Video: The Power of Nonviolence – Action and Resistance

Rose Marie Berger, Jean Stokan, and Scott Wright join Pax Christi USA director Johnny Zokovich to discuss “The Power of Nonviolence – Action and Resistance.”

Rose Marie Berger is senior editor of Sojourners magazine and a co-editor of Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace; Jean Stokan is a member of the Institute Justice Team for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and former Pax Christi USA Policy Director; and Scott Wright is director of the Columban Center for Outreach and Advocacy.

This 1:17 hour video is a great primer on active nonviolence today–and includes the 11-minute Pax Christi video on nonviolence that played at the Vatican in December 2020.

Video: Defining Nonviolence

This 7-minute video on Christian nonviolence includes interviews with Myla Leguro (Philippines), Archbishop Peter Chong (Fiji), Rania Murra (Palestine), Fr. Emmanuel Katongole (Uganda), Jasmin Nario Galace (Philippines), Fr. Dave Kelly (USA), Sarah Thompson (USA), Jean Baptiste Talla (Cameroon), Christina Leaño (USA), and Pietro Ameglio (Mexico).

The 10 Commandments of Christian Nonviolence

The freedom struggle of the American south was built upon the firm foundation of Christian nonviolence. Here are the ten commandments of nonviolence that formed the basis of the pledge that Dr. King and others committed to as they engaged in courageous confrontation, wise and strategic organizing, and gentle, fierce service to a larger vision of equal justice under law and democracy that reflected the Beloved Community.

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
  2. Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
  3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

The End of Predatory Policing

Photo by Jessica Griffin

The movement to end predatory policing is part of a national turn toward nonviolent civilian control of public safety. The rise of militarized police is a problem faced around the world. Militarization of police not only brings about more violence and abuse of authority, but it is based on a presumption of the citizen as a threat. This is antithetical to liberal democracies.

“A presumption of threat,” write Eliav Lieblich and Adam Shinar, “assumes that citizens, usually from marginalized communities, pose a threat of such caliber that might require the use of extreme violence. This presumption, communicated symbolically through the deployment of militarized police, marks the policed community as an enemy, and thereby excludes it from the body politic. Crucially, the pervasiveness of police militarization has led to its normalization, thus exacerbating its exclusionary effect. Indeed, whereas the domestic deployment of militaries has always been reserved for exceptional times, the process of police militarization has normalized what was once exceptional.”

“The police need to understand that this is a new day. The consent of the governed for predatory policing and mass incarceration racial injustice is hereby revoked. They need to understand they either change how they police or we will dismantle police departments as they exist today and create wrap-around safety strategies and institutions. They’ve got a choice now: They can either do it on their terms or it will be done to them by people who don’t understand as much about what they know.”–Connie Rice, civil rights lawyer, co-founder of the Advancement Project on As It Happens (8 June 2020)

“The only way we’re going to stop these endless cycles of police violence is by creating alternatives to policing. … More training or diversity among police officers won’t end police brutality, nor will firing and charging individual officers. … The focus on training, diversity and technology like body cameras shifts focus away from the root cause of police violence and instead gives the police more power and resources. The problem is that the entire criminal justice system gives police officers the power and opportunity to systematically harass and kill with impunity. … The solution to ending police violence and cultivating a safer country lies in reducing the power of the police and their contact with the public. We can do that by reinvesting the $100 billion spent on policing nationwide in alternative emergency response programs, as protesters in Minneapolis have called for. City, state and federal grants can also fund these programs.”– Philip V. McHarris and Thenjiwe McHarris, No More Money for Police (New York Times, 30 may 2020)

Iran: Bombs and Bible-Thumping

I know we are all reeling from the capricious Trump actions against Iran over the past few days. But we also know what the work is we have to do. 

Below are four resources to help shape our messaging and action. It will be important for people to be in the streets at federal buildings and at their Congressional reps offices denouncing Trump’s action and demanding that Congress bring the Khanna-Gaetz Amendment to the floor for a stand-alone vote to cut any funding for war with Iran. (This passed with a bipartisan majority in June but was dropped from the final NDAA when it came out of committee.)

