Episode 25: The Science of Depolarizaton (with Andrea Bartoli)

Music: Society builders pave the way. To a

better world, to a better day. A

united approach to building a new society.

Join the conversation, for social transformation, society builders.

Society Builders with your host, Duane Varan.

Duane: Welcome to another exciting episode of

Society Builders, and thanks for joining

the conversation for social transformation.

And welcome to the start of

our third season of Society Builders.

I mean, we have been learning so much together, so

thank you for being a part of that journey.

Today we continue our exploration of the

science of depolarization and explore strategies to

help bring antagonistic groups closer together, strategies

to reverse the rampant and accelerating polarization

that is taking over our planet.

And I'm thrilled to have as my guest

today Andrea Bartoli, who is both a scholar

and who serves as the president of the

Sant’Egidio Foundation for Peace and Dialogue, which

is a global Catholic association championing world peace.

Now, Andrea has an amazing academic career, having

served as the founding director of Columbia University's

Center for International Conflict Resolution, also as the

former dean of the School of Diplomacy and

International Relations at Seton Hall University, and as

the former dean of the School of Conflict

Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.

I mean, these are serious academic credentials.

And beyond his academic work and his work with

Sant’Egidio, he also currently serves as an executive

advisor of the Soka Institute for Global Solutions;

he's a member of the steering group

of the Global Action Against Mass Atrocity

Crimes and the Genocide Prevention Advisory network.

And in his role at Sant’Egidio,

he's been directly involved in numerous successful

peacekeeping diplomatic initiatives around the world, including

in Mozambique, Guatemala, Algeria, Kosovo, Burundi, the

Democratic Republic of the Congo, Casamance, Senegal,

the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

I mean, Andrea has absolutely incredible pedigree,

both in academic and diplomatic circles, bringing

peace to truly desperate people.

And we're going to learn a lot from Andrea today.

We're going to learn from the lessons

he's been learning across this incredible career

with all these amazing experiences.

So, Andrea, welcome to Society Builders.

Andrea: Thank you.

Duane: I'm so excited.

You have such an amazing career across two very

different dimensions, as an academic, of course, but you're

also a diplomat, and the diplomacy work that you've

done is so interesting and so, really, I'd like

to start our story there.

I'd like to take you back in time to what was

probably the first work that you were really doing in that

peacemaking domain, which was your time back in Mozambique.

So let's go on a little bit of a

journey and tell us the story about how you

got started in this whole peacemaking sphere. Andrea: Very good.

Andrea: Thank you.

This is a wonderful opportunity.

And thank you also to the opportunity

to connect with the Baha'i community.

I've heard so much about the Baha'iBahá’í community and

my connection is mainly through the UN office.

So Bani Dugal and this connection.

So there is a diplomatic dimension there that maybe.

But the important element about my experience

is that it's truly, deeply, deeply intertwined

with the community of Sant’Egidio.

So I wouldn't absolutely claim any

relevant role on the Mozambique story.

I was really imaginal player in something that actually the

person that is now the cardinal of Bologna, Matteo Zuppi,

who is a member of the Sant’Egidio even before me,

and now is a cardinal and was asked by Pope

Francis to go to Kiev and Moscow to try to

facilitate a dialogue on peace between Ukraine and Russia, who

was also involved in Mozambique.

He was the one that really created the

conditions for peace to come to that country.

My role was simply more internal to

the community in support to that effort.

But what was interesting about that story actually is

the connection with Peter Coleman that I think was

already in the series, who welcomed me in the

United States when I came in '92 to follow

on the peace process in Mozambique, because there was

a significant involvement of the United nations and I

was negotiating with the United nations their involvement in

the post agreement period.

And I came here as an immigrant,

as somebody that actually didn't speak English,

I was speaking French at the UN.

I was connecting in different ways.

And Peter was welcoming me as somebody that

would not only listen, but in a way

help this process of self reflection.

'Why are you doing what you're doing?

How you're doing what you're doing? What

is the meaning of what you're doing?'

And so on and so forth.

