Editor’s Note: Sami Awad is not just working to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinians, he is working to bridge the gap and end the oppression of both humans and animals as well. In the spirit of the great Mahatma Gandhi, Sami Awad is taking the movement to the highest level, fighting nonviolently for justice for “All God’s Creatures.” We salute this amazing world leader and Gandhi’s Be Magazine World Changer. May we all follow in Sami’s footsteps and work together to “Be the change we wish to see in the world.” -Missy Crutchfield, Co-Founder, Gandhi’s Be Magazine
Founder & Executive Director
Holy Land Trust
My commitment to studying and engaging in nonviolence began at an early age. I was twelve years old when I participated in my first nonviolent protest. Palestinians, Israelis and International activists came together to plant olive trees (a symbol of Palestinian culture, tradition, and main food and oil source) in a Palestinian farmer’s land that was threatened to be confiscated by a nearby illegal Israeli settlement. My first taste of the power of nonviolence came as I was confronted by one Israeli armed solider who came and pulled the tree I had just placed in the hole I had dug and he threw it on a stack of nearby rocks. My reaction, without thinking much, was to go pick the tree up and put it back where it belongs. Even though the Israeli army came the next day and uprooted all the trees we planted, by then it was too late; I had tasted and felt the power that comes with standing up for my rights without engaging in violence and my life path was set.
Holy Land Trust: This Is Holy Land, This Is Our Vision
Being Palestinian, living under a brutal military occupation, resisting and being resilient had for many years focused my understanding of nonviolence. Being trapped in a situation of conflict and oppression, being a victim to the occupation, made me see and engage in nonviolence as the means to resist in order to end the occupation and attain the rights of my people to live in freedom, justice, and dignity. Nonviolence was a means to achieve peace and reconciliation between people and it is a powerful tool to do so.
Meanwhile, I knew many activists who had committed their lives to veganism and vegetarianism, and in many communities and conferences I go to they serve such meals, this was something that I respected and sometimes enjoyed, but I did not connect to at a deep level. My nonviolence was about saving humans from killing each other and I would talk about nonviolence as I was diving my fork and knife into a piece of steak of an animal that was breathing and alive just a few days before and I would not even think about that at the time.
Sami Awad: On Auschwitz, Fear, and the Meaning of Nonviolence
The last few months I took the time to research and reflect on this. It shocked me to see what we as humans do to other fellow creatures living on this earth to only satisfy our selfish urges, addictions, greedy lifestyles, corrupted ways of living, or even our taste buds. Just like systems of oppression that control and suppress humans, we have created the same to do to other creatures. The difference? We can speak out in protest, we can fight back, we can make our grievance known, we can connect to the shared “humanity” of the other, but animals can’t.
CLICK HERE to watch “Sami Awad: Complete Interview” with Global Oneness Project.
As a Palestinian, as a human, as a creature that is walking on this earth, I have made a decision this year; if I don’t show and express care for all creatures then I am limited in my humanity and not living it fully the way God intended me to live it on this earth. I want to honor all that is alive and be motivated in my political nonviolent activism through learning to honor and respect and defend all God’s creatures. Having to deal with the Israeli occupation and its daily brutality should not and will not be an excuse not to live a wholistic life of nonviolence.
A big part of my personal development as a person committed to nonviolence has recently been to expand my own understanding of the wholistic vision of nonviolence and to join a global movement that seeks to achieve peace and justice for #AllGodsCreatures.