Tag Archives: nonviolence

International Day of Non-Violence

Posting a bit late, from the United Nations:

The principle of non-violence—also known as non-violent resistance—rejects the use of physical violence in order to achieve social or political change. This form of social struggle has been adopted all over the world in campaigns for social justice. The International Day of Non-Violence, celebrated on the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, reaffirms the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence. Every year events take place to encourage States to work together to build a world of tolerance and lasting peace. The UN General Assembly proclaimed this Day in its 2007 resolution A/RES/61/271.

May we make every day a day of nonviolence.

See you along the Trail.

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Heartbeats above drumbeats

Prayer vigil Syria

We gathered at the Tillman Chapel of the Church Center for the United Nations – Lutherans, Mennonites, Methodists, Presbyterians, and more. We shared statements from our various denominations. We prayed – for the people of Syria – for our brothers and sisters who have been killed, wounded, and maimed by chemical weapons and by conventional weapons. We prayed for those who seek peace in the face of violence. We prayed for those who resort to violence that they might turn away and seek peace. We prayed for leaders of the United States and Syria and the world – that they might have the courage and wisdom to seek nonviolent, diplomatic solutions.

We prayed that we all might hear the heartbeats of life and love above the drumbeats of war.

The use of chemical weapons is abhorrent. It violates international standards and international law. International standards. International law. Thus the only appropriate response lies within the international community. It is not the place for any one nation or any coalition of nations to decide guilt and determine the appropriate response.

May we hear the heartbeats of life and love above the drumbeats of war.

A unilateral response by the United States or any nation flaunts international cooperation and violates the Charter of the United Nations. The Charter – to which the United States as a member of the UN agrees to abide – provides that the Security Council is the appropriate body to maintain the peace and security of the member states.

May we hear the heartbeats of life and love above the drumbeats of war.

Unilateral military action by a state undercuts the authority and integrity of the United Nations and the international system of cooperation. Unilateral military action defies diplomacy and cooperation and denies the possibility of a nonviolent, diplomatic, negotiated solution.

May we hear the heartbeats of life and love above the drumbeats of war.

May we – peoples, leaders, nations – turn from violence and seek alternative solutions.
May the efforts of Syrians to make peace and care for one another be blessed.
May diplomatic initiatives and efforts be redoubled.
May all the parties to the violence in Syria be brought together to negotiate.
May an international peace summit be  convened.
May investigations into the use of chemical weapons take place.
May the results of those investigations be honored – charges filed and trials held and verdicts rendered and sentences enforced.
May the international community act to help Syria rid itself of chemical weapons.
May an embargo be created and enforced against all parties who would provide any weapons to any parties to the violence in Syria.
May humanitarian aid be increased – to refugees, internally displaced, wounded, and all the people of Syria in need.
May humanitarian workers be protected and granted the access needed to meet the people.
May steps that I cannot imagine be taken on the path to peace.

May we hear the heartbeats of life and love above the drumbeats of war.

Unlikely to work?

Perhaps. Certainly it will be difficult.

But one thing that the people of the world has seen again and again is that violence feeds violence and war breeds war. Other options have to be tried.

May we hear the heartbeats of life and love above the drumbeats of war.

See you along the Trail.

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In the morning,
when we gathered,
the early morning,
the cool, quiet morning,
we were not afraid.
And we sang and prayed;
we laughed and smiled;
we marched.

When we saw the hate,
fear spattered us.

When we saw the police,
fear arrested us.

When we saw the batons,
fear battered us.

When we saw the gas,
fear engulfed us.

When we saw the hoses,
fear washed over us.

When we saw the dogs,
fear snarled at us.

When we saw the guns,
fear tore at us.

In the morning,
when we gathered,
the early morning,
the cool, quiet morning,
we were afraid –
sore afraid –
sore, sore afraid.
But we sang and prayed;
we laughed and smiled;
and we marched.

Inspired, on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s birthday, by the Palestinians, Israelis and internationals who worked nonviolently to protect the village and olive trees of Budrus, and by all who use nonviolence to witness for justice, wholeness and peace.

15 January 2013
Shire on the Hudson


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On my way back from preaching at White Plains Presbyterian Church today, I met Andrew Stehlik, pastor of Rutgers Presbyterian Church on the Uptown Number 2 subway. We exchanged greetings and then began to talk shop.

As he described his sermon, Andrew reminded me that on the night of August 20-21, 1968, Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia shattering the hopes of the Prague Spring.

