Where Do We Go From Here?

Many of us are asking tough questions about racism, protests, and where we go from here—how we build a different kind of world. That’s good. We need to keep asking, keep pressing in.

Some of you have shared your questions with us. In response, this is our vision for a way forward, for how we as a community of peacemakers can respond, and what kind of steps we can take next.

Before we dig more deeply into it, there are a couple important things to remember… 

1. None of us have all the answers.

We are learning right alongside you. We have to be humble about what we don’t know. But we do have a perspective to offer, that’s rooted in our 13+ years of experience waging peace in the midst of global conflicts—including the one happening right now where many of us live, in the US.

Every conflict is different. But every conflict is the same in some ways. What we’ve seen in Minneapolis, Washington, DC, and other US cities looks a lot like what we saw in the early days of conflict in places like Baghdad. Fallujah. Mosul. Aleppo. Caracas. 

That’s a sobering thought. But we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to acknowledge that what happened in “those places over there” can happen here, especially when we allow long-standing injustices to go unresolved. It is happening here. We’re not different. 

These conflicts don’t get solved easily or quickly. Peace will require something of you. It’s going to hurt. But there is a more beautiful world on the other side.   

2. There is no formula. 

We’re a diverse community. What may be right for you in this moment might not be right for someone else, depending on a number of factors—including their lived experience, or their vulnerability or privilege, for example. 

We’re not here to suggest a one-size-fits-all prescription, but a posture.

So what do we do? What follows is the posture we aspire to, as a community of peacemakers.

We speak out against dehumanizing words and actions. 

We have to. Love cannot be silent. Not now. And not whenever things go back to “normal,” either.

In fact, it matters even more that we speak then—after the cameras have gone, after the rest of the world has moved on to the next thing. That’s when the hard, unglamorous work of building a different kind of world begins in earnest. 

We relentlessly humanize everyone. 

We hold space for people to become more than they currently are—or more than what we see on the surface. 

Every conflict we’ve ever seen began with someone dehumanizing someone else, usually someone with greater power or privilege dehumanizing someone with less. In our (righteous) anger at the dehumanization of one group, let’s not dehumanize another. 

This can be hard to get right. It does not mean we turn a blind eye to oppressive systems and structures—which themselves dehumanize people. But it does mean holding space for the humanity of those inside these systems and structures, because we all need to be liberated from the way things are.

We have to get offline, and get uncomfortable. 

We cannot bring about the change we need through social media posts. The only way to do this is through relationship. We have to get in each other’s living rooms and in each other’s lives. 

Now, exactly who you should take a step toward depends on a lot of things. The more power and privilege you have, the more you may need to put your own body on the line, rather than waiting for someone with less privilege and power to do so.

If, for example, you are white and you’re angry about policing in America, good! It may be up to you to build the kind of relationships that could lead to change. 

It’s also essential that we honor the agency of the marginalized—and not presume to dictate the terms of their liberation, or how they respond to their oppression, or how they should feel about injustice.  

Let’s not assume that every marginalized person wants to respond the same way, either. Some are tired—and for good reason. Tired of having to fight for their humanity every waking moment. Tired of having to explain racism to their white friends again and again. Respect that. Honor that. 

Others are ready to speak. They ARE speaking. Listen. Buy their books and subscribe to their podcasts. Support their work. Don’t co-opt or get out in front of them. They are leading—follow them.

Remember this is a journey. 

Peace is not made in a moment, but the moments do matter.

We didn’t “solve” racism because a police officer hugged a black person at a protest. That is a moment. There is so much more work to do.

The question is not just did anything change in that moment?  The question is also what will you do next?

One of our founders, Jessica Courtney, shares a story about a gathering we arranged between some Yazidi and Turkmen friends in Iraq. (If you’re not familiar with these two groups, the Yazidis were the target of a genocidal campaign by ISIS, who recruited some of its members from the Turkmen. The whole story is more complex than we can share here, and both groups suffered greatly at the hands of ISIS. But as you can imagine, the relationship between them is… complicated.)

We brought the two together to negotiate the sale of sheep in a safe environment. They rarely do business with each other. Their kids don’t play with each other. Trust was completely shattered. 

The conversation grew heated at times, as people expressed their pain and anger. (Listening to someone’s pain is an essential, if uncomfortable, part of the healing process.)

But at the end of the day, they made the sale, while kids chased sheep together outside. They talked about meeting again, and shared the hope of walking in each other’s villages someday.

We didn’t heal everything between the Yazidis and Turkmen that day. Not by a long shot. But as Jessica told the room at one particularly tense moment: 

“Today isn’t about fixing everything. Today is about taking a step.” 

You’re not going to fix everything. You’re going to get it wrong sometimes. Keep going. Keep learning. Keep showing up. And keep choosing to love anyway.

All of us need to take some kind of step forward. For some, those first steps will be small and faltering. Take them anyway. They matter. 

And if you’re ready to take a bigger step, consider hosting a Love Anyway Gathering in your neighborhood. These monthly meetups are a chance to listen to those outside our usual circles. To grow in empathy, understanding, and peace. And to chart a new way forward, together.

Another way is possible. Join us.



Photos courtesy of Dane Barnett.