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