Message to the International Plum Village Community for Peace in the Middle East

Even as they
strike you down
with a mountain of hatred and violence;
even as they step on you and crush you
like a worm,
even as they dismember and disembowel you, remember, brother,
man is not our enemy.

— Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (excerpt from the poem Recommendation)

October 13th, 2023

Dear Beloved Community,

Our hearts are breaking as we witness the horrific violence that is being unleashed in many parts of the world and most recently in the Middle East: in Israel and in Gaza. We know that both Palestinians and Israelis are our siblings—our brothers, sisters, children, our family—who are being killed, and who are driven to kill. In an atmosphere of violence, accusation and retaliation, we have a tendency to dehumanize the other. Once anger, fear, and suspicion take over, it seems like there is nothing to do besides kill or be killed.

Today we shed tears as we witness our Israeli and Palestinian siblings dying, sustaining severe injuries—both psychological and physical—and losing loved ones in the hate-fueled attacks of the very few. Violence can only lead to more violence and diminish any possibility of dialogue and reconciliation—unless we go deeply within ourselves to see that human beings are not our enemy. We need a coalition of wise and courageous people—in Gaza, West Bank, Israel and in the international community—who refuse to give in to this hate: a non-violent army. It is time for violence in all its many forms to end in the Holy Land.

With compassion, love, and wisdom in our hearts we can make ourselves available to listen deeply to the cries of those now in Gaza and Israel and elsewhere in the world—the cries of those undergoing the deep mental crisis of being trapped in a conflict zone, who are looking to keep their love strong in the midst of this horror. We need to lend them our strength. We all need to go beyond the delusive and destructive idea that we are separate from each other.

Let us create islands of non-violence and peace in our hearts, in our homes and beyond, via email, phone and video. Let us live every moment seeing those we think of as the enemy as not separate from ourselves—as our own blood, skin and bones—and let us not allow hatred to take over. Let us come back and take care of our feelings with calm and clarity, holding our sadness, fear, anger, and despair and resist the temptation to blame, punish, and have to choose a side.

This meditation may be challenging at this moment but it is what we as a collective need now in order to awaken from the madness and destruction. Revenge and punishment cannot be the answer. Join us to generate this imperturbable compassion in your own heart, and radiate it out in every direction to our siblings experiencing great loss, fear and pain in this moment. The war is complex and difficult to stop, but it is also impermanent. Its cessation now depends on our capacity, as human beings, to listen deeply, resist polarization and discrimination, and take concrete steps towards lasting reconciliation with love in our hearts. Love, compassion, and courage need to have a place in politics.

With love for all beings suffering in the hell of war,

The Plum Village Monastic Community, USA

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17 responses to “Message to the International Plum Village Community for Peace in the Middle East”

  1. This is so beautiful. Thank you for the message of peace and non-violence. I have shared this with my brother in Israel who is suffering. I stand with him in peace and all of those suffering the impacts of war.

    • Dear sister Lorraine, dear community. Thank you for this compassionate prayer and message. May it reach the hearts of many and may we all “resist polarization and discrimination, and take concrete steps towards lasting reconciliation with love in our hearts”.

  2. I appreciate this message of peace so much. I have been hoping that the Plum Village monastic community would publish a statement calling for calm and clarity. Through this message, I feel connected to an international “non-violent army.” I am deeply grateful for the global presence of the Plum Village monastic community and its courage to respond to the tragedy unfolding with the unshakable belief in generating compassion and resisting the perception of the enemy as separate from ourselves. Thank you for your life-affirming vision.

  3. I just wrote a long response to an article a friend wrote in which I said that the Buddhists in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh must be the ones to mediate a peace agreement with the Palestinians and Israelis. I am asking you, please put in motion a way that you, at Plum Village, you beautiful monks and nuns, you beautiful people who know so much about peace, please make some connections with the powers that be that will let you sit down with leaders who sow hatred and water their seeds of peace, reconciliation and love. Everything else has been tried!! You, the Buddhists of the Order of Interbeing are our only hope for peace in the Middle East. Thank you for your incredible words. Now please put them in action. Please engage your Buddhism. This for me is the answer.

  4. Just the resting in calmness that I needed…that we all need. The comfort of the sound of the bell, the gratitude for steady practice.
    I bow to this precious sangha, to the 3 jewels and to the living legacy of our dear teacher.

  5. I am a member of the Jerusalem/Israel Sangha. I am also on the planning committee of the ski retreat and have been a volunteer at Plum Village.

    We recently had four monastics visit Israel and Palestine. In their final days, the war broke out. The situation saddens me deeply and I was pleased to read this statement. Rest assured we have “islands of non-violence and peace.” Any Palestinian in our tradition is welcome to be in tough, create an island with me.

  6. Thank you so much for your words. I have been rereading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Creating True Peace too. I am going to write President Biden and ask him to meet with the monks and nuns of Thay’s order.

  7. With immense gratitude for this email of encouragement and guidance for practice. It helps so much to know that we are not alone facing all of this.

  8. Thank you. I am very touched. I pray there will be no more war on earth. May the love and peace of Master Thich Nhat Hanh and his disciples spread throughout the world. Nam Mo A Di Da Phat.

  9. I am so glad to see this beautiful action of meditating for peace. I will join.

    Many years ago, I heard the following quotation from Sensei Jerome Halverson of Ann Arbor, Michigan:

    “No fight … no blame.
    No blame … no fight.“

    If only combatants would take 10 minutes to meditate on this quote, the war could end and beautiful understanding could begin.

    Thank you Sensei Jerome, wherever you may be. 🙏🏻 This quotation and others like it have directed my life. May it spread.

  10. I just want to write again and implore the Plum Village Sangha and others who have the ability to reach out in some way to be the catalyst for change in the Middle East. I have the deepest feeling that the answer to that 100 year crisis is for the Buddhists in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh to bring peace to that part of the world, and maybe beyond. I’m not sure logistically how to make this happen and I’m also not sure if Buddhists feel this is their role, but Thich Nhat Hanh did participate in the Paris Peace Talks helping to end a war that operated on a much larger scale. This is the only solution I can come up with. I can visualize it all so perfectly. Can the Sangha pursue this in some way?? Thank you for listening!!

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