Spiritual Practices for the Common Good

Jonathan Brenneman, the Coordinator for Israel/Palestine Partners in Peacemaking, Mennonite Church USA, The Spiritual Practice of Nonviolent Direct Action:

Best practices for active bystanders able to disrupt the status quo:

Feel the discomfort, assess what’s happening, be aware of how many people are around, be aware of exits. How can the person who is being attacked leave? Beware of tunnel vision. You don’t want things to escalate. Understand your goal. You’re not out to win the argument but to resolve the issue. Don’t engage the agressor, engage the victim or target. Use humor, empathy, and distraction, make people aware of different choices. Make yourself lower than the agressor. Use natural facial expressions. Show that you’re not trying to take control of the situation. Videotape the situation. Ask for help. It’s counter intuitive to enter the situation with an attitude of submission, but that’s what works. The goal is connection and repair, not to destroy the other. The situation isn’t over when it’s over. Afterwards it’s time to debrief.

To de-escalate for the target of agression: don’t act frightened or frightening. Must speak repsectfully. Remain calm. Breath. Silence disarms. Watch body language. Use humor and distractions. Introduce yourself, shake hands.

To de-eescalate: ask what time it is. Empathize. Remember that the agressor is loved by God and wants to act positively.