Real life stories

This thread describes real relationships and communities that follow the way of the healer. There is failure, and messy ambiguity, and hope.

We encourage you to submit a post telling us about a marriage, a family, a congregation, an organization, a community or an international situation you are aware of where the way of the healer is being attempted.

About the way of the healer

The root task of government is to meet our fears--to give us security, to keep social order, to deal with our enemies. We are testing a different way to meet those same needs, one not based
As a healer you gamble that even a terrible person has a trustworthy side, and you engage, betting that you can invoke that side. From Description: the healer at war.

We say a relationship or community is healthy when the people involved want a relationship even if they deeply disagree; they listen to each other, are respectful, voice their point of view, ask for what they want, gamble that the other is trustworthy, negotiate, don't avoid conflict, don't walk out, and don't use coercion. From Description: the healthy community.

A healer speaks to an enemy as if that enemy represented the very best that humanity can aspire to. From Description: the healer at war.

We negotiate. We live by asking. We ask, ask, and ask again. From Description: the healthy community.
on coercion (law) or violence (arms) or territory (state). We're provisionally calling it "relationship healing" or just healing.

A good mother wants a relationship with her grown children even if they have turned out very differently than she hoped. A healer wants and knows how to have a healthy relationship with people who are very different, even opponents.

The healer's strategy is to turn an enemy into a trustworthy opponent within a healthy relationship. They may remain adamantly divided, but they have a respectful relationship where their difference can be productive. This site reflects on ideas and experience in the tactics of healing.

Healing and coercion both carry risks. Arguably healing is riskier in the short term, while coercion is riskier in the long term--that's one of
Regardless of the way you follow—Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, whatever—-if you want to join with those from other ways who believe we can profit from our differences to improve all our ways of healing the world, then we need your story and your texts, we need you to help us learn to live together even when we remain very different.
the things we want to test. Arguably both healing and coercion are called for, in different situations--that's one of the things we'd like to clarify.

This site is for those living in a conflict situation, great or small, who have lost faith in coercion and control, and are willing to take some risks gambling that their enemies potentially have a good side.


The Description of the way of the healer is written in terms of how humans should relate to each other, as a working document among different religious and secular traditions.


We encourage you to submit a post describing

a marriage, family, congregation, organization, community, movement or government where the way of the healer is being attempted,

the texts and stories of your particular tradition--secular or religious--to teach, expand or critique the way of the healer,

an application of the way of the healer to some current social problem.

John Fairfield founded, with much encouragement and critique by Larry Alderfer Fisher. Posts explaining where they are coming from are here.


A list of organizations that advocate and use the way of the healer.

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Please help elaborate and critique the way of the healer by commenting on existing posts, or by submitting a post of your own.


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Monday, August 8, 2011

Finding God face-to-face with enemies in Sudan

John Fairfield (Mennonite Anabaptist Christian)

The gist of this sermon was given Sunday July 17, 2011 in Omdurman, Sudan, at both morning and evening services of a small mud church, just a room whose roof was made of two layers of reeds with plastic sandwiched between. I was taken to the church by my friend X, whom I'd come to visit in Sudan.

The people, perhaps 40 in the morning and over twice that in the evening, were mostly from the region of Kordofan, an area in central Sudan with mixed Muslim, Christian and Animist populations. It's not a part of South Sudan. Several years ago there was war there. Then a peace agreement was made and some of the refugees who had fled to Omdurman and Khartoum moved back home. Many of these are now trapped by the violence that has again come to Kordofan, where villages are being bombed and mass graves are being filled.,38972

There was singing, some of it animated, and then a sharing time. One woman, a recent refugee, stood and in a quiet, almost offhand way, said that her village was gone, she'd seen the bombs dropping and seen it burn. All of another woman's brothers had been killed. People fled to the hills, children were lost, they couldn't find them. A girl had just gotten a phone call from her father whom the family hadn't heard from in weeks, he was alive, he'd managed to escape through the mountains.

X told me later that was dangerous for them to speak out, that this was the first time people had talked about it in church. If there was an informer present they could get in trouble, but they felt that if they couldn't talk about it they would suffocate. They needed to share their story with the others that were going through the like. Their homes, poor to begin with, were overflowing with extended family who'd fled Kordofan.

These people spoke Arabic. The texts I'd chosen were read out of an Arabic Bible by a young man.
Exodus 25:17-22 the description of the Ark of the covenant, the mercy seat, the two cherubim facing each other, God's place in the void between.
Genesis 32:3-26 the story of Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau, and wrestling with the Angel.
I spoke, X translating.

Assalamu Alaikum. (Peace be upon you)

Most chapters of the Qur'an begin with "In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate." It's perhaps better translated "God, the all-merciful, the extra-merciful", for the root of both Arabic words is mercy. But the niche occupied by the word translated "mercy" isn't quite the same in Arabic as in English.

