See also: our WebDefs entries (they include scripture), e.g.,: Peace, Shalom, Nonviolence, Nonharming, Harmony, Beatitudes, Grace, Wrath, Solidarity, Abuse, Discord, Strife, etc., our post on Jesus & Nonviolence, and related links pages
We define nonviolence as the favoring of peaceful means of advancing one’s objectives. Violence is the reverse: the intentional use of force or power to overwhelm, inflicting one’s own objectives without regard to the ultimate welfare of the target. Violence can be seen in a number of arenas, including the physical, sexual, psychological and social. Violence can be self-directed, interpersonal or collective (sometimes termed societal sin).
According to Cure Violence, a nonprofit ranked #9 on Global Journal’s Top 100 NGOs in 2013, there is an epidemic of violence in the USA, where it is the leading cause of death for persons under 34 years old. Violence is like a disease: it’s contagious.
As followers of Jesus, who met his end in a most violent and terrible way at about that age, we must commit ourselves to nonviolence. Jesus’ last commandment to his disciples before his trial was to “Put down your sword!”
Four Good Ways to Get Involved
- Know the resources in your area. Understand the local need. Mobilize your congregation to fill that need. Even if you feel you’re a lone voice standing for peace, keep singing that song… sooner or later, others will join in.
- Join with others. Take part in a march or rally, such as the Annual Rally to End Gun Violence (in 2014, the event takes place on June 14, 12-4pm). If you feel moved to help end gun violence in America, you might consider joining Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Stuck at home? You can still join with others, to lend a hand in partnership. Support nonviolence efforts, following conversations, retweeting or reposting public service announcements to your own circle of influence. Politicians notice what matters to their constituents, and nonprofits really do care if you’re listening.
- Lend your voice! College students, why not make a social justice movie – Consider the wonderful award-winning student films that have been created so far. They earned cash prizes while having an impact on an important problem. There have been many other wonderful entries highlighting the issue of bullying and taking a stand against violence, in addition to these examples:
- Homeboy Industries (2009 Winner)
- The Street Crusade (2008 Winner)
- Taking a Stand / Acceptance Speech 2012 CMF Winner
- Power to Kill (honorable mention Sci Fi 2012
- The Difference 2013 CMF Elfenworks Social Justice 2nd place winner
- Viewer discretion advised when considering watching these entries:
- Form a prayer team within your faith community. Pray on it. Many more ideas will arise.
Highly Impactful Nonviolence Advocates
Here we highlight a few effective advocates who are making real strides in furthering a more civil, nonviolent society, many of whom have been honored with In Harmony With Hope Awards from The Elfenworks Foundation for their innovative solutions to this troubling issue:
- Fr. John Dear, fatherjohndear.org, with over three decades of insight into the Gospel of Jesus, the way of nonviolence and the call to make peace. A Catholic priest, he has served as the director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the United States, and after September 11, 2001, as one of the Red Cross coordinators of chaplains at the Family Assistance Center, and counseled thousands of relatives and rescue workers. He has worked in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and community centers; traveled in warzones around the world, including Iraq, Palestine, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Colombia; lived in El Salvador, Guatemala and Northern Ireland; been arrested over 75 times in acts of civil disobedience against war; and spent eight months in prison for a Plowshares disarmament action. In the 1990s, he arranged for Mother Teresa to speak to various governors to stop the death penalty. He has two Master’s Degrees in Theology from the Graduate Theological Union in California, and has taught theology at Fordham University
- Gary Slutkin, MD, founder of cureviolence.org, has expertise as an epidemiologist combatting infectious disease around the world that informs his radically different approach to stemming the tide of violence in American cities. In 2000 he formed Chicago-based Cure Violence (then called CeaseFire), convinced that violence could be halted with a three-pronged approach taken directly from the public health model: first, interrupt the transmission; second, identify and change the thinking of the highest potential transmitters; and third, change social norms. At the core of the program are the violence interrupters and outreach workers—veterans of the street who are carefully recruited and trained to stem the flow of violence. From the first (and formerly worst) neighborhood in Chicago where they began, Cure Violence has effectively reduced shootings and killing by 41-73%, in urban neighborhoods around the country, and indeed, around the world. Dr. Slutkin is an Elfenworks In Harmony With Hope Recipient
