Some participants in this dialogue had attended the last meeting at which we discussed the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and others had not. Therefore, we began this meeting by reviewing the previous discussion.
To begin that dialogue, we first asked ourselves what our own visions for the future are. We then viewed a short video outlining the 17 SDGs that nations in the General Assembly committed themselves to for the next 15 years. With these in mind, we examined how our own goals matched those developed at the UN. For a complete description of this meeting, see the notes of that discussion on our website.
Each of the 17 SDGs has a list of targets that suggest the issues that need to be addressed in order to accomplish the goals. As there is a long list for each goal, we decided to look closely at the targets for just one of them -- goal 16, which had been selected at the last meeting as one that reflected many of our own concerns.
The first of 10 targets on the list for goal 16 reads: Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere. This provoked a lot of thoughts and took up much of the discussion for the evening.
What are the roots of violence? What goes on in the mind of the person who could, for example, shoot a young person in the head on his way home from school? Gangs which demand violent acts in exchange for providing protection? The availability of guns? In the world, starvation with 70% of the world in poverty? Fighting to secure basic needs, food, water, shelter? Drive for status and sense of self-worth? Suppressed emotions of rage that burst out if there are no appropriate outlets? Genetics? Original sin dating back to the Garden of Eden?
There was considerable reflection on the perceived need of people to identify somebody who is "less than" me. There is competition for status: who has more, who is better. Some thoughts: People on the top want to keep others down. The middle class is disappearing. White people enjoy privileges that we don't even realize we have. People are resentful when they feel they are looked down on. There are ongoing impacts as a result of slavery on individuals and social institutions. A gay man remarked that he had to work twice as hard of others to succeed in jobs and had experienced being called a faggot and spat upon.
What can we do to reduce violence? We can realize we are one world. Read up – sign every petition around issues promoting justice. Look into ourselves and try to become less judgmental and more peaceful. Blaming others for our own troubles and the troubles of the world is a form of violence.
Collaborate with others. Build communities in institutions like our churches and in our neighborhoods. Fight for things like just wages. Choose to do the kind act. Figure out how to talk to people you disagree with.
The discussion proceeded to the second target on the list for Goal 16: "End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children."
Witnessing scenes on the streets of this city where children are yelled at abusively by stressed-out mothers was a source of distress for some participants in the group. There was some discussion about how to intervene when you see that. You have to be cautious because the mother might be defensive and lash out at you. But perhaps if you can find a way to make a human connection with the mother rather than being reproachful or critical you can begin a conversation about what is happening. Maybe just saying "Looks like you might be having a hard day" could begin the relationship.
In the final go-round about what people might take away from the evening's discussion, some thoughts were: Look at your own experience, respond to petitions, get involved in local politics, figure out how to intervene when you see mothers abusing children, there are little things we can do.
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