Spiritual Practices for the Common Good

Jonathan Brenneman, the Coordinator for Israel/Palestine Partners in Peacemaking, Mennonite Church USA, The Spiritual Practice of Nonviolent Direct Action:

Best practices for active bystanders able to disrupt the status quo:

  • Feel the discomfort.
  • Assess what’s happening.
  • Be aware of how many people are around.
  • Be aware of exits.
  • How can the person who is being attacked leave?
  • Beware of tunnel vision.
  • You don’t want things to escalate.
  • Understand your goal. You’re not out to win the argument but to resolve the issue.
  • Don’t engage the aggressor, engage the victim or target.
  • Use humor, empathy, and distraction.
  • Make people aware of different choices.
  • Make yourself lower than the aggressor.
  • Use natural facial expressions.
  • Show that you’re not trying to take control of the situation.
  • Videotape the situation.
  • Ask for help.
  • It’s counter intuitive to enter the situation with an attitude of submission, but that’s what works.
  • The goal is connection and repair, not to destroy the other.
  • The situation isn’t over when it’s over. Afterwards it’s time to debrief.

To de-escalate for the target of aggression:

  • Don’t act frightened or frightening.
  • Must speak respectfully.
  • Remain calm. Breath.
  • Silence disarms.
  • Watch body language.
  • Use humor and distractions.
  • Introduce yourself, shake hands.

To de-escalate:

  • Ask what time it is.
  • Empathize.
  • Remember that the aggressor is loved by God and wants to act positively.

(Notes from Jonathan’s presentation at the the 2017 Theology & Peace Conference: “Embracing We-Centricity: Practices that Nurture the Common Good”)

For more information on Christian Peacemaker Teams/Palestinehttps://www.cpt.org/work/palestine