Nonviolence is our Strength: bringing justice and power together

Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just. ~ Pascal


This week I participated in another nonviolent direct action (NvDA) to highlight my government’s mistreatment of hundreds of asylum seekers under their jurisdiction. Along with several other Christian leaders, I chained myself to the gates of the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence and refused to leave when instructed to by Australian federal police. We were eventually cut free by Police Search & Rescue and arrested for trespass.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been arrested for such an action, and inevitably my decision to participate in it has attracted criticism from some Christians who believe it is wrong to disobey our political and legal authorities.

But nonviolent direct action is, in my opinion, an entirely Christian act.

NvDA refers to any method of protest, resistance, or intervention without physical violence in which the members of the nonviolent group do, or refuse to do, certain things. Other names for it are people power, civil resistance, satyagraha, nonviolent resistance, pacifica militancia, positive action, and more.

When Christians undertake an NvDA we are rejecting the use of physical violence to fight injustice because we know that violence cannot be overcome by more violence.


As followers of the Prince of Peace we are resolved not only to preach about turning the other cheek, but to practice it. For us, nonviolence shouldn’t simply be a strategy for social change; it should be a way of life. This is reflected in Pax Christi’s Vow of Non-Violence:

“I vow to carry out in my life the love and example of Jesus… by accepting suffering rather than inflicting it; by refusing to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence; by persevering in nonviolence of tongue and heart; by living conscientiously and simply so that I do not deprive others of the means to live; by actively resisting evil and working non-violently to abolish war and the causes of war from my own heart and from the face of the earth.”

Of course, the purposes of NvDA are to influence public attitudes and policy and to challenge unjust social and political values. As Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most famous proponents of Christian NvDA, once said, “A boycott is never an end within itself. It is merely a means to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor but the end is reconciliation, the end is redemption.”

Reconciliation and redemption. Yes. But does it work?

As I stood for hours in the blazing sun, chained around the neck to the gates of a government building, I asked myself that question many times.

I watched the street fill up with police and press vans with satellite dishes extended from their roofs. Journalists interviewed us and photographed us and did live crosses back to their studios. The story made the evening news. We definitely got our message across.

But more meaningful to me personally was the number of people who saw the story unfolding on social media, or who lived nearby and came to see what the ruckus was about, and who wanted to shake our hands and thank us for our action. Several people brought us water. One person gave us homemade fruitcake. A former local politician, who lives around the corner, brought us cushions from her home to sit on, and stood by our side for press photographs.


Most moving was another local resident, a self-confessed non-religious Jew whose own family had been murdered during the Holocaust. Only her father and one other relative escaped the Nazis. She told us how the refusal of many nations to accept Jewish refugees before and during the Second World War informed her commitment to a generous immigration policy today. She expressed her support for our cause not just verbally, but in an extraordinary act of solidarity, stood alongside us and was arrested by the police with us.

For me, these shows of support by ordinary citizens, along with the thousands of expressions of affirmation on social media, fill me with hope and courage. We can’t give in to hopelessness or acquiescence, no matter how little effect we seem to be having. It is a sin to abandon hope. And it is a sin to use violence to exact social change. And yet hopelessness and violence are such tempting responses. I feel drawn to them often, even though I know they are not the way of Jesus. As Dr King once wrote,

The principle of nonviolent resistance seeks to reconcile the truths of two opposites – acquiescence and violence – while avoiding the extremes and immoralities of both.



Cover photo is of one of the panels in Judith F. Baca’s 70 metre-long traveling mural installation, “The World Wall”.



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The views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the official views of Morling College or its affiliates and partners.

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6 thoughts on “Nonviolence is our Strength: bringing justice and power together

  1. Thanks MIke (and all who were involved).

    I have been rallying friends and family to write letters and to phone the PM, MP Dutton and local MP’s.. it’s hard to tell whether I’m just “preaching to the converted” but the response and action following has been reassuring…

    I hope that our politicians will take notice.
    Below is the letter that I wrote:

    “Dear Prime Minister Turnbull,

    I called your office earlier to register my extreme concern regarding the escalating situation on Manus Island pertaining to the remaining asylum seekers who are housed there.

    I am calling strongly on the Australian Government to step in and and bring the remaining asylum seekers to Australia for processing under our responsibilities as a signatory to UN Refugee Convention.

    The situation is dire, and I am horrified that the Australian Government is continuing the barbaric treatment of this small number of men – I really can’t bear to think that this is being done in our name.

    Every sector from medical professionals, eduction professionals, religious groups and so on have been vocal in raising the vast problems that the system is causing for fellow human beings. Furthermore, there have been numerous economic cases made for how the issue of asylum seekers can be handled in a humane way; one that maintains peoples dignity and basic human rights, and saves Australian tax payers billions of dollars and the heartache of having this horror on our conscience.

    To see this situation now worsening, and having it all done under the auspices of “border protection” is obscene.

    As a committed Christian and a voting member of Australia, a business owner/Director, paying taxes and contributing to the well being of our society, I cannot and will not stand for this. My faith, my own families immigrant history and my basic humanity will not allow me to do so.

    In a recent opinion piece article by Robert Manne, he highlighted the idea of “the banality of evil” – explaining “how evil acts might be perpetrated by conventional individuals because of their blindness, their loss of the capacity to see what it was that they were doing” . It is a perfect explanation of what is happening in Australia right now, and worsening by the moment.
    History will judge you, and all Australian people, harshly if we do not rid ourselves of this blindness and commit our country to the values of basic human dignity, acceptance and a fair go for everyone.

    Thank you for your time – I look forward to the news reports about Australia changing it’s policy and bringing these poor men here.

    I will be praying for you and your work, as well as the refugees stuck on Manus Island who desperately need and deserve our help.”

    1. Love your work, David. Great stuff.

  2. Hey Mike,

    Thanks for these reflections and for the courage that you and the others at the PM’s Sydney residence showed.

    Your action and a prayer vigil that I and one of your ‘Kirribili Five’ were a part of last week outside our Federal member’s office prompted great conversations with my 13 year old son.

    He too is asking similar questions to those you asked in the hot sun yesterday … “Dad is it going to work? Will it make a difference?”

    The conclusion I’ve reached, which I try to convey to my son, is that whilst there will always be exceptions, I think history is on the side of NvDA. I continue to be inspired by Dr. King and his leadership in the civil rights movement. Moreover, I’m inspired by the life of Jesus who was “led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

    I appreciate your article and look forward to sharing your insights with my son.


    1. I’ll pray for your son. Thanks for being such a great father and role model to him.

  3. Thanks Mike, Jarrod and friends. Thanks for your authenticity of faith and courageous action. May this stir many more of us to similar acts. And who is the artist behind that beautiful piece at the top?

    1. Thank you. And thanks for the reminder to credit the artist of the cover shot. It’s Judith Baca. I just edited the blog post and added a link to her work.

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