Journey Toward Nonviolence 1: Encountering Our Fear of "The Other"

The first journal entry I wrote this year in my commitment to studying nonviolence and peacemaking was like a moment of declaration. Scribbled hastily into a travel-sized Moleskine notebook on a plane ride back from Philadelphia — I’d just devoured the first few chapters of John Dear’s book A Persistent Peace — it was a moment of looking back at so many inherent beliefs or fears or prejudices that I have carried at different times in my life and beginning to defiantly say, “No more.”

Here’s what I wrote:

In my life, I’ve often encountered a deep fear and suspicion of “the other” — people who are different, theologies that are liberal, interpretations of history that are radical and subversive because they bring to light the darker sides of those people and stories we’ve always heralded. 

Now I find myself asking: on what basis, this fear? 

On what basis, this suspicion and emboldened rejection? 

If Jesus is real, then God is for all people.

— 18 January 2009, My Year with Gandhi Journal

For instance, I remember taking an AP Prep course for US History in tenth grade. The instructor gave us Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States as a core text for the class.

It was the first time I learned that the first settlers didn’t necessarily treat well the Native American people who were living here before they arrived. In fact, it was the first time I ever thought about how the experience might have been for the Native Americans at all. 

Those are the kind of moments I was remembering when I wrote that first journal entry.

What about you: Can you recall a moment when you faced an inherent fear or suspicion of “the other” in your life?