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Nonviolence Training Weekend - Report

Led by Cathy Hoffman and Ken Butigan, a weekend nonviolence training session was held in Cambridge for Campaign Nonviolence (http://paceebene.org/campaign-nonviolence).

The training brought local peace activists together with folks from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Worcester and Dighton, MA and one stalwart life-long activist from Baltimore, Maryland.

The weekend began with good coffee and an overview of the Campaign Nonviolence which invites people everywhere to: Practice active nonviolence toward themselves, all others and the world; Join in building a culture of active nonviolence; and Take nonviolent action connecting the dots between peace, economic justice and the environment.

In September 2014, Campaign Nonviolence will engage in actions in hundreds of cities for concrete policy shifts toward reversing the climate crisis, ending poverty and abolishing war, with a first focus on banning military drones.

The agenda was personal and political, with participants sharing their inspirations, their fears and their ongoing work for peace and justice.

We discussed the Barbara Deming metaphor of the Two Hands of Nonviolence. “They have as it were two hands upon him – the one calming him, making him ask questions, as the other makes him move.” (From Revolution and Equilibrium)

In this metaphor, one hand is stretched out to signal “Stop!” and the other hand is palm up reaching toward the other in a sign of recognition of the humanity of the opponent. This is one of the basic tensions created by active nonviolence seeking change.

The importance of past movements was illustrated by large wall “murals” which led to discussion of the history – civil rights, women’s, and no nukes movements were touched on.

Some “visioning” work was done to think about the world we would like to see ten years from now, one in which people earn a living wage and climate change has been addressed.

As always, participating in trainings is a wonderful experience that resonates long after the training is over. The ideals and values that are brought out in training are those that foster deeper human connections in a context of working to change the world.

If I have any critique of the weekend is that we did not have enough time, particularly to discuss and develop the real action that is needed. This was perhaps complicated by a number of factors, including that the Boston area has many groups that are already working on all the issues of concern - peace, drones, climate change and all aspects of basic rights.

However, this writer thinks that one of the deeper problems that eventually must be addressed is that all the groups work within particular “comfort zones” and do not talk together enough (if at all). For real change to take place, we must travel together to “discomfort zones” and learn to walk forward together to bring about the “enormous changes at the last minute” that are so desperately needed. Nonviolence trainings give us valuable tools to help us in this work.

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