To illustrate what mercy means to them, Muslims tell an old story about Moses. One day God tells Moses to go up on a mountain, to look for an old woman who's been abandoned up there by her son. The son didn't want to have to care for her, so he took her up there and left her. Moses climbs the mountain, and searches and searches. He finally finds her, prostrate on the ground, pleading desperately with God, to look after her son.

We are seen by God with the extreme prejudice of that woman towards her son. That is mercy.

I have come to Sudan to learn about enemies, and I am going to speak about enemies. God has ordained that I speak to you, but I need to learn from you. What do I know of enemies? No one is bombing my home town. No one has killed my brothers. I will speak, but then I hope you will speak to me.

In all our troubles, where is God? Where is the Messiah? We need a Messiah, one who will bring peace and justice.

The Exodus passage said God was between the faces of the cherubim (I turned face to face to X) on the mercy seat, the Ark of the Covenant. But where did they put the Ark? It was in the temple, which was built with outer walls, then inner walls, then the holy place, then the Holy of Holies. Walls within walls, getting darker, and darker, and darker, and darker. Why was God in there in the dark? Why is the mercy seat hidden?

The easy answer to my question "where is God?", is that God is everywhere. But we least expect him in the dark. Where do I least expect to find God? Where is he hidden, where it it most difficult to see him?

For me, it's in the face of an enemy.

Jacob was on his way to meet his enemy, his brother Esau whom he had wronged. Some of the worst enemies are brothers, the first violence was between brothers. Jacob learned that Esau was coming with 400 men.

Jacob met an angel in the dark, and wrestled with him until daybreak. He was hurt, but he wouldn't let go. He said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." He said the Angel was the face of God. Later in the story, he does meet Esau, who accepts Jacobs' efforts to make amends. Jacob says he has seen God in the face of his brother Esau. Twice, Jacob finds God in the face of his enemies.

Jesus said that we should love our enemies, but why? Because God loves his. Matthew 5:44-45
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."
Jesus was reproached for eating with all kinds of evil people. Collaborators with the Romans, prostitutes, tax collectors, Roman soldiers, Samaritans, pagan Canaanites, Pharisees even. Was it because he approved of the collaborators, the prostitutes, the tax collectors? No, he sat down and ate with them even though they were enemies.  And he did not ask them to convert first, or to be baptized first.

This was the Messiah at work. Messiah is Hebrew, it means "anointed one", in Greek the word is "Christ". The Messiah was to be the fulfillment of the promise of the ancient kings of Israel, David and Solomon, whose appointment to the kingship was marked by their being anointed with oil. (I mimed anointing X with oil) They were to establish peace and justice, but they failed. The purpose of government is to provide us with peace and justice. We try, but we fail, because our governments are founded on violence. We read about the purpose of the Messiah in Isaiah 42:1-4, and about his lack of violence:
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
The stock answer to my question "Where is God" in Jesus' time was: God lives on the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple, and you can share a meal with God by coming to the Temple and offering a goat or some such. God's part, the fat, he consumed on the altar. You ate the rest. You shared a meal with God, symbolizing that God had accepted you despite your sins. A powerful answer.

Jesus offered a different answer. Jesus prophesied that the Temple would be destroyed. He said that instead, we must repent of our sin, and be anointed not with oil but with the very Spirit of God, and become the new Temple where God lives and breathes. That we would also share a meal, of wine and bread. But Jesus' meals were shared with all, even his enemies.

Jesus changed the answer to the question, Where does God live and breathe? Paul, the earliest writer of the New Testament, says (1 Cor 3:16)
Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
Jesus changed the answer to the question, Where is the Messiah? Who will bring peace and justice to this earth? Paul taught that the church, us, here together, is the body of the Messiah. (1 Cor 12:27)
All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it.
Years after Paul, John writes of the day when Jesus stopped the sacrifices at the Temple, though it probably lead to his death. He was asked by the angry temple authorities (John 2: 18-21)
"What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" Jesus answered them "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."
They replied
"It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
That's us.

We are the body of the Messiah. Here is where God lives, and breathes. Our job is to establish peace and justice. But not based on violence. Here, we are to sit and eat with our enemies. The divisions of humanity that caused the most strife in Paul's day were the divisions between rich and poor, between slaves and free, between men and women, between Jew and Pagan, and Paul says all of these people are in the church, struggling to live together in peace and justice. (I Corinthians 12:13)
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
and Galatians 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
In that day, the bitterness between Jew and Pagan was at least as great and difficult as the divide between Christian and Muslim today. We are to live together, struggle together, and never let each other go. We should invite our enemies here, and say to each other, we will not let you go, until you bless us. This is the work of the church. When we eat, and live, and reach out to our enemies, there is God, between our faces.

Where is God? God is in our relationship with our enemies.

This is a very old theology. I close with the last two verses of our beloved Psalm 23:
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
Thou anointest my head with oil.
(we are the Messiah)
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness
(peace, justice)
and mercy
shall follow me
all the days of my life;
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord,
(this house of the Lord)
In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate.

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