He also reminded me of the use of keys during the nonviolent Velvet Revolution (Gentle Revolution in Slovakia) that overthrew the communist government of Czechoslovakia. The people jingled keys – ordinary keys – as they gathered to demonstrate nonviolently for change. This simple, yet profound, public act carried two meanings. It proclaimed the unlocking of doors – opening doors long locked by totalitarianism. The act of jingling one’s keys also served to tell the communists that it was time for them to go home.

On a day when I preached about Shiphrah and Puah – the Hebrew midwives who committed civil disobedience by refusing to carry out the Pharoah’s order to kill the Hebrew children – and the need to live our faith publicly, the story of the keys spoke to me with great power. I told Andrew that I will no doubt use the story in a future sermon; I will credit him when I do.

Thanks be to God for Shiphrah, Puah, the people who jingled keys in Czechoslovakia, and all who work nonviolently for life and peace and justice.

See you along the Trail.

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Peacemaking, justice seeking movie clips

A friend posed the question, knowing that I watch more than my share of movies.

“Can you think of any film clips where a character makes the decision to be a peacemaker – or to do the just thing in a situation of conflict or injustice.?”

Given the context of the question and the person asking the question, the clip needs to be rooted in nonviolence – at least as far as possible.

Honesty compels me to confess that the nonviolent lens eliminates many of my favorite movies and scenes. (The scene in The Wild Bunch where Bishop, Engstrom, and the Gorch brothers decide to go back for Angel, wouldn’t work.)

But I gave it a go. Here are the first two that came to mind:

The Grapes of Wrath: Tom Joad leaves and tells his mother that he will be with her and the family wherever people work for justice.

Hotel Rwanda: Paul Rusesabagina and his staff find rooms for all those who make it to the hotel; Rusesabagina encourages the people at the hotel to call people abroad; the final line: “There’s always room.”

After that movies came to mind – scenes tumbled together; clips piling up. Among them: Norma Rae, Amazing Grace, The Vernon Johns Story, Amazing Grace, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Coach Carter, Edge of America, Field of Dreams, Milk, Cry Freedom, Gandhi, Made in Dagenham, Malcolm X, Real Women Have Curves, The Milagro Bean Field War, Gandhi. I would have to watch these anew to identify particular scenes.

Recognizing my limits, I ask:

What film clips show a character deciding to seek peace or do justice in a situation of conflict or injustice?

What films would you watch again to find clips that show a character deciding to seek peace or do justice in a situation of conflict or injustice?

I look forward to your responses.

See you along the Trail.

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Clipping the wings of those who feast on violence

Create a human sculpture that shows what violence is.

That was our assignment. The Nonviolent Peaceforce was leading a introductory training event to their theory and practice for a number of representatives of nongovernmental organizations in the United Nations community.

They divided the participants into two groups and gave each group five minutes to imagine and design a human sculpture showing what violence is. The instructions noted that we should be able to hold the positions in the sculpture for three minutes so the other group could ponder what we had created.

Our group caucused and planned quickly and decided to go with the theme of the utter devastation that violence wreaks – taking a brutal, deadly toll on all who are involved.

Roles were assigned – several people were to be dead with various twists: two died locked in an embrace of death; others died with their “weapons” (fingers made into a pistol) still firmly held and pointed at each other.

One tableau of two involved a person in the act of finishing off someone who was not yet dead.

One person knelt in prayer – grieving the dead – invoking intervention.

And the final person assumed a position of flight – as a carrion bird poised about the carnage –
representing those who feast on the violence that consumes others.

For some reason, it took my group about point two seconds to cast me as the carrion bird.

We created the sculpture and our colleagues in the other group were asked to observe us, study us, and determine what was happening.

The first observation centered on my “menacing grin.” From that point they did a pretty good job of analyzing our “art.” They did think I was a drone plane – but they got most everything else pretty close to right.

The trainers then invited the other group to make three changes in our statue that would transform the situation.

Their first step was to have me put down my arms – “clipping my wings.” They then moved to the section where one of our members was engaged in violence against another and separated them. Finally, they removed the “guns” from the situation.

We then talked together. That’s when I pointed out that I was not a drone – but a carrion bird (c’mon, have you ever seen a drone with a grin of any sort let alone a menacing one?). Upon learning that, one of the other group members said, “So we clipped the wings of those who feast on violence.” And there was a moment of silence as those words sunk in.

Therein lies essential peacemaking work: figuring out who feasts on – who profits from – violence. Armament makers? Arms traders? Transnationals? Those who obtain the resources in the conflict area? No doubt it is different people and groups in different situations. But always there is someone – there are someones. Who are they? How can we restrict or cut off their profits, and thereby diminish violence. Those are questions I will continue to ponder.

See you along the Trail.

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