A core principle of nonviolence is recognizing the humanity of your opponent.
-opening line of an editorial in the January issue of Sojourners magazine
From our beginnings, Mennonites have emphasized the peacefulness of Jesus – his teachings, his life, his refusal to violently resist his execution at the hands of the state. The church, Mennonites believe, is a continuation of this peaceable kin-dom of Jesus, a now-but-not-yet-fully-realized embodiment of the ancient prophetic visions of Isaiah:
They shall beat their swords into plowshares. (Isaiah 2:4)
The wolf shall live with the lamb. (Isaiah 11:6)
Over the centuries, Mennonite nonviolence has ranged from separatist communities with military exemptions disengaged from the state, to active forms of peacemaking.
The Sojourners editorial cited above leads into an interview with Palestinian nonviolent activist Ali Abu Awwad. Some quotes from him:
My goal is not to have a dialogue. My goal is to solve this madness…
Nonviolence is not a tactic or strategy but a model of being identified with life with all its resources…
You do not just disarm yourself, you disarm your enemy…
We are here for ourselves first…Nonviolence will make this right-wing, militant system unworkable…This conflict cannot be solved by force.
The devastations in Gaza and Israel have gotten much of our attention in the last few months, but I’m hopeful that a broader awakening of our nonviolent commitments might be in the works. This, as Awwad argues, is not an ideology or even a strategy, but a model of being identified with all the resources life has to offer.
This is a practice, personal and collective, and it takes practice. Nonviolence begins by affirming the humanity of the other in our own mind. It continues as a community commits itself to this way and engages one another and others in this spirit. Let’s keep practicing.