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There Is No "Us" and "Them"- Lisbon, Portugal

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

30 May to 1 June, 2023 – Lisbon, Portugal. Invited Keynote Speaker

For the Conference, Violence in the Name of God: From Apocalyptic Expectations to Violence. “Drawing ‘Us’ vs. ‘Them.’ Mechanisms of Inclusion and Exclusion in Apocalyptic Terrorism.” Sponsored by the American Corner-American Embassy in Lisbon, the Center for History at the University of Lisbon, and the Center for Classics at the University of Lisbon.

According to the main organizer, Dr. Ana T. Valdez, the idea for this conference was originally inspired by my 2016 book Understanding Apocalyptic Terrorism. Any part I played in prompting her to bring this top-flight assemblage of scholars together was small, but the results were a whole that was far greater than the sum of its parts. The conference panels featured esteemed colleagues from universities such as Cambridge, Yale, Vrije, Lisbon, Portugese Catholic University, Stellenbosch, Duke, Drew, and Chester and were open to the public, primarily academics, including undergraduate and graduate students. The conference ended with an invited symposium exploring the future creation of an international network of centers on Apocalypticism. While the conference isn’t a typical “stop” on the “World Tour” in that it did not feature the One Billion for Peace Pledge, I wanted to include it here because the themes of this conference and network do address the concerns of the One Billion for Peace Pledge (as an assortment of scholars of apocalypticism who are concerned about rising violence in Europe and all over the world).

Also, I dealt with Peace Pledge themes in my paper, “Drawing ‘Us’ vs. ‘Them.’ Mechanisms of Inclusion and Exclusion in Apocalyptic Terrorism.” To explain that connect requires giving some background context first. Some of the ideas I developed around peace were built upon my research on apocalypticism terrorism. I found that the prevailing frameworks for “counter-terrorism” defined “peace” mainly in security terms that were about physical safety for persons (especially non-combatants) and property, without paying adequate attention to other elements of peace or how impacts felt by peoples of different nations were still all interconnected. So-called solutions to terrorism that do not implement long-term planning for ecological resiliency will, in the end, result in further competition over resources and thus further conflict. Thus, the shortsighted understanding of peace and the counter-terrorism resulted in actions that ultimately led to increases in violence, rather than the end of terrorism.

Now, as the context of climate change looms over us all, it is clear that any framework is doomed to fail if it attempts to tackle climate crisis but ignores 1) that ecological resilience is intertwined with social resilience, 2) that sustainable peace is a dynamic system that must constantly be addressed, not an end product of political agreements, and 3) that in a global ecosystem, all peoples are in fact connected. Each of these realizations is encapsulated in the simple formula of the One Billion for Peace Pledge, and each relies on (and here is where I tie it back to my conference paper!) a reorientation that begins to grasp that in our era of the “Anthropocene,” of human made climate crisis that threatens all of us eventually, there can no longer be decisions solely made for “Us” or our national interests vs. “Them” and their national interests. The Us vs. Them paradigm must be overcome for us to successfully navigate climate change at this hinge point of history.

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