So it started a collaboration of decades around

this very important passage of reflecting on what

you are doing, on the importance of doing

something, recognizing that there is a good intention

behind what you're doing, but also evaluating the

result and also spending time in understanding what

is really happening when something good is happening.

So in this sense, I really want to stress this

distinction between my own role and what the community of Sant’Egidio

was able to do, because Sant’Egidio in many ways is

a very interesting expression of the Catholic Church.

After Vatican Two, I don't know how familiar you

are with the Catholic Church and the changes that

it went through, but in the 60's, a very old, Pope,

John 23rd, had this vision, this invitation to the

Catholic Church to gather in a council all bishops

from all over the world came to Rome and

the church was transformed deeply because it became a

church that was much more seeking what unites rather

than what divides, much more connected to peace and

commitment to justice, and significantly, much more ecumenical.

Christianity has been divided for centuries,

Orthodox and Catholic, Protestant and Catholic

and so on, Evangelical, Baptist and

so many different expression of Christianity.

But for the Catholic Church, the Vatican Two

is the moment in which the church becomes

truly or returned to be truly ecumenical.

I'm sure that this kind of reasoning

may resonate with the Baha'i approach.

Absolutely important change for the Catholic Church.

So in order to understand Sant’Egidio, it's

important to understand Sant’Egidio as an expression

of the post-Vatican Two Catholic Church.

In this sense, by story is a story of discovery.

What does it mean to be

something that never existed before?

How can you be something that

is rooted somewhere clearly Catholic?

We are clearly proud of a tradition that goes

back to Jesus and has a very clear sequence

of people that have this connection to Him.

But how can you take 2000 year of history

and then engage in a project that is new?

So Sant’Egidio started as a small group of high school

students in 1968 by the initiative of Andrea Ricarddi.

And I joined in 1972, two years later.

And when I joined, wow, we were 30

kids, I was in high school, and now

we are several hundred thousand around the world.

We are present in 70 countries.

In this sense, there is a resonance with the

Baha'i experience of growing, of starting very small and

then growing significantly around the world, and very similar.

These patterns of being rooted communities that are in

different countries and live this life of generosity.

We like to say nobody support that cannot help another

and is a logic hat is contrary to a lot

of money-centered reasoning of the West, where you need

to have the money to do anything.

Money is really the driver of everything.

Sant’Egidio says not at all.

The driver is really the personal, spiritual, historical commitment of

somebody that is awakened to the possibility that even if

you are very poor, even if you are in a

free zone, even if you are confined in a nursing

home, you can actually do something good for others.

So my role in Mozambique, my role in that

particular peace process was of support, the way of

helping those that were really doing the peace process.

Matteo, Andrea, Jaime Gonzalez, that was this bishop

that invited us to play that role.

And in that sense, I continued in my academic career,

because I really felt that this role of supporting, this

role of encouraging others to be who they can be,

this role of helping others to be better, helping others

who they want to be, was a good fit for

me, was a good way for me to become who

I was supposed to be and all that.

So Mozambique is a wonderful moment, but

it's also the beginning in many ways.

It's the beginning of something that unfolded.

It's also the beginning for the country itself.

Mozambique was divided then.

It had a very difficult story because it was

a colonial country of Portugal for hundreds of years.

And the result of that colonization was that

there was a military resistance against the Portuguese.

And in 1975, the portuguese military decided to get

rid of their colonies and stop fighting colonial wars.

So Mozambique became like Angola, like the independence

suddenly, and the Vatican that had a century

old rule that they could only have white

Portuguese bishops in the colonies controlled by Portugal,

could apply the Vatican to this position, that

they could have black native local bishops.

So a friend of ours that was a priest

in Rome, as an exile priest, became bishop of Beira,

the second largest city of the country, and had

terrible experiences because he was put to jail, he

couldn't go to see the communities, because this was

a Marxist-Leninist government that was significantly anti-religious,

especially anti-Catholic, because the Catholics were connected to

the Portuguese and the Portuguese colonial powers.

And so when he came to Rome, the Catholic have a rule.

Every bishop on earth must come to

see the Pope personally every five years.

