Nonviolence: ‘Deepening Our Vision’

The BVM corporate stance on nonviolence is timely. The evil of beheadings, the capture of Christians and journalists, and the destruction of artifacts from an ancient culture breaks our hearts. Yet it seems the problem is so large we do not know where to begin to address it.

We may wonder if people like us can do anything to make a difference. Did Jesus wonder in His last days of suffering and death if His life had made any difference? He asked His followers to put away the sword and cried out from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Jesus’ life did make a difference and so can ours. We may not see results. The change of heart we hope for in our “enemies” may be a long way off. Yet even as we pray for our enemies, we as Americans need to search our own hearts and that of our country.

Have U.S. values and decisions contributed to the mess in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East with our occupation, drones, military might, our destruction, and our “national interests” for oil, etc.? Do we as a country need a change of heart? Where do we begin?

Our BVM resolution encourages our “striving to deepen our vision and understanding of nonviolence and sharing that vision with others.” For me, going online and searching “Nonviolence with ISIS” has been one place to begin. The two articles in excerpts below give concrete suggestions of ways for the United States to use nonviolence.

Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners, writes: “We should commit to a new energy future, free from the shackles of Middle Eastern oil. We should base our support for governments in the region on their respect for democracy and human rights. We should work to dismantle our empire of military bases in the region. And we should fully embrace a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine to openly speak truth to both sides regarding the many wrongs they continue to inflict on each other.”

Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., counsels: “1. Stop the air strikes . . . ; 2. Make real the commitment for ‘No Boots on the Ground’ . . . ; 3. Organize a real diplomatic partnership to deal with ISIS . . . diplomacy must have center stage; 4. Initiate a new search for broader diplomatic solutions in the United Nations; 5. Push the U.N. . . . to restart real negotiations to end the war in Syria; 6. Massively increase U.S. humanitarian contributions to the U.N. agencies for the now millions of refugees in and from Syria and Iraq . . .”

We might reflect on whether anything in the above statements “deepens our vision” and prompts us to “share that vision with others.”

Scripture says: “They shall beat swords into pruning hooks (Is. 2:2).” Regarding this promise from God to Isaiah, Dan Berrigan, SJ, prophet and peacemaker, wrote: “Because the task is crucial, necessary, and because it is radically impossible—therefore it must be done. The oracle will come true. God has sworn it (Testimony, the Word Made Fresh, p. 5).” Though written in 2004, Dan’s words give hope for today and for the future.

Our prayer might be that we as a people, a nation, a world, will find nonviolent strategies that will turn all of our hearts to hope and to peace—so that indeed after the death and violence of the many Good Fridays in the world, Easter and resurrection will come alive everywhere and remain with us.