G20:WWJD?

Went really well. Don’t really know what to report about it yet…I had my head in it for so long, planning, wondering, hoping, that no matter how it came out I’d be too close to it to know what to say. We have two working groups that have come out of it doing some great work on responses at different levels. That’s great. Me, I was just happy to have anyone turn up, let alone 25 people.

And that’s what’s exciting to me about this: introducing people to this concept that most have never heard of, let alone understood, let alone engaged with. I get the sense that there’s a massive hill to climb here in getting people to engage with it. In lots of ways it’s not sexy.

So the day went roughly like this:

Session 1:
1. Welcome
2. Introductions and Group Agreements
a. What would make today suck for me is…
b. What I want from today is…
c. For this to be a safe space for me I need…
3. G20: What is it? (led by Marcus Curnow)

10:30 – 10:45: Break

Session 2:
4. Violence Barometer
5. Nonviolence theory and theology

12:30 – 1:30 Lunch

Session 3:
6. Some activist options: W.E.F. 2000 (Brent Lyons-Lee)
7. ‘Making our options EPYC’ – dealing with our violent options.

3:00 – 3:15 Break

Session 4:
8. Discussion of our best options

Marcus did a good job of introducing the issues, and the violent/not violent barometer exercise always goes well. It’s hard to stuff up really. Jarrod McKenna’s session on theology and nonviolence was a sensational intro, although it’s really hard for me to tell when I have so much other knowledge around it and therefore have categories already. Probably more time for questions would have been good, but the day wasn’t rushed at all. That was one of the good things about it: not feeling like we had to race on to something else all the time.

It was certainly a challenging time for a lot of people, having their whole idea of the ‘gospel’ challenged and then being challenged to move forward on it. But Jarrod did an awesome job not only of explaining the alternative to which we are being called, but in leading through with humility and sensitivity. More work to be done here though: it’s a quantum shift in thinking.

Oh, I forgot to say too: not long after we arrived there a Sunday Age reporter turned up – and stayed for almost 3 hours! A photographer came too, and stayed for about an hour. The story never ran, but it’s given me some experience with media and stuff. They just wanted a soundbyte: nonviolence doesn’t really allow for that. Or some controversy, and our workshop didn’t really allow for that either. But she stayed around long enough to get the gist of what we were doing. And for her to ask stuff like, “What are you hoping to achieve?” and for me to get the chance to say, “Doesn’t matter: the main thing is whether or not we’re being faithful.” was kind of cool. It’s been an interesting few weeks with media – all the stuff we didn’t want to get in got in and all the stuff we did want in wasn’t run. Haha.

The afternoon was great. Jarrod’s ‘Making our options EPYC’ is a great little planning exercise where you spend some time considering your violent options first before moving on to nonviolent ones. It’s incredibly liberating at first, you get to be honest and say all the things you’d otherwise hold back; then you start considering the costs and consequences and then when you look at the likely effects of your violent options you realise how counter-productive those options actually are, even if just for your own moral integrity. Someone once said something along the lines of violence being for those who have no moral authority; and that’s about right. That is, if your position is so lacking in authority that you need to use violence to make sure it happens, then you’re probably not supporting the right team. So this exercise is great in bringing out the idea that violence would probably actually not get you anywhere useful. Then, having dealt with that honestly and worked through it, you can move on to nonviolence with integrity.

I think the discussion after that (which, incidentally, was totally unplanned) went really well: people were heard and respectful and compromises were reached. So the outcome is still a bit up in the air, but we’ve got stuff to go on with, and that’s quite cool.

The great thing is, we now have a base from which to work; not just for G20, but for other stuff too. That’s totally cool, and as much as we could’ve hoped for going in.

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