It's called Visit a Ad Limina Apostolorum.

And so the guy comes to Rome a couple

of years after becoming bishop and tells us the

story, tells us the story that he cannot go

to celebrate mass and visit the communities.

And they had a lot of people, prison and so on.

And Andrea, the founder of the community,

start responding to this suffering, saying, 'well,

we want to help you.

Let's see what we can do to help.'

And what was curious was that in

Italy, you had the largest communist party

outside the Soviet Union, 30% of Italians.

After 1945, Italy became one country, and

so always voted for a communist party.

So in Rome, we were going to high

school, everybody, public high schools and so on.

You need to imagine at least a

third, if not more, were communists.

It was like going to taking the bus together.

For an American audience, it's very difficult to understand.

But in Italy, it was just normal Catholics.

Duane: You understood.

You understood the discourse,

you understood the language.

You could kind of communicate with.

Andrea: We were also playing together, listening to the same

music, going to the same parties and so on. So what?

Andrea had the genius of thinking that in

order to help a new bishop recently appointed

to the second largest city in Mozambique, we

could speak with our friends in italian high

school whose parents were Communists, because the Communist

Party had significant economic interest in Mozambique, and

they could help invite the government of Mozambique

to be less contentious against the Catholic.

Duane: Amazing what a great strategy that was.

Andrea: You know, sometimes you need to leap

into something, and the strategy actually worked.

It worked because italian Communists were italian first,

was completely clear that it made no sense

to be in Mozembique and be anti-spiritual, anti-religious.

Everybody was spiritual in one way or the other.

Why do you want to be

contentious against your own people?

It was much better to be open, to

be respectful, and so on and so forth.

And of course, it was also an economic

interest, because the Communist party had significant economic

interest in Mozambique through the cooperatives.

And that boy had a little bit of a leverage

with the Mozambique party, and they were able to start

this conversation with Sant’Egidio on religious freedom.

So the first ten years in Mozambique were really trying to

help a friend to be as spiritual and catholic and religious

as he wanted to be with his own community.

It was really just a gift of being freer together

as a way for Mozambique to become a state that

was less concerned about controlling and more trustful, that being

open to spiritual dimensions was not that bad after all.

While this was happening, there was a military

confrontation by Renamo, an active military group that

was contending the control of the government, and

there was an active civil war.

So this bishop, we engaged for ten years on religious

freedom, became clearly the point of reference for both.

He was able to speak with one and the other.

Duane: He became this bridge

between these conflicting parties. Andrea: Exactly.

And I remember vividly the day when we were

together in Rome and we were strategizing what could

we do and what should be done.

And so, and we said, to know the name

of this guy, Jaime Gonzalez, and I think you

need to go to speak with Renamo.

You need to go and speak with them.

And he looked at us as we were

asking him to go to the mall. You know what I mean?

This was a very difficult travel.

This was not easy to do.

This was not something that you would

take a train and go to Philadelphia.

This was serious, betraying the government side, doing

something secret and so on and so forth.

It needed to be organized through the South African

Secret Service, that at that time was Apartheid

South Africa, not the South Africa today.

This was a very different moment.

But the guy accepted to do it.

And the result was amazing.

It was amazing because when Jaime told the

story, was a remarkable story, because, as you

know, he was really reluctant to do it.

And they invited him into a small plane

and he said that for two hours, they

were actually moving away from Mozambique.

So he said, they're going to throw me in the

sea and nobody will ever know that I ever existed.

But they were just only waiting for the night

to come so that they could come back to

Mozambique secretly and land in this place where the

strip for the airplane was signaled with torches.

And as soon as the airplane

landed, all the torches were stripped.

And so there was no trace of

this landing, no trace of nothing.

The guy gets out of the airplane and is welcomed by

Dhlakama, this leader of the opposition, and the two realize that

they start to speak Ndau and Ndau is a local language,

not Portuguese, not the language of the colonial, but the language

of the people of that particular region.

So you can imagine that the conversation is much

more fluent and much more open to trust, much

more relaxed, much more open to consideration.

