Saturday, March 17, 2012

World of Writing, interview

-- World of Writing --

World of Writing Interview posts are published every week or two, if possible, on this blog - offering interesting insight into what it takes to be a writer, what makes a writer tick, the business of writing and how so many people are able to pursue passions and leave a positive impact on the world through writing. Today's post offers some insight from author Frank Romano:

Frank Romano is an assistant tenured professor at the University of Paris Oueste in the Anglo-American Literature and Civilization Department and a member of the California and Marseille Bars. At present, he teaches law, literature, history and philosophy of law and practices law in France and in the United States. Over the past 5 years as a peace activist and international lawyer, Frank has faced hostility and worked through a maze of communication and cultural issues while actively organizing and participating in interfaith events. Efforts to bring interfaith peace to the Middle East have not come without high costs and great sacrifices, namely the recent murder of two of his peace activist friends in the West Bank and in Jerusalem. Frank has authored several books including the most recently released: Love and Terror in the Middle East – which captures his efforts to promote understanding, communication and cooperation in the volatile region of historical conflict.   
Learn more about Frank via his site:

Q: How would a good friend describe you?

I think they would say: “Frank Romano has stayed faithful to his vision, to bring a durable peace to the Middle East. Frank continues his work even though he has faced hostility passing through a maze of walls and checkpoints in Israel and the West Bank to lead interfaith activities.”

Q: What are your long-range and short-range goals and objectives in regards to contributing to society?

My short-range goal is to help lead a Global March to Jerusalem on March 20th, 2012, from the Qalandia Checkpoint between Ramallah, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. My long-range goal is to pursue my quest for spiritual peace among religions in the Middle East, notably highlighting interfaith activities in Israel and Palestine.

Those efforts are aimed, in particular, at easing the region’s bloody path to peace.

Q: How do you determine or evaluate your personal success?

In my life, success is in direct proportion to the results of the dialogues which are designed to open up people’s hearts to each other, to help them overcome years of negative programming derived from the fear and hate exacerbated by ignorance of differing culture and religion.

To illustrate this, I will use an example of a typical interfaith dialogue I lead that could take place either in Israel or in the West Bank:

Jews, Muslims and Christians (sometimes they are orthodox, sometimes liberal practitioners) are sitting next to each other in a circle. They are breaking bread together and drinking tea or eating humus. After an hour I ask the Jew to tell me about his orthodox Muslim neighbor or visa-versa. The Jew will say that he enjoys speaking with the Muslim and finds they both have a lot in common, but he might add that the Muslim religion is taking him down the wrong path, perhaps to the devil. Many members of the group feel the same way about other members of the dialogue who follow a different religion. As such, they don’t feel they share the same God.

As the facilitator of the dialogue, I don’t judge any of them when they express that opinion. I just open up my Torah (first five chapters of the Old Testament), the New Testament and the Qur’an and lead the following discussion on comparing the main principles and philosophies found in those writings. After an hour discussion, most of the members of the dialogue are surprised to learn that all the texts reflect many similar principles, i.e. the belief in one God, thou shalt not kill, the obligation to help the poor, etc.

After another hour of discussion goes by, I ask the group another question: “Since there are so many similarities among those sacred writings, do you think it is possible you may share the same God?” 

After a short discussion many members now say it is possible. Then I close the dialogue with one last question:
Does it make sense to kill in the name of God if you share the same God? You don’t need to answer that now. Think about it and we’ll resume the dialogue in a month or so.”

I then leave them to ruminate over the last question without expecting an immediate response after we agree to continue the dialogue another time.

Q: What inspires you?

About 30 years ago while a philosophy student at the Sorbonne University, in Paris, I was going through a spiritual and emotional crisis. I began to lose myself in the comings and goings of the big city life, to lose my identity, my principles, and my dreams. During an intense meditation/dream session, I had a vision that someday I’d participate in the interfaith peace movement in the Middle East. I left school and my job to follow my dream and I’ve been following it ever since.

Q: What is your opinion of the world today?

After traveling back and forth from Paris to the Middle East for the last five years, I’ve concluded that one of the keys to peace, notably between Palestinians and Israelis, is the grassroots movement that brings those people together. Our political and religious leaders have sadly failed to bring about a durable peace, to do what’s right; so it’s time for the people to step up.   

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