What is a Bearing Witness Retreat

zen peacemakers spain

What is a Bearing Witness retreat

When we bear witness, when we become the situation — homelessness, poverty, illness, violence, death — the right action arises by itself. We don’t have to worry about what to do. We don’t have to figure out solutions ahead of time. Peacemaking is the functioning of bearing witness. Once we listen with our entire body and mind, loving action arises. Loving action is right action. It’s as simple as giving a hand to someone who stumbles or picking up a child who has fallen on the floor. We take such direct, natural actions every day of our lives without considering them special. And they’re not special. Each is simply the best possible response to that situation in that moment.

When you participate in a Bearing Witness retreat, you participate in a Peacemaking process. Our Bearing Witness retreats take place in places where much trauma happened and where healing is needed. We want to contribute with our retreats to this healing.

There are different Bearing Witness [BW] Retreats; BW retreats in places where genocide has occurred (eg. Auschwitz, Rwanda, Black Hills and Bosnia), the BW retreats on the street (called street retreats) and BW retreats in places where trauma has occurred (eg. Lampedusa).

To start the Peacemaking process we seek a partnership with local key figures who can enable this Peacemaking process. For their efforts, the key contributors receive a fee and expense reimbursement. In the formation phase of a new retreat we invite local staff to our Auschwitz Bearing Witness retreat, to get acquainted with the format and practices of the retreat.

Prior to the retreat we train an average group of 15-30 people from the local community to supervise council groups. After the retreat this group of trained individuals bring their training and experience to other local peace-building projects.

Participation in our retreats means more than just joining a retreat, you contribute to a Peacemaking process.

What does your retreat fee pay for?

· Accommodations and meals during the retreats
· Transportation during the retreats
· In some cases, such as the Native Americans Retreat in South Dakota USA , the building facilities like toilets, showers, sewage, roads etc.
· Council facilitation training for locals for both the retreat and sustained post-retreat work with the local community.
· Honorariums, travel and lodging costs of key figures and presenters
· Travel and accommodation costs of new presenters for the Auschwitz Retreat
· Scholarships for local participants
· Scholarships for potential leaders at future bearing witness retreats and those with limited means.
· Pre-retreat planning and development trips for first-time retreats
· Logistical and administrative costs of international staff (the staff works as a volunteer and unpaid)

Profits from our Bearing Witness Retreats are used to cover the costs of other retreats with loss, split with other participating organisations, or towards future projects of the Zen Peacemaker Order.