By Jon Krieg, AFSC Senior Administrative Associate

Trust instead of fear. Generosity in lieu of greed. Compassion and community rather than vengeance and isolation. According to Des Moines author and healer Geral Blanchard, these are some of the timeless values which many indigenous and traditional cultures use to live peacefully and happily.

Speaking at AFSC Iowa’s 2011 celebration of the International Day of Peace, Blanchard described himself as a “missionary in reverse,” studying the lives of indigenous peoples in Africa, South America and North America to help us understand how ancient wisdom can enable us to end our reliance on warfare and punishment.

Saying that healing often involves “making conflict resolution processes into sacred ceremonies,” Blanchard cited the example of the Maasai people in Tanzania. In their culture, a rare crime such as murder is responded to in a very formulaic fashion involving substantial restitution and the restoration of relationships between families.

Closer to home is the example of an Amish group in Pennsylvania which responded to the murder of several of their children by visiting the widow of the man who killed the children before committing suicide. “The action of the Amish wasn’t so much about forgiveness,” according to Blanchard, “as it was about compassion.” Even in the midst of their own great suffering, the Amish knew that the perpetrator’s family needed support, as well.

Blanchard described the remarkable courage and vision of the women of Hollow Water Ojibwa First Nation in Canada, who have responded to an epidemic of sexual abuse by rejecting prisons and instead forcing offenders to own up to their crimes. “People who commit crime are seen as acting as if they have no relatives,” Blanchard said. “And so what’s the best response? Call in the relatives.” Crimes occur in a social context, he said, and rebuilding community is the healthiest response.

Thirty Iowans attended the presentation at the Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting House. Many stayed afterwards to purchase copies of Blanchard’s new book, Ancient Ways: Indigenous Healing Innovations for the 21st Century.

On October 14-15, 2011, AFSC Iowa will host a major conference on “U.S. Policy in Palestine-Israel: Engaging Faith Communities in Pursuit of a Just Peace.” We invite you to join us as we strive to replace fear with trust in the Middle East and around the world.