It was the summer of 2013 when the Assad regime was forced out of the northeastern city of Raqqa, home of schoolteacher Souad Nofal. When she was not occupied with her school duties, Nofal participated in the activities of a small resistance group dedicated to nonviolent tactics aimed at weakening Assad’s regime, and they were jubilant to see them depart from their streets. But very soon thereafter, the Islamist group ISIS came in to fill the space. Many people in her group left the town or simply refused to confront them, but she had another feeling: she would not be afraid of them. Instead, she would stand her ground, literally, outside of their headquarters, carrying placards. For more than two months, she did exactly that, each day with a new message confronting the extremism of ISIS with the truth of human dignity, including messages like ‘Don’t talk so much about your religion, show us your religion through decency, compassion and good deeds.’ And she was threatened, even with AK47s pointed directed at her head; but instead of going away, she laughed at them, palpably feeling the fear in them. It was only after months when they finally fired at her that she escaped, and is living now as a refugee in Holland.
Gandhi said that one need not go in search of Satyagraha, it comes up to oneself, and this was certainly the case for Nofal. She did not have to wonder what her next step would be: she knew it. The dynamics of the situation coupled with her own commitment to nonviolent action made one course of action possible for her: tell the truth; tell it courageously, openly; and be willing to risk her life in doing so; but to do so with discernment, too. Nofal’s story should inspire us, and get us thinking: If we understand that Satyagraha comes up to us in this way, we can see that we have small opportunities for it every day. It’s what’s in front of us, right now. As Gandhi said, and I paraphrase, by taking care of the present, the future takes care of itself. It’s when we sacrifice the future for the present that we get into trouble.
Where is Satyagraha right in front of you today? Become aware of the small opportunities to resist with great love
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org