Celebrate Malala Day, November 10

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who was shot by a Taliban gunman for seeking an education for herself and other girls in her country, now has a day in her honor thanks to former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the current United Nations special envoy for education.

In a recorded webcast, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared, “Citizens form across the globe are speaking out for Malala and on behalf of the 61 million children still not in school.” Watch the entire webcast here.

Malala continues to recover from her wounds in a UK hospital. The video in this article shows her with her father reading the many well wishes sent to her from around the world.

The following video is a documentary that profiles Malala. This 2009 film by Adam B. Ellick has been made available by The New York Times. Continue to pray for Malala and support her cause of education for girls and other children around the world.

“How Do We Deal with Extreme Violence without Using Force in Return?”

Peace activist Scilla Elworthy posed this question to the audience at a recent TEDx lecture at the University Of Exeter, United Kingdom.

In the video below, Elworthy talks about how bullies use violence and describes the personal changes and skills needed to fight extreme violence without using violence in return. She points to modern and historical heroes—Aung San Suu Kyi, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela—and the personal philosophies that powered their peaceful protests.

GVON Exclusive: Watch an Award-Winning Nonviolence Film Through Oct. 2nd

As part of Global Voices of Nonviolence, EthnoGraphic Media has made their award-winning nonviolence film Little Town of Bethlehem available on VoicesofNonviolence.org through October 2.

Palestinian Boy Near Israeli SoldiersFrom the film: Palestinian child in front of Israeli soldiers in Bethlehem

Little Town of Bethlehem
Come face-to-face with the courageous struggle for a nonviolent solution to the crisis that has torn Palestinians and Israelis apart. Little Town of Bethlehem is a bold documentary by award-winning director Jim Hanon and producer Mart Green. It shares the gripping story of how three men born into the cycle of violence have chosen to risk everything to bring peace to their homelands. Sami and Ahmad are Palestinians; one is a Christian, the other a Muslim; and Yonatan is an Israeli Jew. Each finds inspiration through the example of Martin Luther King Jr.’s and Mahatma Gandhi’s sacrificial commitment to equality. At great personal cost, they join together in a heroic and dangerous cause.

In the city of Bethlehem, where it is said that God became man, these men stand side by side with those whose only desire is to be treated as equals, as fellow human beings. Their story brings the possibility of real hope to this embattled region and provides a model for resolution of hostilities throughout the world.

Visit LittleTownofBethlehem.org to learn more and watch the trailer. Screening licenses are available during GVON at 25% off.

Hope for the Holy Land Tour Starts Today

What’s the situation on the ground in the Holy Land today? What challenges need to be overcome? How are Palestinians and Israelis working to improve the situation for both peoples? How can Christians be peacemakers and reconcilers in the midst of this situation?

Mae Elise Cannon of World Vision, Sami Awad, executive director of Holy Land Trust, and Lynne Hybels, one of the founders of Willow Creek Church in Chicago, have teamed up to address these important questions and more as part of the Hope for the Holy Land tour, which starts today at Vineyard Columbus in Columbus, OH, and runs through September 30.

According to the brochure, the team is “Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine, Pro-Peace, Pro-Justice, and Pro-Jesus,” interested in promoting “a sustainable Christian Church in the Holy Land,” and seeks “to improve the lives of children and communities.” This tour provides an excellent opportunity to hear voices of nonviolence, hope, and peace during Global Voices of Nonviolence (GVON), and to learn how you can be part of the solution.

In addition to Columbus, OH, the tour will stop at locations in the Twin Cities (Minnesota); Troy, MI; Barrington, IL; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; and Wheaton, IL. For details, refer to the Hope for the Holy Land brochure (PDF file), VoicesofNonviolence.org events calendar, and the specific venue websites.

Uncommon Hospitality in the Midst of Unthinkable Tragedy

The following excerpt is from the article September 11th and the Hospitable People of Gander, Newfoundland by Ethan Trex. Read the article in its entirety on MentalFloss.com.

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, our Canadian neighbors sprang into action to help clear American airspace of any other potentially dangerous flights. The action was known as Operation Yellow Ribbon, and in those uncertain first hours after the attacks, it was hugely helpful. The mission also made a tiny town in Newfoundland world famous for its hospitality.

Canadian authorities began diverting flights heading into the U.S. to various locations around Canada to help neutralize any lingering threats, but the task was a tricky one. It wouldn’t have made much sense to pull flights away from American airspace only to route them to Canada’s major centers, so the ideal landing spots for these planes would be relatively remote while also having a large enough airport to accommodate all the traffic.

As luck would have it, Canada had just such an airport in Gander, Newfoundland.

Read the full text here: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/99729

The Origins of the U.N. International Day of Peace

The U.N. International Day of Peace had an inauspicious beginning in 1981 when the United Nations adopted resolution 36/67, which established the International Day of Peace on the third Tuesday in September. Few knew about or observed the day until 2001 when the day was changed to September 21 by resolution 55/282. The story about how that happened and how the day gained international prominence is the subject of this post.

In 1999, a young filmmaker by the name of Jeremy Gilley embarked on a journey to unite the world in peace on this one day in September. The films below tell his story. The first, a Ted Talk featuring Gilley, could be described as the Reader’s Digest condensed version; the second, The Day After Peace, is a full documentary by Gilley about his journey. Whichever one you choose to watch, enjoy this remarkable story of courage and perseverance.



People of the Third Way

by Ben Irwin

This is Gamla. Or more precisely, what’s left of it.

The ruins of Gamla. The Sea of Galilee is visible from the topmost peak.

Carved into a steep hillside northeast of Galilee, Gamla is where the Jewish Zealot movement was born. Zealots demanded strict adherence to the law and total separation from anyone who didn’t believe exactly as they did.

