Kids4Peace staff members had the privilege to spend time with Dr. Johnny Mack over the last two weeks, a social entrepreneur with expertise in the subject areas of peace, conflict, social change and social movements, at a conference for Israeli and Palestinian NGOs in Haifa and a panel discussion at the American Center in Jerusalem, where we learned about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of nonviolence and social change.
The topic of nonviolence as MLK Jr. saw it is overarching and greatly studied, yet a simple explanation or definition of it still seems to elude many. We discussed nonviolence as being an evolving spectrum, which includes a framework of values, the most important to MLK Jr. being the fundamental commonality of humanity. The logic of nonviolence is rooted in our history, of the violence embedded within it and dismantling that violence. Among the panelists there seemed to be a consensus that the main takeaway from MLK Jr. was equal opportunity. If you give people equal opportunity, they will flourish. That concept really resonated with us at Kids4Peace, as that is a main goal we strive for here.
At the conference, Dr. Johnny Mack explained to us that civil society has a lot to do with the individual, the idea that I should do those things that only I can do that must be done. Nonviolence can be seen then, as a means whose end is community; It is far more than contentious politics or physical resistance. It is a means of managing conflict, of social change and human development. The logic of nonviolence is built between these principles: personhood, freedom, and community. Dr. Johnny Mack discussed how one’s personhood and freedom is only relevant with respect to community. So our question was how do we work together as a community to build a larger community and support other communities? If conflict is resolved at the neighborhood level, we need to work together to create a civil society.
We act in accordance with the truth as we perceive it or believe it to be. So, if we can change the way we think, we can change the way we act. For us at Kids4Peace, our main takeaway from the conference was think globally, act locally: building community is building a structure and culture of nonviolence, based on the shared values mentioned above: personhood, freedom and community.
The panel discussion was also filled with resonance and interesting perspectives. Something said that was interesting was that the greatest impact we can have is on ourselves; that we should work on fine-tuning our inner intentions so they are not filled with hate. Ronit, a director from ACRI, named MLK Jr.’s main values as: equality, liberty, dignity, humanity, and justice. Someone said that tragedy presents opportunity, and in today’s tumultuous environment, both statements and those values ring truer than ever. Now is the time to make sure we are filled with love, not hate, for our fellow humans, to aim higher, to fight for justice and equality, and to keep moving forward even in these politically-charged times.
Another panelist discussed the need for a revolution of values, which MLK Jr. also grounded his work in. We have to dare to be committed to the truth; we have to view nonviolence as not only a tactic, but a principle of how to behave in the world.
Here at Kids4Peace we look forward to continuing our work with Dr. Johnny Mack and following the values and goals set forth by Martin Luther King Jr. and those that follow in his footsteps today.
Written by Liana Rothman, Community Engagement Coordinator for Kids4Peace
Johnny J. Mack is a social entrepreneur with expertise in the subject areas of peace, conflict, social change and social movements. His professional expertise includes serving as senior executive in healthcare, mortgage banking, community development, and nonprofit organizations. Dr. Mack has traveled extensively throughout the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia working in the fields of peace, development, conflict, and nonviolent social change. In addition to holding degrees in business and theology from Oakwood University, Dr. Mack is a certified public account. He is the Henry Hart Rice Fellow at the School for Conflict Analysis & Resolution at George Mason University in Virginia, where he earned both the masters and doctorate degrees in Conflict Analysis and Resolution.