So Jaime, together with Matteo Zuppi, this person

that I mentioned now is negotiating in Ukraine,

and Moscow were able to start this conversation with

the government side and the Renamo side, exploring

options of what could happen.

And then they came with two delegations to

run for two year and a half.

And after that, in '92, the agreement was signed.

And it was a tremendously important agreement

because it brought the country together.

Mozambique was finally one, had a unified government,

they had a unified army, they had the

capacity to bring together other countries.

So for Sant’Egidio was beautiful way to

grow into becoming this agent of peace.

But it's interesting that this is in '92, right?

So the meeting in Rome happened in 1990, but the

shift from the religious freedom work that we were doing

since the, those ten years that I was mentioning before,

the shift actually towards peace happened after the prayer that

Pope John Paul II did in Assisi in '86,

where he gathered many religious leaders to pray for peace.

For Sant’Egidio that was again an invitation

to take peace seriously, not just spiritually, not

just individually, but for society as a whole.

And when I think about society builders, you

invited me to this podcast for this.

I think that we really need to take peace seriously.

We really need to engage with peace as

a responsibility, not just something that might happen

or should happen, but actually something that requires

a certain level of creativity.

As the story that I shared with. Duane: you know, it

sounds like from the story that you're telling, that the

peace focus at Sant’Egidio was not something that was

intended at the start, so to speak.

It's something that evolved organically as you started off

really looking know, protecting religious freedoms and a sequence

of, you know, Pope John Paul II's call and

then of course, later on, the work in Mozambique,

it took you on a journey where peacemaking became

more of the focus for the organization.

Andrea: Totally.

I think you got it absolutely right, 100%.

That's exactly how it.

Sant’Egidio is certainly not an organization

that started as a peace organization.

We were just concerned about living the

gospel, acting on the gospel, loving others,

serving others, living a life of prayer.

That was Sant’Egidio and this

is still Sant’Egidio's effort.

But this work is really this response to life,

response to society, response to what you see.

So for us it's much, much more

connected to serving the poor than expressing

any intentionality on our own, right?

So it's much more somebody that sees somebody on the street

that is in need of food or in need of shelter,

and then you give the food and you give the shelter.

So peace is almost for us a call

as a need of humanity as a whole.

This is true in small communities, it's

true in countries, it's true at the

human level, with everybody, universally.

Duane: Before we start talking about some of the

other exciting peace initiatives you've done, let's talk

a little bit more about Sant’Egidio

I think the audience will find this very fascinating.

Tell us a little bit more around how

the community is structured, how it's organized.

You've talked a little bit about the focus on

improving the plight of the poor and the disenfranchised.

Tell us more about what you do day

to day around the world in these 70

plus countries that you're represented in.

Andrea: Sant’Egidio is organized through small communities.

Five people, ten people, 100

people, 500 people, a thousand people.

Small communities that live together, usually

with similar age, similar life conditions.

So you may have communities of Sant’Egidio in

people in high school or a community of Sant’Egidio in

a nursing home or a community of Sant’Egidio among immigrants.

Usually communities are created around

certain form of similarity.

People in the same village,

people in a university together.

And there is always the initiative of 1, 2, 3, 4

people that come together and then they say,

we want to do a community.

And that created all sorts of surprises for us because

as I said, I joined the community when we were

30 kids and started my own community, the community when

I was striked in high school and I started preaching

when I was 14 years old.

So for us, very young people can

preach, women and men can preach.

Communities are clearly created by everybody.

You have a very ecumenical dimensions that I

mentioned before, but we do have a structure

and there are people responsible for the community

and then there is a hierarchy of these

responsible people, the person referred to somebody else

that finally report to the whole leadership.

But what I find interesting is what I was

mentioning before is that Sant’Egidio threshold is at the

same time very easy and very demanding, because to

a certain extent, everybody can take the gospel and

say, I can practice this word, I can put

in practice this word that Jesus shared with us.

But on the other, when you say nobody's so poor

to help others, well, you are clearly calling a responsibility

that is reversing all sorts of entitlement, that moves beyond

this notion of being somebody, being important, of what you're

doing and so on and so forth.

