Lawai International Center
Today I participated in the eleventh annual Pilgrimage of Compassion, as I have done for the past three years at the Lawai International Center. Many of the sentiments I shared came from others and deserve to be repeated and their wisdom remembered each year. Many of the participants have asked that I post what I shared today, which is below, and the link to the blog I posted last year.
Ano ai me ke aloha kakou, e na hulu mamo like ole.
Greetings, with aloha, among all of us, birds of many feathers. I think this is the 3rd time I have participated in this pilgrimage and each time I have opened with this greeting, which I learned from Puanani Burgess, a community builder and poet from Waianae. She learned this formal greeting from Pilahi Paki who was instrumental in giving Lynn guidance and the foundation to restore this area. Puanani, who is also a Buddhist priest, told me she thought that this greeting demonstrates the Hawaiian mindset perfectly. The kaona, or hidden meaning, of this formal greeting is that even though we may look different we are all the same. And, scientifically, this is true. Through the human genome project we now know that 99.9% of humans are genetically the same but unfortunately, most conflicts focus on our differences be it race, gender or religion.
Respect for nature, universal human rights and a culture of peace. These are the kind of values we share and these values can be embodied in a single word, Aloha. Aloha is what brings us together today. Aloha guides Lynn Muramoto and is the foundation of Lawai International Center. It is Aloha that allows this puu honua, this place of refuge, to transcend through generations.
Over twenty years ago another person that helped to give Lynn guidance is Alvin Shim, a Hawaii visionary and peacemaker and who was a mentor to many of Hawaii’s leaders. Several weeks ago I was having dinner with his son, Pono Shim. Pono continues his father’s legacy of social justice to spread the meaning of living with Aloha.
Pono told me, “you know Mina, we don’t have cultural diversity in Hawaii, what we have is a cultural hybrid.” Pono explained to me that he viewed cultural diversity as being together in a defined area but still identified through our differences. To Pono, cultural hybrid was more suitable in describing what we have in Hawaii – that we strive to blend the best qualities from each culture and bind them together through our shared value of Aloha.
Pono, a practitioner who stresses the importance of native storytelling to describe Aloha, compared the concept of a cultural hybrid to lei-making. We all know that a lei is very special. Many times a lei is a symbol and a gift of Aloha.
We are all familiar with the kui lei, the most common type of lei making where we take similar flowers and with a needle poke through the center of the flower to string the flowers together. Pono said this describes cultural diversity. We have lots of beautiful kui leis but it’s usually all the same kind of flowers held together on a string.
- However, the more traditional lei is either wili or haku, where you weave multiple lei materials held together with a strong backing and light cordage. Pono explained that with a haku or wili you bring together many different types of materials, flowers and foliage, to create a lei. If the backing and binding is done right the flowers and foliage will hold together no matter how hard you shake the lei. However, if not bound correctly and tightly, the lei falls apart. Similarly, without the backing and binding of Aloha our communities fall apart.
At the 2009 pilgrimage, I shared how Hawaii became known as the Aloha State through Reverend Abraham Akaka famous statehood sermon in 1959. To close, I want to share an excerpt of that timeless sermon with you again.
Kahu Abraham Akaka
We do not understand the meaning of Aloha until we realize its foundation in the power of God at work in the world. Since the coming of our missionaries in 1820, the name for God to our people has been Aloha. One of the first sentences I learned from my mother in my childhood was this from Holy Scripture: “Aloha ke Akua” – in other words, “God is Aloha.” Aloha is the power of God seeking to unite what is separated in the world – the power that unites heart with heart, soul with soul, life with life, culture with culture, race with race, nation with nation. Aloha is the power that can reunite when a quarrel has brought separation; aloha is the power that reunites a man with himself when he has become separated from the image of God within.
Aloha consists of this new attitude of heart, above negativism, above legalism. It is the unconditional desire to promote the true good of other people in a friendly spirit, out of a sense of kinship. Aloha seeks to do good, with no conditions attached. We do not do good only to those who do good to us. One of the sweetest things about the love of God, about Aloha, is that it welcomes the stranger and seeks his good. A person who has the spirit of Aloha loves even when the love is not returned. And such is the love of God.
Aloha does not exploit a people or keep them in ignorance and subservience. Rather, it shares the sorrows and joys of people; it seeks to promote the true good of others.Today, one of the deepest needs of mankind is the need to feel a sense of kinship one with another. Truly all mankind belongs together from the beginning all mankind has been called into being nourished [and] watched over by the love of God. So that the real Golden Rule is Aloha. This is the way of life we shall affirm.
Let us affirm [for]ever what we really are – for Aloha is the spirit of God at work in you and in me and in the world, uniting what is separated, overcoming darkness and death, bringing new light and life to all who sit in the darkness of fear, guiding the feet of mankind into the way of peace.
Aloha ke Akua. Mahalo for allowing me to share this message with you.