To be a Zealot was to be perpetually angry. Angry at the apostasy of your own people. But most of all, angry at the occupation. Because if you were Jewish and alive in the first century, your destiny was not in your own hands. You were a subject of the Roman Empire. Your destiny was in pagan hands.

Zealots couldn’t abide by that. Occupation had to be resisted by any means necessary. There were rumors in Galilee of Zealot assassins who roamed the streets by night, carrying small daggers called sicarii with which they silently cut down their enemies.

To a Zealot, God’s kingdom advanced on the tip of a sword.

And if he ever needed reminding of who (and where) his enemies were, a Zealot could simply climb atop his fortress and look across the Sea of Galilee.

There, on the opposite shore. Tiberias.

Tiberius in the distance, located on the western shore of Galilee.

Tiberias was established during Jesus’ lifetime. An entire city built by Herod Antipas, puppet-king of Galilee, to honor his new boss, the Emperor Tiberius. (Apparently, Herod had trouble with spelling.)

The city of Tiberias was home to the Herodians, Jewish families who had allied themselves to Herod Antipas and, by extension, to Rome itself. The Herodians didn’t believe in God’s kingdom; they were too busy building one for themselves in Tiberias.

The Zealots’ response to occupation was to fight. The Herodians’ response was to make the most of it — and, if they could, make a buck from it.

Two extremes, literally on opposite shores of the sea.

Caught in the middle, on the northern edge of Galilee, was Capernaum. Home base, as it were, for Jesus and his followers.

While the Herodians loved their friends (those they could benefit from) and the Zealots hated their enemies, Jesus climbed a hill between Tiberias and Gamla and said:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

While the Herodians cashed in on Roman oppression and Zealots fought back with swords, Jesus taught:

Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.

Jesus stood between the extremes of groveling accommodation and reciprocal violence and offered a third way. He rejected the separatist impulse of the Zealots and the opportunistic impulse of the Herodions. Instead, he taught his followers to subvert evil with love. Not the kind of love that involves becoming everyone’s doormat. But the kind that seizes the initiative, exposes oppression for what it truly is, and always — ALWAYS — leaves the door open for the oppressor to repent.

Exploring Jesus’ command to go the extra mile, Walter Wink once wrote:

A soldier could impress a civilian to carry his pack one mile only; to force the civilian to go further carried with it severe penalties under military law. Nevertheless, this levy was a bitter reminder to the Jews that they were a subject people even in the Promised Land.

Jesus does not counsel revolt. One does not “befriend” the soldier, draw him aside, and drive a knife into his ribs.

But why walk the second mile?

The question here is how the oppressed can recover the initiative, how they can assert their human dignity. The rules are Caesar’s but not how one responds to the rules.

Imagine then the soldier’s surprise when, at the next mile marker, he reluctantly reaches to assume his pack. You say, “Oh no, let me carry it another mile.” Normally he has to coerce your kinsmen to carry his pack; now you do it cheerfully and will not stop! Is this a provocation? Are you insulting his strength? Being kind? Trying to get him disciplined for seeming to make you go farther than you should?

From a situation of servile impressment, you have once more seized the initiative. You have taken back the power of choice. The soldier is thrown off-balance by being deprived of the predictability of your response.

Some readers may object to the idea of discomfiting the soldier. But can people engaged in oppressive acts repent unless made uncomfortable with their actions? Loving confrontation can free both the oppressed from docility and the oppressor from sin.

Being followers of Jesus means becoming people of the third way. People who transcend categories, stereotypes, and extremes. People who are not co-opted by a single ideology, whose response to evil cannot be predicted based on all the usual categories. People who rise above polarization and find compelling and creative ways to bring heaven to earth, bit by bit.

In fact, it is by doing so that we truly become followers of Jesus.

Take another look at Matthew 5. Notice the connection between loving your enemies and being children of God.

Many in Galilee thought they were automatically God’s people because of what was on their birth certificate: descendant of Abraham. They saw themselves as the elect, the chosen, the predestined.

You can imagine how this kind of thinking cultivated in people an “us vs. them” mentality. Just like the one that incited the Zealots to violence.

When Jesus spoke these words in Matthew 5, there were, doubtless, Zealots or Zealot sympathizers among the broader audience. Imagine what it was like for them to hear this itinerant rabbi — who they hoped was the Messiah who would lead them into battle against Rome — tell them, “If you want to be God’s children, then you must learn to love your enemy.”

I imagine that was the last time many Zealots had anything to do with Jesus.

What if being the people of God isn’t defined by how well we separate ourselves from those who don’t believe as we do, but rather by how well we love those who don’t believe as we do?

Finally… it’s worth remembering that neither the Zealots nor Herodians lived to see the end of the first century. The Herodians, lost in the pursuit of power and comfort, cast their lot with the family of Herod. After the first century, there were no more Herods to benefit from.

As for the Zealots, in A.D. 67, Rome laid siege to Gamla, breaching the city wall and killing thousands. Those who survived the attack committed mass suicide, jumping off cliffs above the village. Later, the Zealots briefly took control of Jerusalem and ruled with a brutality surpassing that of their enemies.

Their legacy is a reminder that violence breeds only more violence. Extremism breeds extremism. Oppression breeds oppression.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to break the cycle of violence. We are called to be people of the third way.

The breach in the wall at Gamla, where Vespasian’s army broke through.

Guest blogger Ben Irwin is a writer, editor, humanitarian activist, and armchair theologian. He studied systematic theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and spent six years in the Christian publishing business. He also served as a writer for World Vision, a global NGO fighting poverty and injustice. This post was originally published on Ben’s blog. We’re grateful that Ben has allowed us to use it here.