She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “We must develop a new system of living together, where one can learn to live in peace in an elementary way. My longing was great and it would not let me adapt to the usual system of normality”.
She says also: “In order to achieve planetary peace, we need a new relationship between the sexes. There can be no peace on earth as long as there is war in love. Communities of the future are based on the development of a balance between male and female forces.”
Sabine Lichtenfels – Portugal
And she says (about Israel-Palestina): “It is not only a question of reconciliation, but of a new perspective. The people involved must realize that their distress is a part of a global problem.
Worldwide, the politics of globalization has uprooted people from their natural anchor. The globalization of violence must now be followed by a globalization of peace. Conflicts between two peoples can only be reconciled by looking to the future, by taking on a joint task, by together caring for the common land, its ecology, its water, its future. The establishment of a Middle East peace research village, which will begin in the next few years, can become such a task for many people. We will support it with all our power.”
Read: Letter to Participants.
Sabine Lichtenfels is a peace activist in the Middle East and a co-founder of the model peace village Tamera in Portugal. Tamera, located on 330 acres of land in the south of Portugal, about 20 kilometers from the west coast, is a research settlement where the most important themes of a new, sustainable culture concept are developed. For the last 27 years Sabine has been working together with a sociologist on the “Healing Biotope 1 Tamera.” The main focus of her political work is on training youth and on peace work in the Middle East. How does one characterize a person who unites so many abilities? She is also a freelance theologian, a gifted author, a director of political theater and a history researcher. What traits can summarize all these aspects?
When a participant in a peace camp told her that she was the most courageous woman that he ever met, she thought for a while and then answered: “I know what you mean, but it does not feel like courage. It feels like the power of trust.” This power is felt in the presence of the fifty year old woman. One likes to gather around women like her, one feels accepted, puts an old fight aside and buries an old argument. This quality, which she uses when putting together action groups or when establishing model peace villages and global networks, is her most effective gift of peace.
Hassan, a young Palestinian, found fitting words for this. As a participant of one of her Middle East peace camps, he was suspicious when he met the Israeli participants. After a while he got up his courage and began to speak about his pain and his helpless rage. It was this woman, whom he did not know, who encouraged him in everything that now flowed out of him. She, who was not involved in either side and who held open a space of listening, seemed to understand his innermost feelings. She did not judge him, and yet with clear authority she provided orientation and guidance for humaneness and truth.
Finally he got interested in the other participants, the people from Colombia and India, whose pain was so similar to his. In the community of the peace camp, he now began to open up to the life that he once loved so much, to the music, the love, to having a purpose. Something was liberated inside and he began to feel that there was hope for a positive perspective for his people and for himself. Grateful, he called Sabine Lichtenfels his “Mother Hope.” He discovered that not only he, but his supposed enemies also feel the same trust and hope. “If we both trust the same person, then we can also bury the enmity between us,” says Hassan.
Sabine Lichtenfels was born in 1954 to a middle class family in Germany. Although she was raised in a free-thinking environment, an early Christian soul dwells in her. At the age of 16, together with her friends, she dreamt of establishing a village where all their friends and lovers could live together. For in addition to seeking God, love is always the second important path in her life. “At a young age I was confronted with the feeling that everything I do is a drop in the bucket. While you are helping at one place, someone is being tortured and killed some place else.
Early on, I had the thought that we must develop a new system of living together, where one can learn to live in peace in an elementary way. My longing was great and it would not let me adapt to the usual system of normality.” Sabine Lichtenfels does not accept the principle of either/or: either political sacrifice or a fulfilled life. She feels that the outer revolution has to be accompanied by an inner one and she cannot believe in the creation of a just socialism, so long as it does not include a revolution in the area of love.“I experienced marriage as a ghetto, which disempowers us women. I agreed with Emma Goldmann and others, who already during the time of the Russian Revolution demanded new ways in love and in how we raise children. If we develop new life models in the areas of love, in raising children, in medicine and ecology, and if we succeed in creating systems of trust that are free of fear, then these models can be used in other places. They become contagious and have a healing effect. Even today, this idea empowers me.”
This does not mean that she is against political commitment; on the contrary, “these forces must come together. If we do not want war, we need a vision for peace. Those who deal with the creation of new life models are building real utopias for everybody who is involved in the peace movement. They are creating places where new ideas for the networking of the powers for peace and for meaningful political action can be developed and deepened.”
In 1978 she met the sociologist Dieter Duhm. This was the beginning of one of those unusual love relationships, where two strong people are inspired by the same goal: a future without war and a culture of peace that is based on love and reconciliation between the sexes. Their many years of cooperation resulted in the Plan of the Healing Biotopes, which makes the following statement: If, at a few locations on earth, the ecological, technological and social prerequisites for peace are researched, realized and tested in a decentralized way, then a pool of knowledge and experience is produced, which makes the global paradigm shift toward peace more probable.
