Dr. Ursula Aragunde Kohl, me and participants at the CC Workshop in Puerto Rico
Last weekend I was in Puerto Rico offering two separate workshops on Compassionate Communication. One was to the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Project and the other to a conglomeration of animal welfare, social services, and faith organizations in San Juan. This was the first time I had chosen to concentrate on organizations that deal with nonhuman animals. My goal in so doing was to support and nourish the humans so that they in turn could help all beings flourish.
In my home faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism I am also gearing up to offer workshops in Compassionate Communication to those interested in the interweaving justice issues that include nonhuman animals. I will do this as part of the Reverence for Life Program that the Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry is offering our congregations. Now is the time to struggle with how we covenant with earth and her beings as our association of congregations deals with the Study Action Item: Ethical Eating and Environmental Justice. In the last few weeks congregations and list serves have been abuzz with commenting on the Draft Statement of Conscience that deals with this compelling and complex topic. Comments on the draft are due February 1st and we as an association will vote on the final draft at General Assembly in June, 2011.
How shall we come up with a statement that includes the wide diversity of who we are and yet challenges us to hold the needs of all species ever more tenderly?
My response to this question, at both the workshops and to my fellow Unitarian Universalists is this:
It’s important to think of how animals feel and suffer, how their evolution has brought them to where they are , and what they are thinking as we research how their brains work. Yet, we can never know what is “best” in the morass of ethical vagueness that cloaks humanity. Let this complexity be not a death shroud for any. Instead, let us lift up the few things we can know:
All beings have needs that connect us in an interdependent web of inherent worth and dignity.
We can bring kindness to every moment.
Everything is a practice ground for the skills of compassion.
May this be our prayer in intention, word, and action in the months to come.