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Palestinian author promotes nonviolence

Christian Myers | Friday, September 30, 2011

Even in countries torn by longterm conflicts and stifled by oppression, Palestinian author and peace activist Jean Zaru said nonviolence is the only acceptable counter to oppression.

Zaru delivered a lecture titled “A Journey of Transformation: Nonviolent Resistance to Structures of Domination” at the Hesburgh Center for International Studies on Thursday morning.

“Non-violence is a way of opposing evil without becoming evil in the process,” Zaru said.

Zaru addressed the need for non-violent resisitance to oppression, especially in her native Palestine.

In Gaza and the West Bank, Zaru said the current situation is one of suppression by the government, military and media.

“Normal life for Palestinians living in occupied territories has ended,” Zaru said.

She added that withdrawal from the problem will never solve the crisis of oppression. Palestinians who withdraw from public life or move overseas are too distant from the problem to bring about change.

“Withdrawal cushions us from the full impact of our situation,” Zaru said. “Our perceptions are lost.”

He added that non-violent resistance, however, achieves the kind of change that will eventually bring piece to the region, and to resist is to be human.

“We continue to resist because something is more sacred to us than comfort and convenience,” Zaru said. “That something can be anything. It could be God, love, respect for human life, a sense of justice or many other things.”

Zaru defined resistance as the refusal to obey structures of control.

“We need to mobilize people not with fear, anger or blame and not through a sense of shame,” Zaru said. “We need to move them to act from a feeling of hope in service of things that they love.”

She said people must avoid feeling morally superior and must recognize that oppressors are often driven by fear.

“Oppressor and oppressed both live in fear and do not have peace,” Zaru said.

She said she believes that to solve the problems of the outside world, one must look inward and act justly toward others.

“Let us look into ourselves,” Zaru said. “The outward experience is a reflection of inward state … God’s reign cannot just be inner or outer. It must be both or neither. Where I am in my inner struggle, I am in my outward actions.”

Zaru said she has faced structures of domination and injustice throughout her life, but her religious beliefs have sustained her.

“My experience was rooted in and filtered through my identity as a Palestinian Christian Quaker woman,” she said.

Recognizing God’s presence in the enemy is an everyday challenge, Zaru said, but God’s will makes loving her neighbor necessary.

“I recognize the divine in everyone, all without exception” Zaru said.

Upon reflection, Zaru believers her travels have showed her that the modern world is all intertwined.

“Common needs, desires, fears and hopes bind us together,” Zaru said.

In a similar vein, he added that all people should recognize the universal values of mutual trust, compassion, ethical priorities and justice.

“We cannot live a single day without deciding between yes and no, life and death, war and peace,” Zaru said. “There is no escaping the question, and answering it is our challenge.”