Witness Colloquium Series
Understanding and Engaging Movements for Justice in 2020
The events of 2020 are laying bare inequalities that have long plagued the United States and the global community. The intersections of the pandemic, ongoing racialized violence, and hate-filled political rhetoric — combined with the volatility of the upcoming U.S. presidential elections — are exposing the costs of the status quo and pushing each of us to examine our role in advocating for justice. AMBS is partnering with the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, for four sessions in a series exploring these issues and strategic nonviolent responses.
Serving as living alternatives to violence through offering protection and seeking justice are expressions of the nearly 500-year tradition of Anabaptism. This communal nonviolence is rooted in the conviction that violence is inconsistent with the person of Jesus and the life he led, a life the discipleship community shares. In this series, voices from different streams of nonviolence — including communal, liberationist, and strategic nonviolence — will speak as witnesses to the power of nonviolence in action.
Recorded past sessions
Public sessions and speakers
The sessions in this four-part series will be held via videoconference — 12:30–1:30 p.m. ET on Wednesdays, Sept. 23, Sept. 30 and Oct. 7. The Oct. 10 event will take place at 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. EDT. The virtual events are open to the public at no charge. Registration is required.
A broad range of guest speakers — from political scientists and theologians, to church-based movement builders, policy experts, and trainers in nonviolent action — will offer their insights. The following sessions are co-sponsored by AMBS and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
Sarah Nahar (MDiv 2011), is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Religion at Syracuse (New York) University and visiting instructor in the department of Environmental Studies at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She is a licensed minister within Central District Conference of Mennonite Church USA and co-consultant to the developing board of the Tolson Center in Elkhart, Indiana. She is also the former executive director of Christian Peacemaker Teams.
Session topic: Sarah will present tactics and strategies for nonviolent direct action and movement building. Her insights will draw on both Anabaptist and Black feminist perspectives on action for justice, peacebuilding, and change processes.
Session topic: Maria J. Stephan, Ph.D. and David Cortright, Ph.D. will present research and data on the effectiveness of nonviolence in bringing about social change, and the counter-productive nature of violence. They will discuss the importance of peacebuilding trainings, tactics for de-escalation, and other strategies for preparing individuals and groups for nonviolent direct action.
Maria J. Stephan, Ph.D., who is participating in her personal capacity, directs the Program on Nonviolent Action at the U.S. Institute of Peace. She is the co-author of Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press, 2011) and Bolstering Democracy: Lessons Learned and the Path Forward (Atlantic Council, 2018). Previously, she co-led the Future of Authoritarianism project at the Atlantic Council; was lead foreign affairs officer at the U.S. State Department; directed policy and research at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict; and taught at Georgetown and American Universities.
David Cortright, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Director of the Global Policy Initiative of the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author or co-editor of 21 books, most recently Truth Seekers: Voices of Peace and Nonviolence (Orbis Books, 2020). Cortright has a long history of public advocacy for disarmament and the prevention of war. As an active duty soldier during the Vietnam War, he spoke against that conflict as part of the GI peace movement.
Session topic: Rev. Liz Theoharis, PhD, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, will discuss biblical and constitutional foundations for organizing for justice and movement building; strategies for unleashing the power of low-income people in the lead-up to the election; and the imperative of building a movement during the current moment when we're faced with multiple interlocking crises.
Dr. Theoharis is co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign with the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II that organized the largest coordinated wave of nonviolent civil disobedience in 21st-century America and has since emerged as one of the nation’s leading social movement forces. She also is Director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary. Theoharis is the author of Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor (Eerdmans, 2017) and co-author of Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing (Beacon, 2018). An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), she was named one of the Politico 50 of “thinkers, doers and visionaries whose ideas are driving politics”, one of 11 Women Shaping the Church by Sojourners, and one of 15 faith leaders to watch by the Center for American Progress in 2020.
Session topic: Please note the special time: 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. EDT
Ashley Bohrer and Nate Cohen will offer a hands-on, virtual but practical workshop on best practices and safety measures to take when engaging in nonviolent direct action. The workshop will offer strategies for responding to the tactics being deployed in the U.S. against protestors engaged in anti-racist, prison abolition, and other movement work, as well as include information on how to make a protest safety plan, identifying a protest buddy, how to prepare for the possibility of being arrested, and more.
Ashley Bohrer, activist and nonviolent direct action trainer; assistant professor of gender and peace studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
Nate Cohen, activist, street medic, and theatre artist who has worked as an organizer with communities around the country
About Witness Colloquium
An open forum hosted by AMBS, Witness Colloquium explores faith in the public sphere, in an Anabaptist perspective.
The full colloquium runs from Sept. 9 to Dec. 9; the sessions in the four-part series featured on this page are part of the colloquium and are co-sponsored by Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute.
Janna Hunter-Bowman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Peace Studies and Christian Social Ethics