Courage: A Poem for Nonviolent Witness

Inspired, on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, by the Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals who worked nonviolently to protect the village and olive trees of Budrus, and by all who use nonviolence to witness for justice, wholeness, and peace.

By the Rev. W. Mark Koenig, Director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations and blogger at Along the Graybeard Trail

In the morning,
when we gathered,
the early morning,
the cool, quiet morning,
we were not afraid.
And we sang and prayed;
we laughed and smiled;
we marched.

When we saw the hate,
fear spattered us.

When we saw the police,
fear arrested us.

When we saw the batons,
fear battered us.

When we saw the gas,
fear engulfed us.

When we saw the hoses,
fear washed over us.

When we saw the dogs,
fear snarled at us.

When we saw the guns,
fear tore at us.

In the morning,
when we gathered,
the early morning,
the cool, quiet morning,
we were afraid –
sore afraid –
sore, sore afraid.
But we sang and prayed;
we laughed and smiled;
and we marched.

Watch the video that inspired this poem:

Budrus is an award-winning feature documentary film about a Palestinian community organizer, Ayed Morrar, who unites local Fatah and Hamas members along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village of Budrus from destruction by Israel’s Separation Barrier. Success eludes them until his 15-year-old daughter, Iltezam, launches a women’s contingent that quickly moves to the front lines. Struggling side by side, father and daughter unleash an inspiring, yet little-known, movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that is still gaining ground today. In an action-filled documentary chronicling this movement from its infancy, Budrus shines a light on people who choose nonviolence to confront a threat.  The movie is directed by award-winning filmmaker Julia Bacha (co-writer and editor of Control Room and co-director Encounter Point), and produced by Bacha, Palestinian journalist Rula Salameh, and filmmaker and human rights advocate Ronit Avni (formerly of WITNESS, Director of Encounter Point).


Mark Koenig
Rev. W. Mark Koenig is the Direc­tor of the Pres­by­ter­ian Min­istry at the United Nations. He has been a co-pastor and a mem­ber of a pres­bytery staff. He has served in the Pres­by­ter­ian Church (U.S.A)’s antiracism ini­tia­tive and the Pres­by­ter­ian Peace­mak­ing Pro­gram. He works to inspire and equip Pres­by­te­ri­ans to live as dis­ci­ples in the global neigh­bor­hood and to help Pres­by­te­ri­ans engage in advo­cacy, based on Gen­eral Assem­bly pol­icy, in the United Nations community.
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