Trump is portraying his political assassination of Soleimani as “taking out a bad man” as if this were another rogue terrorist. It is not. Iran is a sovereign nation. Soleimani was the equivalent of our head of joint chief of staff and was a favorite to be the next president of Iran.

Trump’s calculation is that deadly chaos in the Middle East (with a concurrent national security crisis here at home) will maintain Republican lock-step in the Senate and unite his evangelical base with Manichean heresies about fighting evil and reheated apocalyptic fantasies for Christian Zionists on the restoration of Israel and the ushering in of the End Times. Trump’s “bombing and Bible-thumping” evangelical tour began last night at King Jesus International ministry in Miami.

We need your prayers, tweets, FB posts, videos, sermons, public talks, etc to amplify a focused response. We need our people to be knowledgable, strategic, and active. Please use your communication networks to educate and activate.–Rose Berger

1. Will We See Through the “Fog of War’ This Time? by Rose Marie Berger

2. Iran: Break the Cycle of Violence With a Just Peace Framework by Eli S. McCarthy

3. Blocking Trump’s War with Iran by the Authority of Faith and Congress by Jim Wallis

4. Call on Congress to bring the Khanna-Gaetz Amendment to the NDAA to the floor as a stand-alone bill to prohibit funding of a war with Iran by Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns

A Word of Hope for 2020

Bishop Marc Stenger and Sr. Wamuyu Wachira, co-presidents of Pax Christi International

REFLECTION BY THE CO-PRESIDENTS OF PAX CHRISTI INTERNATIONAL ON POPE FRANCIS 53rd WORLD DAY OF PEACE MESSAGE (for 1 JANUARY 2020)

Pope Francis’ 52nd World Day of Peace message in the year 2019, invited us to reflect on the theme “Good politics is at the service of peace”. The Pope’s message was that politics, though essential to building human communities and institutions, can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole. This year, 2020 Pope Francis’s 53rd World Day of Peace theme is “Peace as a journey of hope: dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion”. The reflection on this theme is captured in the following sections of his message (i) Peace, a journey of hope in the face of obstacles and trial. (2) Peace, a journey of listening based on memory, solidarity and fraternity. (3) Peace, a journey of reconciliation in fraternal communion. (4) Peace, a journey of ecological conversion.

In a world devastated by war and conflicts which often affect the marginalized and the vulnerable of our society, we are being invited to reflect on peace as the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family. The virtue of hope inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem overwhelming. The Pope discusses the different forms of violence that are tearing humanity apart and their true significance. He points out: “Every war is a form of fratricide that destroys the human family’s innate vocation to brotherhood and [sisterhood]”.

The message of Pope Francis is a very strong message, a vocational message. This vocation is that of children of God, brothers and sisters. But the Pope underlines “our inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of … domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other”. He emphasizes the fact that “war is fueled by a perversion of relationship, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuse of power, by fear of others and seeing diversity as an obstacle”. On the contrary, in respecting, trusting others and seeing them as sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters, we can ‘break the spirit of vengeance and set out on the journey of hope’. …

Read the full letter from Pax Christi International’s co-presidents, Bishop Marc Stenger (France) and Sr. Teresia Wamuyu Wachira (Kenya)

DID POPE FRANCIS JUST ELEVATE THESE ANTI-NUCLEAR ACTIVISTS TO RELIGIOUS PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE?

by Rose Marie Berger

Pope Francis announced this week that “the use of nuclear weapons is immoral, which is why it must be added to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

Two years after the Vatican State signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (currently ratified by 34 countries), he declared during an in-flight press briefing from Japan to Rome, “Not only their use, but also possessing them: because an accident or the madness of some government leader, one person’s madness can destroy humanity.”