And rather, there is a calling that

is quite demanding in many ways.

But this explained the vitality of Sant’Egidio.

I remember vividly again when the first community outside

Italy was born, and of all places was born

in Germany, because a group of university students came

to Rome in pilgrimage, both Protestant and Catholic, together.

And they came to prayer once.

And then they said, 'we would

like to do this in Germany.'

And we said, 'of course, do this in Germany.'

But then we had to figure out what

it meant to do Sant’Egidio in Germany.

And as you said before about Baha'is, in many ways,

Sant’Egidio kept discovering what life was asking, what life

was offering, what life was encouraging us to serve.

And so we became this incredibly diverse group of people

that has hundreds of people in Ukraine and Russia.

At the same time, we have people in France

and Germany, at the same people in Spain, but

in Mozambique we are now in hundreds of places.

In Malawi we are in hundreds of

places, and in a small village.

The logic is probably very similar to the Baha'I

communities that you have somebody that is bringing life

together as life would like to be.

We do believe that in many ways,

peace is not something that we know.

There is this language now based on

Galtung - prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, peace building, the

four stages that he identified.

There is a market, there is a huge

investment at the UN level about peace building.

But our belief is actually the reason there is no

peace is because we are not in peace and we

are not able to receive the peace that already is.

So in a community, you usually twist, you restructure

many of the logic that are operative in the

world today, where you have these responsibilities.

We need to make peace, we need to make peace this way,

or we need to impose peace, or we need to advocate for

peace because they are not doing it, and so on.

But rather the logic is to say, first you need

to pray, first you need to come down yourself.

You need to allow peace to come to you.

You need to allow peace the space that

peace requires for us to really experience.

So small communities are spaces where this may have.

And interestingly enough, we do believe that

of course we need to serve the

poor and be within disenfranchised.

But there is always this attitude that even if

you are very poor, you cannot be only poor

or that you are not poor first, that if

you are poor, it's because conditions.

It's like somebody being sick.

You are not only sick, you are not sick.

Sick is not the definition of your identity.

You have many other things in

addition of being sick, right?

So poverty is not the

defining characteristic of anybody.

You can transcend conditions by helping others, by

praying, by finding the center of yourself, serving

life as life is, and all this.

So Sant’Egidio is an interesting, as I said, it's

an interesting new development of the Catholic Church.

And now it's clearly interreligious in a sense

that committed to interregious dialogue, very important connection

to the Jewish world, the Muslim world.

I don't know exactly how many connections that have

with the Baha'IiBahá’í, but probably we will find that

at the local level in another occasion, like Bani

at the UN we have connections. Duane: Amazing.

Is there an educational program for your community?

How is it that your local membership translates its

goals and aspirations into the arena of action?

How does that occur?

How do they develop the skills

they need for those ambitions?

Andrea: So we don't have formal education processes.

We rely on friendship as the venue and the

conduit, taking advantage also of this kind of communication.

You are in Perth, I'm in New York.

Speaking as if we are in the same room. Now.

We can connect with a lot of people,

but even in the past, when we didn't

have Internet, the logic was really old fashioned.

Christianity started in these long journeys

that the disciples of Jesus did.

Paul, Matthew, Thomas, everybody traveled

quite significantly, and communities were

born out of personal account.

So what we believe is that rather than rely on the content

of the transfer, this is the way you have to do it.

These are the things you need to learn.

This is the thing that needs to be done and so forth.

What really counts is the friendship, is this sense of

communion that whatever you are doing, you are doing in

the name of and in communion with this larger family.

Then to a certain extent, imagine that I come to you,

or you come to me and you say, serve the poor.

Look around, look for somebody who

is poor and start serving.

It's very simple invitation, right?

But it's probably better than saying, if you

do the elderly, you need to do this.

If you do the foreigners, you need to do this.

If you do the children, you need to do this.

Why do you want to overwhelm people with

instructions and directions that they don't need, if

they are the one that needs to rediscover

the beauty and creativity of serving?

