Janet G. Chisholm grew up in Las Vegas, where she and her family joined hundreds of others for a unique entertainment: watching atomic bomb tests.
“They told us it was safe,” she writes in a story about her journey from naïve child awed by the power of nuclear weapons to an active proponent of nonviolence. Later on, she learned the truth about that “safety” and the cataclysmic impact of those desert fireworks.
Today, Chisholm, a social worker, travels the country teaching peace.
She’s a trainer for Fellowship of Reconciliation, a 98-year-old private, interfaith, not-for-profit agency based in Nyack, N.Y., with affiliates in 40 other countries.
During Convention, she and colleague Jeremy Lucas are leading four-hour sessions summarizing the standard 18-hour training, “From Violence to Wholeness.”
Violence, Chisolm demonstrates with several anecdotes, can take many forms: spray-painting a billboard with a dissenting message; standing by passively as one person attacks another — even excommunicating a soldier for following orders.
“Violence is emotional, verbal, physical, institutional, cultural, and social,” she elaborated. “Anything that dominates, dehumanizes, diminishes, or destroys ourselves, others or the world.”
Root causes of violent behavior include fear, feelings of inequality or lack of control, greed, a perceived threat, ignorance, chemicals, tradition and desperation.
As a response to pervasive violence, Chisholm and her counterparts at the Fellowship advocate transformative nonviolence. That process, designed by Ken Butigan, begins with understanding one’s own vulnerabilities and those of others; learning to recognize coercion and domination in social settings; absorbing new methods of interacting with others — such as active listening and according mutual respect — and taking the initiative to change the dynamics of violence by creating just and compassionate solutions that address causes of conflict.
Chisholm says the Foundation also promulgates six principles of nonviolence based on the work of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change:
- Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
- Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
- Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
- Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
- Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
- Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.
The final session begins at 1 p.m. today at Gethsemane Episcopal Church. A $10 donation is requested.