From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace

by Marilyn Shea, OSF

The fourth in a series on active nonviolence from the Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa (

As reports of gun violence, including mass killings, hate crimes, domestic assaults, and other violent crimes in our country increase, the number of people who are turning to guns as a way of protecting themselves in also increasing. Statistics show a dramatic rise in the number of states enacting Stand your Ground laws and the number of permits to carry guns. Understandably, people are tired of being afraid of attackers or intruders. What disturbs me, however, is their willingness to counteract violence with violence, perhaps even deadly violence.

If we want to move from a culture of violence to a culture of peace, I propose that we arm ourselves, not with guns, but with the skills of active nonviolence. Being skilled in active nonviolence prepares us to resist all forms of violence and injustice but never by using violence ourselves.   Believing that God created people in God’s image and likeness and are thus basically good, we are called to seek reconciliation and understanding of the apparent enemy, rather than seeking retaliation or revenge. Because responding nonviolently can sometimes seem impossible, I keep looking for models to follow.

St. Francis provided an example of active nonviolence during the Fifth Crusade. He did not participate in the fighting, but instead did what could be considered a very dangerous and foolish thing. Knowing he could be killed, Francis walked unarmed into the enemy camp and asked to be taken to Sultan Malek-al-Kamil.Sources tell us that the two men spent several days together and their conversations resulted in a mutual respect for differences and a fraternal relationship. Although Francis entered the camp as an enemy, he left as a friend.

I am also impressed by the story of Antoinette Tuff who successfully disarmed a disturbed young man after he entered a Georgia school with an assault rifle and threats to kill. Antoinette had no weapons except her words and manner. Because she was calm and respectful and because she connected with the man emotionally, she was able to provide him with a reason to have hope, to believe in his own inherent goodness.

What parts of these stories resonate with you and with our world today?   What stories can you share regarding the power of non-violent peacemaking? What do we need to risk to shift from a culture of violence toward a culture of peace?

Marilyn Shea, OSF

Published in: on July 31, 2015 at 3:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

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