Monday, December 1, 2008

Thank you my teacher, thank you!

Reflecting on the recent national campaign against violence on women and children, as well as on this week’s dedicated campaign remembering the victims of HIV and AIDS and their caregivers, it is clear that not only our own country, but in fact our world, urgently needs to cultivate a culture of non-voilent resistance.

More than ever we need people who will bravely stand up and resist all forms of voilence, abuse, injustice, corruption; who are prepared to speak out despite the risk of being accused of intrusiveness and obstinacy; who will constantly protest when and wherever the law is transgressed or disobeyed. Oh, how the world and our country yearns for people who will demonstrate such courage, who will embrace such prophetic responsibility without hesitation, even at the cost of their own popularity and status.

There is, however, a kind of protest which is extremely destructive and harmful, a form of activism which can insult or injure the other. An approach to protest which views the other primarily as an enemy and which seeks to eliminate or even destroy the other, is completely counter-productive. Such resistance is often fuelled by disregard and hatred. It only furthers a cycle of voilence. In the end it does not really help society to change for the better. Instead, it perpetuates a spirit of hatred and instills an inclination to retribution in the hearts of a next generation which can, over time, cause irreparable damage to the moral fibre of a society.

What is needed, is a more imaginative and creative kind of protest, a form of resistance which can truly surprise and change the other, a non-voilent approach which, while never hesitating to speak the truth, does not injure and offend. To the contrary, one’s protest should help the other to dicover and express their God given humanity and dignity. This is only possible when we constantly view the other as a precious creature of God, someone made in the image of God, who in spite of his/her failures and selfish habits, is called to reflect something of God’s glory. A truly non-voilent approach will even believe and nurture the hope that our most ardent adversary can teach us something.

In the words of a wise man who was asked for advice on how to treat one’s enemies:

“If you come across people who, metaphorically speaking, ‘keep pushing your buttons’, do not look at them with disdain or hatred. Look at them with understanding and love, folding your hands as in prayer, while you keep saying: ‘Thank you my teacher, thank you my teacher! I struggle to like you, but you help me to learn patience, to grow in compassion. Thank you’…”

Is this not what Jesus also taught us? And is this not what a non-voilent approach to life and to other people is all about?

Carel Anthonissen

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