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S. Christoffersen: Peace through Communication

Peace through Communication

Presented at the UPF Ambassadors for Peace Monthly Meeting
November 14, 2015, Parnell, New Zealand

Rev. Sirr Christoffersen
Head of universal worship in New Zealand for the Sufi Order International


Tena koutou Tena koutou Tena koutou katoa
Asalaam alaikum,
Shalom aleichem,
Peace be with you,
Om Shanti, Om Shanti, Om Shanti—Peace, peace, peace

I will begin with words from Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher from the sixth century BCE (which echo some of the words of our opening prayer by Peter Holdem):

“If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.”

My heart is heavy, hearing the news today of the violence in Paris. … Perhaps if there is anything good about this, it is, I hope, that it's getting clearer to everyone that terrorism is not about religion. It's about hate, or power, or revenge (or an ideology). … Whereas religion is about peace, and wisdom, and love. …

Some of what I'm going to say comes from my experience as a psychotherapist and counselor working for many years in the area of domestic violence, running men’s groups for stopping violence, also counseling couples and running education programs for separating parents for the care of their children. It always astounds me how two people who start off loving each other end up fighting, sometimes bitterly ... and even with awful violence.

When I talk of communication, I always start with listening. … If no one is listening, there is no communication happening. … To do this well, we have to learn to put ourselves to one side. …

Some time ago I did some counseling with a 10-year-old boy. He told me that his Scout leader said to the boys that they had two ears and one mouth, which meant they should listen twice as much as they talked. (He probably said that with some exasperation, trying to get them to listen to him!) ... I thought to myself, “That's good advice for all of us!”

I’d like to finish with a story of a fairy and a dolls’ house. It is an old Sufi story with different layers of meaning.

One day a fairy, feeling adventurous and playful, left the fairy world and entered the human realm ... and in a lovely, peaceful garden came across a beautiful dolls’ house left there by some children.

The fairy became fascinated by the dolls’ house, peering in the little windows at the beautifully furnished interior. The fairy wanted to enter the dolls’ house but was far too big to do so and, after trying for some time, decided to send in one hand and arm down the chimney, the other hand and arm by a window, a foot by another window ... and various parts of its body by various other openings into the dolls’ house. ... At a certain point the various members and parts of the fairy became disconnected, and, as they ventured farther and farther into the dolls’ house, they started rubbing up against each other and getting into arguments about who was there first and who was allowed where, with some loud and nasty scuffles breaking out among them.

Eventually it became so uncomfortable being in the dolls’ house that the various parts of the fairy started leaving, finding their way out the way they had come in. As they came out, they started to remember ... that they were part of one being. … They started to regain their sense of wholeness … and to remember that each was important to the welfare of the whole. …