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What Does It Take to Break a Cycle of Violence?

What does it take to break a cycle of violence? David Amos points the way.

no violenceI met David when I visited the Quaker meeting my son belongs to in London. David rose to speak that day as the spirit moved him to lift up a concern about peace and justice in the Middle East. He didn’t merely preach about peace though. He acted upon his convictions, later journeying to the West Bank to help protect Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest.

David suffered a blow to the head when nearby Jewish settlers used force to drive the protectors away.  A news article from The Independent tells the story.

Israelis and Palestinians are caught now in a stone throwing, knife wielding spiral of violence that has become exceedingly personal, and is perhaps beyond control by authorities. This spiral calls to mind retaliatory cycles of gun violence in my own home town, Wilmington, Delaware. How difficult it is to bring peace when suffering people react with rage, fueling more and more violence!

Historically, Quakers have been leaders in deflating cycles of violence by urging compassion even for enemies. David Amos exemplified this peaceful way when he emailed the members of his meeting in London. He gave me permission to share his note below:

“Thank you all so much for your support. I felt held before I got close to the Internet and then I knew I had been held in the light. What really matters is that what happened to me and worse is happening all day everyday to Palestinians here. I was only reported because I am British.

The young men who attacked and tried to kill me are human beings just like you and me and the Palestinian farmers and everyone I know. Indeed I believe it was their humanity which stayed their hand from delivering the next blow which would have killed or vegetablised me. The solution that will be found to this dreadful conflict will rely on us all recognising the humanity of each other. The politicians will find the right form of words for us to agree to but the peace will rely on the humanity of every one of us. First, last and always it is people who matter. As a human being I am responsible for my words and actions and inaction. Which means it can never be good enough for me to say “It’s not my fault he or she or the Prime Minister or God told me to do it”. It is my decision and my responsibility. My position is that each individual has a duty to take that responsibility on board. Not to do so is irresponsible. I am hesitant to use the word “should” but it is going to be the one that fits. In my opinion these young men should shoulder the responsibility for their actions.”


  1. Anne Gunn Anne Gunn

    My memory is a little foggy with age. But, I seem to remember a photo from the Viet Nam protest where a young woman stood in front of a national guardsman who was pointing a gun at her. In her hand was a flower and she took the flower and put it into the barrel of the gun. It takes a depth of courage to face down violence with an act of peace, but that is the only way to stop violence — not to pick up a rock, a knife, a gun. Not to see the weapon as the solution. Perhaps too simplistic on my part. Somebody has to be willing to be the first one to put down the weapon — and offer a sign of peace.

    • Thanks for your comment, Anne. Yes, I remember that photo. Images sometimes are indelible. It’s best if they’re images of peace.

  2. David Amos David Amos

    “A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it… It is as great presumption to send our passions upon God’s errands, as it is to palliate them with God’s name… We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive, or gain by love and information. And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us then try what Love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.” William Penn 1693

    • Thanks, David, for sharing this quote from Penn. It’s much in the spirit of Romans 12.

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