So what we do is to say, first start

in friendship, then start praying, and then start serving.

Friendship, prayer and service,

easily understood by anybody.

And then what you do is simply, these

are just three routes that you keep going

deeper and deeper and deeper and understanding.

So more than rely on formal education processes, we

rely on the human capacity to rediscover the spiritual

capacities that lead to friendship, prayer and service.

Duane: I know you also talk a lot about

accompaniment, and this is a very popular idea

as well within the Baha'i community.

Maybe you could tell us a little bit

about how accompaniment fits into the narrative here.

Andrea: Very nice.

First of all, we feel that all of

us have been accompanied, and have been accompanied

because we have been welcomed first.

So the community is this beautiful human

space in which you are welcome first.

And this was true when I joined and we

were 30, but it's true in Malawi, where there

are other 30 that are welcoming others.

So first, the realization that you're not alone in

the world, that loneliness is an illness of sort.

If you are alone, something is not

working as it should be, that communion

in the human experience is actually fundamental.

And therefore, accompaniment becomes this experience of

sharing life together, discovering that if you

are together, this surprising revelation, opening of

life is much better understood.

So you capture perfectly how

this peace vocation came about.

But that was exactly because we were speaking with

Jaime Gonzalez, because we were welcoming him, we were

listening to him, we were asking questions to him.

We were open to say, 'but if you

do this, then we could do that.

What about these other things do you remember?'

And this is also beautiful about accompaniment, right?

Because the moment you said to me, 'I did

a podcast with Peter Coleman', you reminded me of

30 years of friendship with Peter Coleman. Right?

So suddenly you are not just Duane, I never met

you before, but suddenly you are a friend of Peter.


So there is an interesting gift in

accompaniment that enriches our lives tremendously, because

those who accompany are not guiding.

Those who are accompanying are not imposing.

Those who are accompanying are not oppressing.

Those who are accompanying are really accompanying.

They are the space.

We need to be who we are.

They are the presence.

We need to be who we are.

So what we saw over and over

again with the elderly, with the immigrants,

with the kids, really with everybody.

That accompaniment is fundamentally transforming.

And of course, it transforms both.

It transforms the one that is accompanied,

but also the one that accompanies. Right.

There is a very strong, natural bond in accompaniment.

Duane: Beautiful.

And you spoke earlier also about reflection.

Tell us a little bit more about

how reflection has intersected with this journey.

Andrea: So Sant’Egidio, as I said, relies on

three pillars, friendship, prayer and service.

And all of them have reflection moments.

On the friendship side, there are regular

meetings, regular actual meetings of the community.

There is a speech, a reflection, something that

is offered to the community, and then everybody

shares her own reaction, reflections and so on.

So it's really a sharing of the community

together that is very frequently, when

needed, or different ways, a personal speech with

somebody that is accompanying you.

And then the prayer is very often this reflective

moment of your days, your week, your entire life.

But even the service is always accompanied by a

small meeting of those who are serving and are

asking questions like, are we doing well?

Is anything new?

Should we do something differently?

And so on and so forth.

So all three moments of friendship, prayer and

service have built in this reflective moment.

I think that, again, this is interesting

in relation to the society building, right?

We are engaging on this theme of society building.

And I think it's very important because in

society, very often, reflections are difficult, because any

form of emphasis and endorsement or any form

of criticism is perceived as polarizing and dividing.

So if I am endorsing this, I am against

that, if I am criticizing this, doing it in

an hostile way, and so on and so forth.

But we actually say this is ridiculous, because reflections

is what you need to do every day.

You need to do it with your friends.

You need to do it in a climate

as somebody that is trying to learn.

You cannot learn if you don't see your mistakes.

You cannot learn if you don't understand

the problem that you need to address.

And the attitude should be honesty on

one side and hope on the other.

But in reality, very often, the

climate, the cultural climate around us,

is always hostility, hostility, hostility.

And so reflection becomes almost impossible

in the public sphere, right?

