Ruud's reflections

When I decided early 2014 to join this Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreat I did not have any expectation about what would happen and what impact it could have on me. The retreat being organised for the first time it did not have any programme and I went with a mindset of holding the three Zen Peacemaker tenets: Not-knowing, thereby giving up fixed ideas about ourselves and the universe, Bearing witness to the joy and suffering of the world and Actions towards ourselves and others that might arise from the Not-knowing and Bearing witness. 

I experienced it as challenging and extremely important to hold these three tenets during the retreat and to keep them up also after the retreat. This in order to be empathically present with all parties involved in the refugee issue such as refugees from various origin, economic migrants, Lampedusans, Italians, politicians, policemen, traffickers etc. The feedback I heard regularly when we met people on Lampedusa was that they very much appreciated our coming to the island and the way we were listening to them without any purpose in mind other than being present with their pain and joy. 

The power of holding the three tenets became very clear to me and still now it is when I read, see or hear news about the refugee issue. It enables me to continue to see the whole picture, the suffering, the causes of the suffering, the past and present role of the Western and Northern countries and governments, the historical roots of the crisis and the future of refugees and non refugees, of their children and my children. This feels all very painful to me, hopeless most of the time. We had many times in the history of our planet that we went through big changes and I think we are heading for another big change which we can try to ignore or to make the best out of it. I do not know where this big change will lead to but it looks that its major ingredients are cultural and/or religious clashes, revolutions in economical power and environmental and climate change. 

As I said, I feel often hopeless especially for future generations. However, I also feel hopeful when I see in my daily work and life that many, many people choose to live a life with compassion, with love, for the life of other people, for living beings. My choice to live a life of compassion, in the midst of doubts, confusion and violence,  has grown stronger as a result of the retreat on Lampedusa. I am grateful to the people we met and friends we made on Lampedusa, to our Zen Peacemakers group, to my dear wife Bridget, to many others. I am confident that the "actions towards ourselves and others from the Not-knowing and Bearing witness" will continue to arise in me.

© Ruud and Bridget 2014