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Celebrating King, creating peace
an article by Rev. Pat McCaughan, Episcopal News Service (abridged)

Video: Janet Chisholm: Walking away from fear

One way to interrupt violence is simply to raise a hand as though warding it away while simultaneously extending the other hand outwards in invitation for peaceful engagement.

Janet Chisholm

click on photo to enlarge

It may seem a symbolic gesture, but the upraised hand conveys “to an aggressor to stop what you are doing, [that] I refuse to honor the role you’re choosing to play,” said the Rev. Steve Shanks, a vocational deacon at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Trussville, Alabama. . . .

Shanks teaches the gesture during training sessions for Creating a Culture of Peace, a national program founded by Janet Chisholm, a former chair of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. . . .

The CCP trainings incorporate “circles of truth” that group five or six participants to tackle a controversial issue. With a topic like gun control, for example, each participant receives a few minutes to represent to the others in the circle the viewpoint associated with a gun control activist or a handgun owner or a media-relations person for the National Rifle Association. Then each is asked to take a step to the right and repeat the exercise from the viewpoint of the person who had been standing there.

“That way, everybody takes a turn standing in everybody else’s shoes” as a way of promoting dialogue and building community, Shanks said.

The Rev. Jeremy Lucas, vicar of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Battle Ground, Washington, has lived the power of nonviolent resistance.

“I grew up in Birmingham [Alabama], although I wasn’t of age during the civil rights movement,” Lucas said during a recent telephone interview. “I was born in 1971, but that spirit permeated Birmingham. If ever there was a place that you thought would not be desegregated and would not be somewhere that Dr. King’s message would come true, it would have been in Birmingham.”

The movement there happened when television coverage raised awareness of the violence leveled against civil rights workers, and all over the country “people rallied to the cause,” he said.

With the gun-control debate, “we have to attack this problem of violence, to use a rather aggressive metaphor descriptor,” said Lucas, who also participates in CCP training. “But we have to go at it in many different ways.

“Individually, we have to find those places in ourselves that are violent and pray for their redemption and work in a way that leads us to see that there is another way.”

The CCP training “seeks to change minds, to change attitudes, to really step out in a new way,” he said. . . .

Building community is the bottom line, he said. “Although individual actions had to be made, individual decisions had to be taken, the first action was to get involved with other people doing the same thing and to work in community and to work with others struggling along the same path to help one another” . . .

Information about the CCP trainings and other resources on nonviolence are available at the Episcopal Peace Fellowship website.


Question(s) related to this article:

What's the message to us today from Martin Luther King, Jr.?,

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Latest reader comment:

I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would be happy that "drum majors for justice" are using the latest technologies to advance the cause of racial justice. The "just Democracy Blog" is a wonderful resource . One of the goals of the bloggers is to advance the national dialogue on racial justice. I recommend joing the Advancement Project mailing list.

This report was posted on January 25, 2013.