By Jim Hannah
“Today I’m your coach for nonviolence.”
With these words, renowned peace activist John Dear launched a weekend of nonviolent awareness and education, March 7-8, sponsored by the Community of Christ’s Justice and Peace Action Team, and Avila University’s Buchanan Initiative for Peace and Nonviolence.
Nearly 100 persons participated in a daylong Saturday workshop at Kansas City’s Avila University, with some 200 in attendance for a Sunday afternoon session of worship and dialogue at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence, MO.
For the last four decades Rev. Dear has been an outspoken advocate for nonviolence, as an activist, global speaker, and author of more than 30 books. One of those titles, The Nonviolent Life, formed his workshop topic.
Nonviolence today, he stressed, requires three essential components—total nonviolence to self; total nonviolence to others, all creatures, and Mother Earth; and joining the global grassroots movement for transformation of the world into a new culture of justice and peace.
It’s not enough to just pursue one of these components, he insisted. Peace-builders need to engage in all three concurrently to grow in their capacity to practice and promote nonviolence. He particularly emphasized the need to organize, and to act, on behalf of nonviolence, urging:
“We are called not just to be good, but to organize goodness.”
“Unless we are training in nonviolence, we will never be nonviolent.”
“You cannot say you are for peace and justice unless you are actively opposing systemic violence.”
Throughout the weekend, Rev. Dear stressed that “you and I live and breathe violence,” infected by a “pandemic of violence.” This culture of death, he said, “wants us to fear, to feel helpless.” But, he insisted, “nonviolence is much more contagious that a viral infection,” and “when we go deep into it, nonviolence has tremendous power for positive change”—much more than violence.
Grassroots civil action, Dear stressed, is the way social change happens. Citing the abolitionist and the suffragette movements, he encouraged “people power” and initiatives “from the bottom up” as the way forward toward a more just and peaceful world. In all these efforts, he said, the mandate is to become a people of total nonviolence. This is daunting, he said, noting that “for the last 40 years, every day I’ve been challenged to be violent.” His nonviolent resistance has resulted in 88 arrests, and a year of imprisonment.
During his Sunday presentation, “The Nonviolent Path as Illuminated by Jesus,” Dear stressed that in our violent time “we have to create the greatest movement of nonviolence ever seen in church history.” Repeating Gandhi’s assertion that “nonviolence is the kingdom of God,” Dear urged, “keep your eyes, heart, and soul on the God who is totally nonviolent. You are apostles of nonviolence. Now get out there!”
For more information about the Justice and Peace Action Team, visit on-line: www.jpatkc.org
—Jim Hannah serves on the PeaceWorks-KC Board of Directors.