They soon realize that the plan could only succeed on the basis of a functioning human community. No matter how good their intentions, peace projects keep failing due to conflicts and competition that remain hidden under the surface.
Human know-how is needed. For this they spent three years in a social experiment with 40 women and men dealing with the human core issues that up to now were the reasons why communities failed: competition, jealousy, authority, power and especially love. In their life together they study the historic and cultural background of war with the help of art and theater and seek a way of living together where “the loving attention of one person to another does not elicit fear and hatred in a third person.”
During this time Sabine Lichtenfels developed ideas for a deepened emancipation of women. She writes books and holds lectures about the “gentle power” of a woman, about eros, sexuality and overcoming the war between the sexes. “The longed-for realization of love in all its aspects requires the integration of the sacred aspects of sexuality itself. We also need forms of community in which these truths can be lived again. A cultural-historical shift will occur when we women again invest our caring power in the creation of communities that are based on trust and not on pretense, so that we can lead our lives according to our erotic reality.”
In 1995, with the support of a large circle of friends, she bought a suitable property in southern Portugal. Here, the results of the social, ecological, spiritual and technical research are to be integrated. The place is called Tamera and is located in the southern Portuguese province of Alentejo. They call it Healing Biotope 1. Thus, after almost 20 years, the Plan of the Healing Biotopes reaches a new level of realization. The result is the establishment of international, preferably self-sufficient communities, within which the life conditions for a nonviolent future can be researched and realized in an exemplary way. These are social ecological pilot models, in which human beings can live together with all fellow creatures in a nonviolent way.
Once the first healing biotope had been established, the creation of further peace villages in conflict areas could be supported. The next one is planned for the Middle East. Today, about 100 people live in Tamera, and a few hundred come every year as students of the Peace School Mirja and the Youth School for Global Learning, to help building up the place. There are research and educational tasks within political networking, ecology, love and living together, art, healing and spirituality. Currently, the peace experiment “Monte Cerro” is being prepared at Tamera: from May 2006, up to 200 people will live and work together for three years and establish the “Solar Village,” a solar settlement model for a nonviolent civilization.
Sabine Lichtenfels increasingly uses her abilities and her role as a social and community-creating focal point for the education of youth and for the creation of a political network. Together with the students of the Youth School for Global Learning she undertakes peace actions, pilgrimages and street retreats, and visits conflict areas, indigenous peoples such as the Todas in India, and future-oriented projects such as Auroville, in order to help and study other ways of life. The Youth School is now managed by former students, and Sabine Lichtenfels has an advisory role in the background.
The Institute for Global Peace, which she heads, contacts peace workers worldwide and networks with them, with the goal of establishing a cooperative for a future without war. She began a very personal exchange with women from conflict areas, with peace workers who are threatened with murder and torture and who are marked by life in prison, with people who have remained faithful to their vision of peace even when they have lost their relatives in war, with artists, ecologists and specialists who work in the service of peace. This has given rise to a growing network, which she calls the “Ring of Power.” For these peace workers she has created an international political meditation circle, and every Monday she sends them a power text via e-mail.
When the Middle East conflict broke out again in October 2000, Sabine Lichtenfels sent out a peace meditation. The overwhelming response led her to make a commitment to peace in the Middle East, which she has now pursued for five years. She undertook trips to Palestine and Israel, spoke at peace demonstrations, accompanied aid projects in the occupied territories and organized an Israeli-Palestinian peace concert in Israel. She repeatedly invited people from the Middle East to peace camps in Tamera.
Reconciliation often begins by listening. During her 27 years of community research, Sabine Lichtenfels had learned to create a community space of deepening understanding, and this proved to be invaluable in the most painful situations and conflicts. She leads the peace camps with gentle empathy, but at the same time she takes an uncompromising stand for truth, as the participants encounter deeper and deeper layers of pain and disappointments and find healing. Having a sense of humor and presenting one’s own problems artistically makes it easier to deal with these difficult issues.
Together with the students of the Peace School Mirja, she put on the theater piece “We refuse to be Enemies” based on the most moving stories and statements from the peace camps. During the summer of 2003, they undertook a theater tour through ten German and Swiss cities, together with Israeli and Palestinian musicians. Evi Guggenheim, the founder of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace School Neve Shalom, was so moved that she arranged for the next peace tour during the autumn of 2005 to take place in the Middle East. (Read all on 1000peacewomen).
Sabine Lichtenfels, born 1954, studied Theology in Bielefeld and Tübingen. After finishing her studies she taught religion in various high schools. She had the position of curate in Tübingen, but broke this off since she learnt that it would be forbidden for a theologian to live in shared houses. Having been divorced at a young age herself, she saw also that it was impossible for her to hear in church the marriage oaths of young couples where she nevertheless knew that many of them would separate again. (Read more on her website).