And this is why I think that experiences like

Sant’Egidio, like the Baha'i community, are so precious, or

probably any form of authentic community is so precious

because you need to have these reflective moments.

And in order to have the reflective

moments, you need to have the community.

If you don't have the community, if you don't have

somebody that probably point, it's very difficult to do.

Duane: So thank you so much for

the background with Sant’Egidio

Let's go back to Mozambique.

This was a turning point for your community.

Suddenly you were thrust into the peace sphere.

Suddenly you had a success that

was, I mean, really monumental.

Bringing peace to a civil war, to

a nation, that's not an easy achievement.

That was just a massive seismic event, and

that led to your community really becoming a

peacebroker globally, regularly hosting these summits at the

Vatican, bringing warring nations, warring people, warring communities

together, charting paths going forward.

And your journey from there has been so amazing.

Guatemala, Algeria, Kosovo, Burundia, Democratic

Republic of the Congo.

I mean, it's just on and on.

It's just such an incredible story.

What have you learned?

I mean, reflection is a big part of what

you do across all these different peacekeeping initiatives.

Now going all the way back to Mozambique.

What have you learned?

What are the big insights that you walk away with?

Andrea: Well, one is clearly that you need to talk with

everybody, and you need to be open to speak with

people with whom many do not want to talk.

So there is a very significant ethical moral dilemma there,

because in order to do peace, you need to work

those who are doing war. Doing peace, in a way,

is an accompaniment to those who are actually doing terrible

things, that have done terrible things.

So there is a significant tension.

And I think that it's very important to not

underestimate this complexity, because to speak too easily about

peace is dangerous, because you can be.

Duane: Point, great point.

Andrea: Gandhi was not living, Martin Luther King and Sadat and so

on, and very often your own that are killing you.

It's the one within that is killing you.

But also because, as I said, the moral dilemma

of giving a way out to people that many

others would like to see in jail, would like

to see punished for what they did and such.

So I think that this is really

a learning that bringing us together.

But at the same time, as I said, it's

this commitment to speaking with everybody and listening to

everybody, understanding why people are doing what they are

doing, understanding their own reasoning, understanding the good that

is there available to them, and so on.

The other thing is this dimension that there is

no exit strategy, that the same accompaniment that we

would offer to somebody who is a child until

is late in life is true for countries.

There is this expression of the exit strategy.

We went the other day to see the secretary general

of the UN Guterres, and the president of Sant’Egidio was

explaining that Sant’Egidio doesn't have an exit strategy.

We are not out of a crisis because we are not

able to do x, y and z in six months.

The strategy is to be in a country when the country is

needed to stay with the crisis over time and so on.

And Guterres was extraordinarily responsive with that.

He really stressed the importance of that attitude.

That is the long term.

When you mentioned at the beginning that Baha'i

decided to have the next 25 years dedicated

to this society building, it's very unusual for people

to give each other 25 years. Right.

We are much more used to these

20 minutes, this 20 second kind of increments.

The idea of 25 years seems to

be so out of the ordinaries.

But in this sense, Sant’Egidio is very

much in sync with that logic.

And in this sense, it's also very Catholic.

The Catholic Church has been around for 2000

years and has seen changes over time that

many other traditions didn't see the same way.

One thing that is interesting for me in

that sense is actually this gift of America.

Because I came here, as I

said, in '92, I learned English.

I didn't learn English at that point.

I started working in academia, and now I

am engaging with this Soka University of America.

It's a new chapter for me because this is

clearly a Buddhist organization, and we are doing an

institute called Soka Institute for Global Solutions.

And in that sense, it's this effort of saying, how

can we address the problems that we are not even

able to describe or to get our head around, especially

the problems that are human made, because humans clearly are

creating problems of extraordinary manmade that were not there before

humans took hold of the planet.

So it is required a different kind of

reasoning to understand them in the first place.

And self reflection at the human level is

very complicated, very different, and so on.

So it may very well be that we will engage with

the Baha'i to try to figure out this kind of complex.

Duane: That sounds wonderful.

That sounds great.

We've talked about peace at a kind of

national level, like civil wars, and, I mean,

very big communities that we're talking about there.

