Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Managing Conflicts


Last week I read a newspaper report about a man who managed a conflict in his village. The high caste people drove his wife away when she went to draw water from the village well. So this man was determined that he wanted to make sure that this humiliation doesn't happen again. His wife should not be at the mercy of others just because she is from a lower caste. So, he went to the nearby town and bought all the equipment (pick-axe, shovel, etc) for digging a well. The following day on for 41 days he started digging in his  backyard. He had to work as a daily wage labourer to earn his living. So, he put in two hours before going to work and two hours after the work digging his well. Finally on the 41st day, to the amazement of his neighbours who laughed at his project and even his wife he struck water. He has his own well! That is how this guy avoided a conflict and kept his dignity. 
Conflicts happen every day. It may be over houses, water taps, etc. What is important is how we manage the conflicts. An incident from the life of the Bible character Abraham illustrates various important aspects of managing conflicts. In the olden days, shepherds in the dry and arid lands of the Middle East had to depend on rain water stored in small underground tanks or wells with springs. Water was precious. Now as the sheep of Abraham and his nephew Lot grew in numbers, a conflict arose over the rights of wells and pasture lands. Lot's shepherds started fights with the workers of Abraham.
No fight is ever good. So, Abraham called his nephew Lot and put forth a suggestion that they should not stay together, it is time to part. However, the only question was how do they divide the land before them. There is another conflict in the offing, they can argue about it or fight over it. But Abraham left the choice to Lot. He was allowed to make his choice and Abraham decided to move to the place that Lot didn't want to. Evidently, Lot chose the best pasture lands with their abundant supply of water and greenery. Abraham moved away to lands that were not so attractive.
The story goes on to tell us that the place that Lot chose was destroyed by fire and Lot had to leave all his possessions behind. He had to run to the safety of the mountains with his unmarried daughters. He also lost his wife in the run to safety. However, Abraham continued to prosper.
Abraham made that rather disadvantageous choice because he put peace before prosperity. He was willing to be a loser for the sake of peace. He could do that because he believed that he is in the hands of an almighty God. Abraham had moved out of Haran (in the present-day Turkey) to wander about through what is now Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Egypt as God led him. No arid place will be arid if God is with him.
He may appear to be a loser, but he was not. Rest of Abraham's journey was not merely looking for pasture for his sheep. He made every step in faith claiming the land for his descendants to come. These descendants are the present Israeli's and Arabs. They came to possess the land as Abraham moved on with a promise of God. We read about it in Genesis 13:17. It happened after Abraham chose to be a loser for the sake of peace and his faith in God. God appeared to him to tell him: ‘Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you’ (Gen 13:17 ESV). Lot made the 'wise' choice of greener pastures but it lasted only for a few years before they all went up in smoke. But Abraham decided to wander about through not so green land but God compensated for the apparent losses he suffered for the sake of peace. The story of Abraham once again assures us that those who stand for peace are not ultimately losers since God is on their side. That is why the Bible says, 'blessed are the peace-makers.'

Burning Bushes

'And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning,...