Nearly 75 years after the United States used nuclear weapons against Japan —killing, by some estimates 150,000 people in Hiroshima and 75,000 in the historic Catholic city of Nagasaki — Pope Francis reiterated that nuclear weapons are a threat to humanity, strategically reckless, and an offense to the poor and to God.

If the pro-life, anti-nuke Pope’s position is formally added to the catechism, the collected principles of faith used in basic instruction in the Catholic Church, then second-graders in Catholic schools will learn that that nuclear weapons are a sin, in the same moral category as intentional murder and the death penalty. As Jesuit Richard McSorley put it in Sojourners in 1977, “building a nuclear weapon is a sin” and “our possession of them is a proximate occasion of sin.”

What does this evolution of moral principles mean for lay Catholics who are required to answer for our complicity in unjust laws or unjust social situations? Read more.

Pietro Ameglio: What Mexico Needs in the Time of AMLO

[With gratitude to Gandhian nonviolent strategist Pietro Ameglio for his reflection below. Pietro and I have worked together on the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.–Rose]

BY PIETRO AMEGLIO

(Cuernavaca, Mexico) — January 2019 marked 25 years since the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, an historic event of the greatest relevance in the contemporary global context, with roots that stretch back centuries and repercussions that will reach far into the future.

It is a truly original experience of building struggle and massive social organization that seeks to confront and slowly replace capitalist social and productive relations, burdened as they are with racism, plundering and exploitation, with others that are more egalitarian, communitarian and rooted in social justice.  

Zapatismo is a social construct that operates simultaneously in the short, medium and long term.  For millions of us in the world, the Zapatista process changed our lives. It helped us to think upside down, to not be so defenseless in the social order. We can’t help but feel gratitude toward these women and men, girls and boys, whose influence has been felt in many processes of humanization all over the planet. And the best tribute that we can offer them is to not give up our resistance efforts and to always maintain critical thinking.

We can start with reflection on ourselves and our allies, knowing that we all make mistakes. From there we can build a continuous process of reflection and action rooted in “proper disobedience to any inhuman order” (J.C. Marín), confronting any kind of blind obedience to authority, wherever it may come from.

In Mexico we are in the first months of the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who came to power promising deep change with a focus on the needs of the poor majority.

Currently we are engaged in a major debate regarding the astronomic levels of violence in the country and the new government’s “pacification” plans. Are they focused on peacebuilding, which gets at the root issues of truth, justice and reparations? Or are they more aimed at calming the waters – an urgent task! – but in such a way that the storm continues below?

In this regard, one element of López Obrador’s plans is troubling. In 2006, former President Felipe Calderon gave the task of fighting drug cartels to the armed forces. Since then, organized crime-related homicide rates in Mexico have skyrocketed, with the total number killed exceeding 150,000. Now AMLO has called for the creation of a National Guard to complement the armed forces in the fight against organized crime. But the new 50,000-strong force initially would be drawn from the ranks of the armed forces and federal police.

This has led to a heated debate about whether the creation of a National Guard signifies the increased militarization of the country (of course it does; why else was the December “National Conference on Peacebuilding and Security” held at the Colegio Militar, the primary military educational institution in Mexico?) and if it is simply inevitable, given the dimensions of the war we are experiencing.

In between his election and inauguration, AMLO convened a series of Listening Sessions on Pacification and National Reconciliation (Foros de Escucha para la Pacificación y la Reconciliación Nacional). Their supposed intent was to gather input for the shaping of the new government’s policy. But what good were they if the citizen input was ignored and we are told that there is no practical alternative to a militarized approach to the violence? So the forums appear to be just more political theater, when the decision had already been made, and not entirely by Mexico alone.

It may be that the new government could not adequately assess the full scope of the war we are facing before taking office, especially in terms of the corruption and weakness of state institutions. Nonetheless, pacification requires actions that show a true intention to get to the roots of the problem of violence: the deep-seated criminal associations among government functionaries at all levels, elected and appointed members of the three branches of government, businesspeople, criminal gangs, legal and illegal armed forces, and parts of civil society.

