Sami Awad – what's so powerful about non-violence?

Ever since he was 16-years old, Bethlehem-born Sami Awad has been asking himself what is so powerful about non-violence. "Can I make a decision that is motivated by the future that I seek – not the past that I experience?" Megan Titley writes.

Ever since he was 16-years old, Bethlehem-born Sami Awad has been asking himself what is so powerful about non-violence.


Speaking to an audience in Stroud as part of his UK tour, Sami, a Palestinian Christian peace builder, told the crowd how his uncle was deported by the Israeli army for his part in non-violent resistance against the occupation.

Sami’s Uncle was deemed a threat to the national security of Israel and to this day is not welcome back except as a tourist. “That is how dangerous non-violence is,” Sami said. And the event has shaped the course of his life.

Growing up in a violent period of history in Bethlehem in the West Bank in the late 60s and seeing his father abused on a daily basis, Sami felt that he “had every excuse and justification to hate Israelis.”

Later on in life, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Sami asked himself some fundamental questions. "What makes our enemy our enemy? What shapes the mindset of our enemy? What made the Jewish community come up with this mindset of exclusivity – that they have an exclusive claim to the Holy Land and do not recognise the equal rights of others in and to the land."

That is how dangerous non-violence is," Sami said. And the event has shaped the course of his life. "We need to be able to understand what motivates us to make a decision for the future, to create a possibility for the future."

He wondered if he could truly follow the teachings in the Bible. “When Jesus commands me to love my enemy what does that mean?” The answer to these questions came when Sami’s Jewish American friends invited him to go on the Bearing Witness Retreat to visit the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

“My enemy was a group of people that had experienced continued threat, violence, discrimination and racism,” Sami said. “There was never a healing for the Jews. Both groups, the Jews and the Palestinians have a similar type of trauma – an existential threat to their existence – so they can never let their guards down." 

"For the first time I began to see that peacemaking is not about making a political commitment, it’s a commitment to a deep healing of deep traumas. Until we do that we can never do peacemaking.”

Calling for a paradigm shift in peace and justice Sami, who established Holy Land Trust with Palestinian and Israeli peace activists, explained how his organisation tries to help people to look into the past with a different lens.

He said: “We negotiate peace out of fear, we resist out of fear. Fear is what motivates and if we are not able to bring about healing there can never be any peace for the future." 

There was never a healing for the Jews. Both groups, the Jews and the Palestinians have a similar type of trauma – an existential threat to their existence – so they can never let their guards down.

“We need to be able to understand what motivates us to make a decision for the future, to create a possibility for the future. What is that future in the Holy Land that is free from the past we created – that truly honours the freedom of the Jew, the Christian, and the Muslim?"

"Can I make a decision that is motivated by the future that I seek - not the past that I experience?" It’s a question that Sami hopes to see answered with a “yes” in his lifetime.

The event was organised by Amos Trust and Gloucester-based Spirit of Peace.

Below is a short film about Holy Land Trust that we shot in August 2015 during the Bet Lahem Live Arts Festival. Please watch and share.

 




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