Recently we were contacted by our friend, Monica Juma, who is an action organizer in Memphis, TN. During a peace vigil they were holding for the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions, she was shot in the arm with a bb-gun, though at the time she was unaware of what had actually happened. Monica wrote this short reflection below about this experience. She continues to remind us about the kind of courage and bravery required for nonviolence as well as the commitment to forgiveness and compassion for those that cause violence. Monica told their local news station which covered this incident here, that with this act of violence “I think it shows the importance of nonviolence.”
Monica is doing well today and we continue to pray for her and all those affected by the violence we are so urgently trying to change with nonviolent methods. This event reminds all of us to continue to study, train and practice nonviolence, so we might all be as nonviolent as our friend Monica.
On Friday September 22nd 2017 we had our 2nd annual “Nonviolent Witness” during the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Action. We held signs at a busy intersections across Memphis during rush hour. One said “Honk for a Nonviolent Memphis!” We were waving, cars were honking, having a good time, when I felt something pierce my arm. I looked down and it was bleeding!
I thought maybe an insect bite? But, there was a little hole, so I thought maybe a rock hit it? I told Janice Vanderhaar, who was helping me hold our Pax Christi sign, that I was going to go into the gas station to get it cleaned off. When I got inside, I started feeling faint. There happened to be a man in scrubs at the checkout and I didn’t want to make a scene passing out so I had the audacity to go up to him and say, “ Excuse me, are you a medical person? I think I was hit by a rock and I feel like I’m going to pass out.” (Feeling so ridiculous as a physician myself about to pass out).
He was so kind, he said he was an Orthopedic Surgeon and sat down with me and cleaned it off, stopped the bleeding and examined it. He said he thought he felt something in it. I said “surely I wasn’t shot?” And he said, “ Oh no, I see plenty of those, trust me, you weren’t shot.” So we thought it must have been a rock from a car tire (the cars were going really fast). He said he would prescribe antibiotics and I could come in to his clinic Monday morning so he could remove it. He said foreign bodies are tricky to take out, but he works with kids and frequently gets calls from urgent care docs asking if they can send patients to him. It was a miracle he was there!
When Janice noticed I was gone for a while she came in to check on me and was surprised to see us both sitting on the floor, customers passing by not even noticing. The physician’s name was Dr. Sheffer (Janice thought he said “Dr. Shepard” and told him he was like our shepard!)
Monday I went to work at our family practice clinic and had a couple of the docs look at it. It was still pretty swollen and so we couldn’t feel anything in it, so we thought I should just see if it would heal on its own. A week later the swelling was gone and I could definitely feel something in my arm. I finally went to see Dr. Sheffer. He was again so kind, saying he had been worried when I didn’t come in to see him a week earlier as he had recommended. (I apologized for being a horrible patient). He did an X-ray and came to get me with a funny look on his face.
“I know I told you I was sure you weren’t shot.. but I think you were.” We looked at the X-ray and sure enough there was a B.B. He offered to remove it under surgery (knowing that I get faint with my blood) versus in the office. I opted to be brave and try to have it done there. Debra Brittenum was with me and I held on to her for dear life. She said she was praying we both wouldn’t pass out! After about 30 minutes of searching he removed it.
Debra and I go to church with Joe Birch who is the #1 TV anchor in the city. His channel had covered our Campaign Nonviolence Week of Action, and when we let him know what happened, a TV crew came out to our home to get the story! As I reflect on what happened, I’m so grateful it was my arm and not someone’s face. Also I’m so grateful it was me and not my friends, in their eighties, who were on either side of me, helping to hold our banner. I can’t believe Dr. Sheffer happened to be there, experienced in removing foreign bodies! Surely the Spirit was with us.
I grieve at the violence in our society that provokes such a response, and believe this shows the importance of nonviolent action. If it was intentional, I pray for and send love to that person. I’m so grateful for our local and national Campaign Nonviolence community, which strengthens us to go forward in radical loving nonviolence.
Debra Brittenum’s reflection:
In taking on the witness of nonviolence, this series of events has caused us to reflect on the truly radical nature of nonviolence and its power to rend social change. The threat to established social order is met, by the larger culture, with fear, resistance, and, sometimes tragically, violence. Witness Gandhi, King, and of recent blessed memory, Heather Heyer of a hot August day in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her mother wisely proclaimed that her death would amplify her intention to stand for justice. It is grim and joyful reminder that nonviolence demands rigorous spiritual preparation, robust humility, and reckless reliance on God’s love—that we are worthy…