Why Nonviolent Civil Disobedience?

The Christian Peace Witness considers prophetic direct action, often including nonviolent civil disobedience, to be a key component of our witness to end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The following article helps people understand and prepare to take part in nonviolent civil disobedience.

"There is nothing wrong with a traffic law which says you have to stop for a red light. But when a fire is raging, the fire truck goes right through that red light... Or when a [person] is bleeding to death, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed...

Disinherited people all over the world are bleeding to death from deep social and economic wounds. They need brigades of ambulance drivers who will have to ignore the red lights of the present system until the emergency is solved. Massive civil disobedience is a strategy for social change which is at least as forceful as an ambulance with its siren on full."

- Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Trumpet of Conscience

As the violence in Iraq escalated, the Christian Peace Witness organized nonviolent civil disobedience to publicly say that Jesus calls us to love our enemies and to repent of our complicity with a nation which relies on violence rather than right relationships. Like the Old Testament prophets who spoke truth to power, both then and now, we prophetically urge the nation and its leaders to end the U.S. occupation in Iraq and to support a just and peaceful resolution.

Throughout history, people have responded to numerous social and political emergencies and transformed systems of institutionalized violence by engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience. Social transformations -- such as women's suffrage, establishing workers' rights, ending legal racial segregation, protecting the environment, establishing a moratorium on nuclear testing and ending the Vietnam War -- were the direct result of broad-based networks of ordinary citizens who took action. These and many other movements featured nonviolent civil disobedience as a way of clearly and publicly withdrawing consent from unjust policies and to sharpen for society the crucial choice for justice and peace.

People of faith have played a perennial role in taking action on behalf of justice and peace. For 2,000 years, Christians have taken public, prophetic and risky steps to put into practice the unquenchable, unifying divine love proclaimed and lived out by Jesus.

In the face of the growing emergency in Iraq, it is crucial that we as people of faith take loving and determined action to make unmistakably clear the need for a new course in Iraq and in the world. There are many different, powerful ways to do this. Nonviolent civil disobedience is one of these powerful ways.

Read the Nonviolence Pledge


Preparing for Civil Disobedience

Preparing ourselves to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience is crucial. Prayer, study, reflection and training inform our decision and prepare us in spirit, mind and heart to take this action.

We encourage you to prayerfully reflect on the war and the ways you are being moved to end it, including the call to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience. Where is God in this call? What are you being called to undertake? What are your hopes and fears? We invite you to join with others in your religious community and your family to explore this.

Nonviolent Action Training
CPW strongly encourages anyone engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience to take Nonviolent Action Training. Nonviolence training introduces participants to the why, what, when, where and how of this nonviolent civil disobedience witness. It is designed to help make the action effective, powerful, prayerful and peaceful.

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