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Global Voices of Nonviolence

by Lynne Hybels
from Huffington Post

In March of 2011 I walked up a rocky hillside near the Palestinian Christian village of Aboud. I had an olive tree seedling in a plastic bucket hoisted on my shoulder. With a chain link fence topped by razor wire as a backdrop, I scooped earth with my hands and planted the hearty little seedling. My American and Palestinian friends planted a dozen or so olive trees that day while Israeli soldiers watched from a distance. A week later, long after we Americans were gone, the Palestinian villages planted more seedlings, but the Israeli soldiers uprooted the trees and sent the villagers home.

The seedlings were planted to replace the ancient olive trees plowed down by Israeli bulldozers. Though the hillside was owned by the Palestinian villagers and the olive trees provided their livelihood, the land was cleared for the sake of Israeli security. But many people–including Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans–believe the destruction of the olive trees is unnecessary and unjust. So they replant the trees as an act of protest. If, as sometimes happens, the seedling are allowed to grow, so much the better; but if not, at least the empty holes dug by human hands will shout a simple message: This is wrong.

It will also say: Though I believe your actions are unjust, and I need to stand against them, I will not take up weapons against you. I will resist you, but I will not turn to violence. This form of nonviolent resistance, grounded in the teachings and example of Gandhi and MLK, is judged by detractors as weak or ineffectual. But nonviolent revolutions overthrew the British in India and the violent defenders of apartheid in South Africa. It shaped the Civil Rights movement in the US. Of the thirteen nonviolent revolutions in communist nations that occurred in 1989-90 only one failed–in China. We’ve recently seen the tragedy of brutal violence in parts of the Middle East, but also the impact of “people power” grounded in nonviolent resistance.

My personal introduction to nonviolence was through Christian Palestinian Sami Awad, director of the Bethlehem-based Holy Land Trust. Committed to developing young community leaders and to nonviolently resisting the military occupation of the Palestinian Territory, Sami finds his ultimate inspiration in Jesus’s command to “love your enemies.” You can’t love your enemy, says Sami, unless you know your enemy. So Sami traveled repeatedly to Auschwitz with a group of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. These trips helped him understand how every act of violence by a Palestinian perpetuates the Holocaust fear of destruction of the Jews. While Sami longs for freedom and justice for Palestinians, he also longs for Israelis to be healed of their fear. Only a steady and patient commitment to nonviolence can lead–however slowly–to that outcome.

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