- Dr. Lois Lee, Founder & Director, ChildrenoftheNight.org, has spent the past 30 years advocating for and providing help to thousands of children between the ages of 11 and 17 who are forced into prostitution. Children of the Night (COTN) started as a walk-in crisis center and 24-hour hotline. Three decades later, the hotline’s highly trained staff receives 10,000 calls from desperate kids each year. An in-home program started in 1994 provides shelter and nurture for up to 100 teens, and features an onsite school and college placement program. In 2011, Lee initiated With Out Walls (WOW) to bring COTN’s award-winning programs to underfunded and undeveloped teen shelters across the country. Dr. Lee is an Elfenworks In Harmony With Hope Recipient
- Father Gregory Boyle, S.J., founder of homeboy-industries.org, a one-stop shop for those who have decided to leave the world of LA’s gangs behind. Homeboy provides addiction and recovery programs; a full curriculum of classes that includes anger management, parenting, GED and computer classes; and free services such as tattoo removal, mental health counseling, job development, legal counseling and case management. Former gang members help manage and run the enterprise, which includes a bakery, café, and silkscreen operation, and maintenance and retail shops that fund about a third of Homeboy’s operations. Fr. Greg has been a beacon of hope in a blighted landscape. His efforts have directly impacted the lives of more than 100,000 people. Fr. Greg is an Elfenworks In Harmony With Hope Recipient
- Joyce Dattner, Founder & Director, All Stars Project of the SF Bay Area brought one of the country’s largest antiviolence youth development programs to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2002, promoting youth development through an innovative performance-based model. This supplemental education approach, which recognizes outside-of-school learning opportunities as crucial to urban children’s success in school and life, provides educational and performing arts activities for thousands of poor and minority young people around the Bay Area. By allowing youth to participate fully in all aspects of its programs, participants fully develop as learners, producers and leaders. Dr. Dattner is an Elfenworks In Harmony With Hope Recipient
- Christa Gannon, JD, Founder of Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY) provides support and the promise of a new direction to thousands of troubled and at-risk youth in Silicon Valley each year. In 1996, Gannon, a law school student, realized that young people who are in trouble with the law might be less likely to re-offend if they understood the law and the consequences of their crimes. Following a 12-week law course, 70 youth who want and need to transform their lives can enter a one- to two-year leadership training, giving them the skills and support they need to realize their true potential. A two-year mentor program helps another 100 kids struggling with drug or alcohol use, and a middle school platform reaches out to 1,000 at-risk kids before they get into trouble. FLY costs less than 10% the cost of incarceration, and more than 80% of all youth in FLY’s programs share that FLY inspired them to change their lives and helped them develop the skills and confidence to make change happen. In FLY’s Leadership Program 80% get engaged in school following the program. Christa Gannon is an Elfenworks In Harmony With Hope Recipient
- Rev. Peter G. Young, Founder, Peter Young Housing, Industries, and Treatment, PYHIT.com, has helped inmates and parolees overcome their addictions for more than half a century. PYHIT evolved out of Fr. Young’s firm belief that effective recovery is only possible if treatment is followed up with housing and jobs training. Fr. Young has forged successful public-private partnerships across New York State. The network of treatment, housing and job training programs spans 100 sites. Three thousand people rely on services from PYHIT every day. PYHIT boasts a recidivism rate of less than 10 percent. In all, Fr. Young has helped hundreds of thousands move from addiction to becoming taxpaying members of society. Rev. Young is an Elfenworks In Harmony With Hope Recipient.
All of the above peace innovators would surely welcome support, whether financial or spiritual or both.