But of course, the challenge happens

even at an interpersonal level.

You know, this idea of people who are antagonistic being

able to find a path to come closer together.

So when you translate it down to

the personal level, what insights have you

learned there around what is successful in

helping bridge the gap between antagonistic peoples?

Andrea: I would say that the presence and services

of friends, people in between, people that are

able to listen to both, people that are

able to speak with both, is extraordinary.

I always remember George Mitchell explaining the peace

process in Ireland and saying, 'I never had

everybody together in the same room.

I never had a meeting with everybody that was involved

in the peace process, was physically present in this.

I was able to speak with everybody, but

not everybody was able to speak with everybody.'

So everybody needed Mitchell, but not everybody was able

to go beyond the animosity, the hostility, the pain,

the suffering of what the conflict meant to them.

So in this sense, I really think that it's

very important for us to truly reflect on the

need for millions and millions of friends that are

able to stay in between, that are able to

encounter, listen, appreciate, respect, people that would not be

able to do the same with their enemies, because

the intermediary, the friend, can do exactly this work.

If you are in a situation in India between

Hindu and Muslims, if you are able to be

friends with both, you may discover and listen to

dimensions that would be otherwise just extraordinarily difficult to

capture if you are speaking directly with your enemy.

The second element is that the friend opens

up everybody to the creativity of the spirit.

So back to the logic that

I was trying to address before.

The logic is to say, peace is already there,

it is us that is to bother, it is

us that needs to let peace come in.

So rather than thinking, oh, the Hindu needs to

change this, and this is what the Muslim needs

to change, and this is how the Hindu needs

to speak with the, this is how the Muslim

needs to speak with the Hindu, and so forth.

The logic of the friend is that the more

polarized the conflict is, the more entrenched the positions

are between Russians and Ukraine these days.

The more you need to be able to be a

presence that is present to both and allows for those

little moment of the spirit in which the spirit speaks

to everyone in the conflict, to the Russians, to the

Ukrainians, to the intermediaries, to the friends, and so on.

I would say that these are the two important things

to have, really, this role of the friends, friends of

everybody in the system, but also this reliance on friendship

as the space through which the spirit speaks and guides

the way in these difficult, very narrow paths.

Duane: Oh, that's amazing.

It's very inspiring.

Any other advice that you

have for the Baha'i community?

So this Baha'i community, of course,

is embarking on this journey.

It's an exciting journey.

What advice would you have for the community?

Again, visualize grassroots communities, very similar to what

you've been talking about with Sant’Egidio.

You know, communities in the Highlands, in Papua New

Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, visualize

these communities all over the planet trying to put

this idea of helping bring antagonistic groups together.

What advice would you have for that community?

Andrea: Well, once, I would say continue to be welcoming.

I think it's beautiful to have a community.

It's a great gift to be in a

community that is a great gift to the

community when you can welcome someone else.

So be welcoming.

And that portal, the second one

is be caring for the poor.

The poor are actually speaking of what

is needed by humanity as a whole.

I think that the poor will lead us to really

do the important thing, the change that is needed.

And third, I would say don't be shy in speaking

with the powerful, because the powerful may be willing to

listen to you and guide large group of people towards

the path of the good for all.

I think that we all need to spend more times

in articulating what is good for everyone, not just for

me, not just for my community, but for everyone.

So articulating the good of all is going to

be a big challenge for all of us.

And I really hope that the

Baha'i will continue to do this.

Duane: Wow.

How amazing was that?

I think you'll join me in feeling

incredibly grateful and privileged for having had

the opportunity to learn from a person

with Andrea's experience in global peacekeeping.

And I loved his lessons on the

role of reflection and on accompaniment.

And in particular, I love these themes because they're

both central themes to approaches which Baha'i are really

working to implement all over the world.

So thanks again, Andrea, for an amazing episode.

And in our next episode, we'll continue

our journey exploring the science of depolarization.

So thanks again for joining the conversation.

For social transformation, I look

forward to continuing our dialogue.

That's next time on Society Builders.

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