Nonviolent Direct Action and Just Peace

Nonviolent Direct Action and Just Peace

“Just Peacemaking expresses our commitment to engage practices to resolve conflict at every level- in ourselves, in our families, in our communities, and in our world- without violence whenever possible; when it is not possible, to then restrain, contain and reduce violence; and finally to work actively to bring it to a swift, sustainable, and just conclusion.”

The call to nonviolent direct action is reflected in the life of Jesus and has been affirmed in the statements and actions of the United Church of Christ. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus calls his disciples not only to love their neighbor, but also their enemies and those who would persecute them. Later, in Matthew 26, Jesus stands face to face with enemies, willingly absorbing taunts and violence while calling on Peter to put away his sword saying, “all who take the sword will perish by the sword’ (Mt. 26:52). As Christians we are called to end the cycle of conflict, and challenge both the logic and “myth” of redemptive violence. If we are to be blessed children of God, we are called not simply to be peaceful, but to be peace-makers.  (Mt 5:9)

The United Church of Christ has a history of endorsing non-violent direct action. In 1985, the Just Peace pronouncement, called on all UCC entities to engage in both an inward spiritual journey and an “outward journey of community witness” to create God’s shalom, or Just Peace, in the world. Among the actions called for were conscientious objection, tax resistance, non-compliance, and non-violent civil disobedience. “Because the times are so critical,” the statement reads, “we call for extraordinary witness as well as ordinary political involvement to break the power of the structural evils that prevent a Just Peace.”

In 2015, General re-affirmed our 1985 pronouncement and called on churches to utilize ten “Just Peace practices” developed by scholars and theologians across religious traditions. The first of these practices is “Support Nonviolent Direct Action”.  

Nonviolent action and civil resistance is effective. Nonviolence carries moral authority offers over violent strategies, leads to greater public participation, extends shared values of justice, and ultimately is more durable.  Scholars Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan affirm this in their research on conflict, concluding that “nonviolence, especially in the form of strategic nonviolent resistance, is more than twice as effective in achieving goals as movements that used violent approaches” Nonviolent approaches include protests and boycotts, non-cooperation and direct intervention (civil disobedience), and other creative campaigns. All of these techniques require significant spiritual and practical preparation and training to be effective.

As we look for ways to respond to issues of racism, white supremacy, militarized police, and new threats as a nation at ‘perpetual war,’ it is critical that we live into our call as a Just Peace church by learning about and practicing strategic nonviolence.  Below is a list of organizations which offer training or resources for this work ahead. 

Resources:

  • UCC sponsored webinar:  Why Nonviolence?  Faithful practices and active resistance for today

  • Nonviolence Training Hub (www.nonviolencetraininghub.org)
    “A partnership of nonviolence training organizations and individuals offering educational programming for nonviolent transformation in our lives and our world.”

  • Christian Peacemaker Teams (https://cpt.org/resources/training)
    Partnering with nonviolent movements around the world, CPT seeks to embody an inclusive, ecumenical and diverse community of God's love.

  • Fellowship of Reconciliation (www.forusa.org)
    Since 1915, the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) is an interfaith organization concerned with domestic and international peace and justice, nonviolent alternatives to conflict, and the rights of conscience.  FOR engages in active nonviolence, movement-building, and coordinates trainings & workshops.

  • Deep Abiding Love Project (DALP) http://www.deepabidinglove.com/
    “DALP is dedicated to providing training, support, and resources for activists, organizers, rabble rousers, and trouble makers of all kinds.”

  • Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR)
    STAR is for people whose work brings them in contact with populations dealing with current or historic trauma: mental health, medical and legal professionals, clergy, educators, peacebuilders, humanitarian, human rights and development workers — all those who need to be trauma-informed in order to do trauma-sensitive programming.