Given the evidence we see every day, it is imperative that all those involved in such collusion be deposed, arrested, and punished and that their money-laundering operations be cut off. When we start to see this kind of action, we can begin to think that a real process of pacification may be underway.

In addition to such action, we will also need to see government action that empowers and legitimizes the different kinds of community guards or police that are subordinate to the communities themselves and that actually have been able to control or even eliminate the manifestations of organized crime that were devastating them. These local or regional organizations, self-organized from below, are the only ones that can affirm that they have been able to confront organized crime with positive results, including greater humanization with regard to both the communities and the criminals, and to return peace to their territories. So they should be supported and held up as an example, especially in the regions of greatest violence. Or do we know other means of containing such massive violence and impunity?

When we begin to see  initiatives like these, in the quantity and quality that the war in Mexico requires, then we will be able to have a rigorous debate about militarized or justice-based  approaches to peacebuilding. That is the true reality check that the country urgently needs.

In the mean time, a significant portion of Mexico’s population has accepted the war, with its endless turf battles among criminal organizations for monopoly control of territory, as the norm and as their principle source of employment. In fact we are talking about a huge capitalist enterprise that creates many thousands of jobs. And with the global economic crisis, those dependent on organized crime for a job are not inclined or do not even know how to change their employment. So we can expect a continuing increase in the spiral of war, as the daily news shows.

In January and February, the Fourth National Search Brigade for Disappeared Persons is taking place in the state of Guerrero. The Mexican government’s own tally of the disappeared is more than 34,000, a phenomenal number.

In the face of recent governments’ demonstrable unwillingness to resolve those cases, family members of the disappeared and their allies have organized their own search efforts, uncovering hundreds of clandestine graves all over Mexico.

These brigades, born of desperation, are a practical response to a human catastrophe and also a moral challenge to society to not accept this situation as normal and to join them in demanding the historical truth, justice, and reparations for the victims and their families.

In this strategic nonviolent offensive, the family members are exercising their social, moral and autonomous power directly, without requesting permission while seeking as many civil society and official allies as possible. We hope that with the new government, there will be better conditions for them to reverse the abandonment they have suffered.

This direct action by the families of the disappeared, like the autonomous government model built by the Zapatistas with their Councils of Good Government, is based on the direct exercise of power by the people. It is also similar to the massive Yellow Vest protest movement that has swept France since November, where important decisions are made in communal assemblies and in direct vote referendums.

Enough of spurious and anti-popular liberal representations. These are clear examples of the urgent need to organize and demonstrate in the streets with relentless persistence.[]

Pietro Ameglio is a Professor of Peace and Nonviolence Culture at the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) and an activist in nonviolent struggles in Mexico. Translation from Spanish to English by Phil McManus.

 

Top 5 Nonviolent Civil Resistance Documentary Films Available for Free

Five critically acclaimed documentary films on nonviolent civil resistance are now available for free. Originally available only on DVD or videocassette, and shown in hundreds of screenings in across 25 countries, the films can now be viewed freely, worldwide. And are available in English as well as translated into more than 20 languages.

The films are:
A Force More Powerful: The Emmy-nominated documentary exploring civil resistance campaigns in India, the United States, South Africa, Poland, Denmark, and Chile.

 

Bringing Down a Dictator:  The award-winning documentary chronicling the student-led Otpor! Movement that led to the ouster of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic.

 

Orange Revolution: 
The acclaimed documentary recounting 17 days of nonviolent civil resistance by the people of Ukraine against their chronically corrupt government.

 

Confronting the Truth: 
A documentary examining the dynamics and mechanics of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in the aftermath of conflicts in South Africa, Peru, East Timor, and Morocco.

 

Egypt: Revolution Interrupted?:
 A documentary recounting the 2011 Egyptian revolution, and its aftermath in the years that followed.

 

 

All of the films are available for free streaming on the “ICNC Films” page at the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict.