A Manual for Nonviolent Direct Action | Sojourners

A Manual for Nonviolent Direct Action

INTRODUCTION

Taking seriously Isaiah’s words “Seek justice, correct oppression,” we become concerned about social evil or injustice and want to do something. What can we do? What steps can we take, using the method of nonviolent direct action?

The step-by-step approach outlined below has been found useful in a wide variety of situations. However, it doesn’t cover everything and shouldn’t be followed in a rigid fashion. Each situation will require a somewhat different approach, depending on the issue, the people involved, etc. Also, the steps below often overlap in practice. Training, for example, may need to start earlier than step 7; negotiation often needs to follow, as well as precede, demonstrations. (For more detailed readings on organizing for direct action, see the bibliography at the end.)

It has been the experience of direct action organizers that if they are really motivated by love for people, they’ll tend to come up with appropriate action. It’s important to think about strategy and theory, but more important is a heart filled with love and a spirit attuned to seeking God’s will. Plenty of flexibility, humility, and common sense is also needed.

Given these cautions, let’s look at the steps which organizers of nonviolent campaigns have found useful.

1. THINK THROUGH PERSONAL COMMITMENT

When we first become concerned about an issue of social justice, we need time for thought and prayer before rushing into action. Do I really know the facts? How does the time commitment required compare with my other responsibilities? Am I prepared to take the risks that nonviolent action may involve? Am I getting involved out of guilt or other bad motives? Is God leading me to become involved in this?

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