Shalom is a Hebrew word rich with meaning and cultural significance. It appears in the Torah and the Christian Old Testament hundreds of times in reference to peace, wholeness, or completeness. For millions of people shalom or it's Arabic equivalent, salaam, is used to greet others, build relationships, and express a desire to see God's peace realized in the world.
In Memphis, where the majority of people are Christian, shalom also points us to certain passages in the Christian Old Testament that have inspired the Communities of Shalom movement. In particular, we draw on Jeremiah 29:7 - "Seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its shalom, you will find your shalom."
It also reminds us of the six threads of shalom, which serve as the guiding principles for our work at Center for Transforming Communities and for the work of all of our Shalom Zone partners (adapted from the National Shalom Resource Center):
Systemic, Sustainable Transformation
The S in shalom stands for the sustainable transformation that requires systemic engagement and structural change. Not simply a quick fix, nor a program focused on immediate needs, sustainable transformation is the long-term improvement in community life — social, structural, and systemic changes that last. It often takes a generation to achieve and evaluate, and requires a long-term commitment.
Health, Healing, Harmony, and Wholeness
The H focuses our attnetion on community health, healing, harmony, and wholeness; Shalom in its fullness — for individuals, communities, and the world. According to the World Health Organization, “Health is the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being…not merely the absence of disease.” The skill associated with the H in Shalom is how to grow healthy communities by understanding the determinants of health and applying health assets.
Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD)
The A in shalom stands for Asset-Based Community Development — an approach that begins with looking at the existing resources and strengths of a community rather than focusing on its needs and deficiencies. Moving from charity to systemic change requires new ways of thinking about communities and the underlying causes of poverty. ABCD skills help communities identify, mobilize, map, and align internal resources and hidden assets. John McKnight, the originator of ABCD, explains the ABCD process “builds community from the inside out.” This approach enables people to see their community as a "glass half full" of assets rather than "half empty" with needs.
Love for God, Neighbor, and Self
The L is for loving God, Neighbor, and Self. Love is the heart, soul, mind, and strength of the shalom approach to community development. The skills required are spiritual practices developed over time to demonstrate the "value-added" of Love-in-Action and faith-motivated community development.
Organizing for Community Transformation
The O stands for organizing, a process where people who live in proximity to each other, or who share a common goal come together to form a coalition that acts in their shared self-interest. The practical tools and skills needed to organize for direct action include how to analyze and work with power, assess self-interests, conduct individual meetings and networking. When speaking about the organizing methods of his movement, John Wesley, founder of Methodism stated, we “organize to beat the devil.”
Multicultural, Multifaith Collaboration
And last, the M in shalom stands for many cultures and many faiths working together to raise the quality of life in their community. Multi-faith, multicultural, multinational, and multifaceted collaboration can overcome past and present historic preconceptions, prejudices, and divisions. It is the skill set required in order to mobilize assets, engage in community development, and build shalom in our communities.
By engaging systems, focusing on community health, mapping assets, loving God, neighbor, and self, organizing for transformation, and strengthening multi‐faith, multicultural relationships, Communities of Shalom transform the world, one community at a time. That's why SHALOM.