Marshall B. Rosenberg writes that he met with 170 Palestinian Muslim men in a refugee camp. It was the day after Israelis fired tear gas into the camp. Empty canisters labeled “made in the USA” littered the area.
Rosenberg, an American, was trying to present concepts of nonviolent communication. He was abruptly interrupted by a Palestinian man who shouted “Murderer.” Others joined in, yelling “Assassin!” “Child-killer!”
Engaging the first man, Rosenberg listened in order to discern the feelings and personal needs behind each statement the man shouted. He writes, “Once the gentleman felt understood, he was able to hear me explain my purpose for being at the camp. An hour later, the same man who called me a murderer invited me to his home for a Ramadan dinner.”
A reviewer of Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life writes that in this time of uncivil discourse and mean-spirited demagoguery, the principles and practice of nonviolent communication are necessary to peaceful resolution of conflicts, whether personal or public, domestic or international.
We have an opportunity to explore such principles and practices. On Aug. 30 and 31, Allan Rohlfs will coach participants in the skills of effectively listening to the needs of others and clearly understanding and expressing our own needs. In my conversations with him, Rohlfs observes that learning non-combative ways to respond to others is a wonderful way to embody Romans 12:17-18: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”