CINCINATTI, Ohio (Mennonite Mission Network) – The first exercise that Jonathan and Sarah Nahar led in their seminar, 'Stir Up Peace: How Nonviolent Direct Action Creates Change' began with simple instructions. Separate into pairs, with one attendee role playing "Person A," and the other attendee playing "Person B." The second step was just as straightforward, but a bit more alarming. "Person A," instructed Sarah. "I need you to put yourself into the mindset of someone who is kicking a dog."
To be clear, no dogs were harmed in the Wednesday afternoon seminar. The role-playing exercise, however, did have a very real point.
"When we see people do things, there is often a justification for it," Sarah explained. "There is often a story that is powering their actions. Part of what we do in nonviolent direct action training … is understand the narratives that propel violence."
After the scenes between the pairs of attendees played out, the people who role played 'Person A' shared their feelings from the exercise. Some felt tense. Others misunderstood. Many felt afraid. Attendees who played 'Person B' said they felt horrified, helpless, and angry. Some tried to ask their partner questions. Others tried to put themselves between the imaginary dog and the person kicking it. A few wanted to know if their partner was hurt by the dog or not.
The Nahars pointed out that some of these nonviolent tactics used by the seminar attendees were the same ones that are explained in a new video series, 'Stir Up Peace,' created by the Nahars and Mennonite Mission Network.
The nine part video series expands on what nonviolent direct action means, what tactics and ideas are incorporated, and gives individuals and groups tools and examples to explore it further.
"We tried to make a video series that would minister to a range of people in your church," said Sarah. "So that by the end of the series … there would be some shared language and shared analysis to then say, 'what could we do together?'"
The video series delves into topics such as building campaigns to create change, points of intervention against injustice, and, similar to the seminar exercise, directly confronting conflict.
"What nonviolent direct action is trying to do is to help steward conflict," said Sarah. "We're ministers to help [conflict] become generative rather than destructive if at all possible."
For more information and to view the entire 'Stir Up Peace' video series, click here.