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Inner peace meets conflict

The best example of a method I use to maintain and enhance "inner peace" during conflict is to engage in profound meditation following the guidelines set forth below. It was taken from my book, "Storm Over Morocco." It describes a profound meditation, while engaged in an intense confrontation with my captors, members of an extremist religious cult in Morocco in 1978:

"A cool wind blew, ruffling the curtains to the tune of some invisible, heavenly organ. I meditated to the Supreme Being, to God, to truth, to love and a light was cast in the room, reflected from the dense fog outside. In spite of the intense moments of the day and my utterly exhausted body, my mind felt rejuvenated, uplifted to a light which had shone through the crusty ceiling of closed mindedness. The path visualized through the opening was not necessarily that of one ideology — Islam — but was a path on which Muhammad guided me. Then, like a spiritual tag team, the guide changed to Jesus, and as I ascended, I was met by Muhammad, who continued leading me up to the steady, warm hand of the Buddha, there to embrace me as I continued my ascent. My hand was then grasped by Moses; with strong arms, he held me before him, becoming the many-faceted, omnipresent spirit of Krishna. Proceeding towards the heavens, I was received by all of the prophets and handed by Krishna to Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha and Moses, who received me with spontaneous joy and humility. With their arms around me, I basked in their love shared by the Supreme Consciousness, who was neither man nor woman, but transcending all things, reigned within and without, melding pure love together into one good, pure force. This energy linked me to the love of all creatures, to the peace deep within me, to the tolerance and understanding that armed me against the threat of ignorance, fear and allegiance to material things. I felt finally free of the confining embrace of the superficial, neon world, where pure, innocent love and passions are inhibited in the name of progress."

The spark of this day ignited some strange fire, which had somehow opened me to a renewed faith, renewed force. With such pure heart and centered thoughts, all desire for sleep faded. I lay contemplating love — pure love — truly the essence of all things, transcending all knowledge and all manifestations of material wealth; this was a spiritual truism I thought could forever guide me forward.

That experience in Morocco has been the inspiration to organize interfaith events with members of various religions, including liberal, orthodox and extremist Muslims, Jews, and Christians in Israel and Palestine. Never losing sight of my spiritual path, I continue to nurture the dream of finding a peaceful solution to religious conflicts, notably in the Middle East.

Four years ago while in the Holy Land, I noticed that the Palestinians invited from the West Bank were not able to participate due to checkpoints and walls separating the West Bank from Israel.

I delegated myself as the emissary and traveled to the West Bank to inform people of our interfaith initiatives between nonviolent groups taking place on both sides of the walls. In spite of warnings from Israeli friends that I would meet hostile, dangerous people in the West Bank, I've met peace-hungry people on both sides and I'm still alive and well. No durable peace is going to happen without taking necessary risks.

My interfaith activities and challenges are chronicled in my latest book, "Love and Terror in the Middle East." I will be available in Ashland to discuss that book and my interfaith efforts on May 17th at Bloomsbury Books from 7 to 9 p.m.

Frank Romano practices law in France and the U.S. He has strong ties to Ashland, where his grandparents lived and the family still owns a home. His mother Ethel May Robinett, appeared in several OSF plays and he attended Lincoln school during his early years.