Recovering NonViolence - October Training Report

Overview of Training

I’m told that the word ‘nonviolence’ did not exist [at least in the English and German languages] until the 1950s. There’s a reason for that: the notion didn’t exist in our consciousness. We didn’t create a word for it because we didn’t get it yet! When Gandhi came along, he pointed out that every religion in the world knows that Jesus of Nazareth taught and lived nonviolence except one religion—Christianity. In very short order, after Gandhi, this became obvious to many wise people throughout the world. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the one who most influenced our American culture regarding nonviolence. That’s why I speak of it as a recovery of nonviolence.
— Richard Rohr, O.F.M.

On the third Friday of October 2015, beloved Orientation trainer Jerry Koch­ Gonzalez returned to share another day of training and practice in Non­violent Communication with Life Together fellows and staff. The day opened with small­ group meditations on emotional needs and the ways in which those needs impact our lives. Those meditations grounded large and small group sessions and activities to help articulate the four components of non­violent communication: observations, feelings, needs, and requests. The morning session closed with the group observing a modelling of the non­violent communication process with two fellows processing a real shared experience.

Between the morning and afternoon sessions, Allen Bourque led a body-­based prayer and movement exercise designed to resonate with our earlier work around awareness and perception regarding conflict. In the afternoon, fellows broke into individual house communities to put this practice to work in addressing emergent needs and situations.

Relation to Leadership

Non­violent communications is a methodology taught by Marshall Rosenberg that uses honest self­-expression and empathy to empower communications. The practice emphasizes self-­knowing ­ understanding the ways in which communication and experience impact one’s self, and developing the skills to articulate the resultant observations and needs in ways that facilitate communication. Often called “compassionate communication”, NVC allows practitioners to become more effective leaders through understanding their own intent, impact, and the ways in which they interact with the world, and developing the inner skills to communicate and take care of their emotional selves in difficult and distressing situations. Building skills in non­violent communication also helps to grow the practice of empathy, both for the self and for the other, which are much needed quantities in leadership and in our world.

Questions for Reflection

● How can empathy for the self result in more effective communication with others?

● Where can more effective and compassionate communications make impacts in our communities? Our cities? Our world?

● What is the value of spending time working through basic communication when the needs of the world are so urgent and pressing?

Saturday Report

Perspectives on Liberation Theology

On the third Saturday of October fellows heard from a panel of beloved witnesses ­scholars, social justice activists, and organizers ­ who shared theologies of liberation in their lives. Dr. Pamela Lightsey from Associate Dean from Boston University, site supervisor Francisco Ramos, and returning panelist Mariama White Hammond all spoke about the impacts of liberation theology on their ministry. Liberation theology is a set of inter­denominational Christian understandings of biblical and Gospel messages rooted in the lived experiences of poor and oppressed persons throughout the world. The best-­known version of this theology came out of Latin American in the 1950s, asserting that God had a “preferential option for the poor,” and influencing political and religious figures in that region and across the world. Other liberation theologies, including Black, Feminist, Womanist, and Queer, have emerged to help push the church to address pressing moral issues around poverty and oppression.

The panel and conversations with our witnesses helped fellows to develop their own understanding of liberation theologies and offered opportunities to continue learning individually and in community ­ through workshops, continued relationships, and reading groups.