Written by Dr. Joan May T. Cordova
Believing that the universe is on the side of justice is an affirmation of faith: “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see" (1). Faith enables us to stay focused on visions for a more just world, sustained by the belief that as we join generations who’ve struggled for liberation, justice will eventually win. All who embody nonviolence must hold on to faith - not merely in a contemplative way - but to draw on faith that fuels the work of resisting unjust conditions. Listen to music pulsing in movements for justice: Buoyed by faith, people sing new lyrics boldly declaring freedom while drawing spiritual strength from voices and acts of resistance together, determined to transform institutions.
In the long journey towards justice, people are attacked, beaten, and imprisoned. Yet the work for justice continues. In prisons, nonviolence resisters find power in singing, chanting; the swaying of bodies, heads nodding, humming, each breath a prayer summoning an enduring faith that God is love. God is with us, grounding us in love, an agape love that resists injustice and restores community amidst all. Always on the side of justice (2), God walks with us, guides us, and connects us to spirits of ancestors whose lives inspire hope.
In the spiritual presence of ancestors, faith deepens as we remember how so many survived the extreme violence of rape and abuse by white supremacist patriarchs who consider/ed others’ lives to be expendable sources of profit. Despite all, ancestors not only survived, they nurtured generations of communities with faith and love while fiercely challenging injustice. While facing oppressors eye to eye, ancestors expressed their dignity and shared humanity in the face of all. Nonviolent resisters met opponents with fierce love intended to transform relationships and create Beloved Community. With the same dignity and principled resistance, ancestors organized to claim seats, land, access, votes, rights through slowly transforming relationships and institutions. Ancestors’ actions expanded the arc of the moral universe and while bending it closer towards justice.
It’s precisely at times like this when we need to summon faith in order to plunge into the work of nonviolence amidst uncertainty. Recalling how faith sustained lifelong struggles of generations before us, we honor ancestors by embracing their legacies with a new resolve to continue their struggles for liberation as we work to dismantle systems that destroy life. For the lives of ancestors who embody nonviolence exemplify how to courageously work for justice, choose and endure redemptive suffering for a cause, replace internal violence with faith while relating to all with love (3). We strive to Be Love, Be in Community - all while being and building Beloved Community. Everywhere.
1.) Hebrews 11:1, Good News Bible.
2.) Citing just one example from many theologies of liberation: In the 1980s, a group of Asian American teachers and theologians created sets of Christian Education curriculum that included “God is on the side of justice.” as one theme. The Pacific/Asian American Christian Education coalition of the San Francisco Bay Area (California) published and distributed these curriculum units designed for kindergarten through adult learning.
3.) I convey the spiraling, layered relationship of all nonviolence principles in my tribute to Hon. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian bit.ly/JohnLewisCTVivian