By Kelsi Peace, Managing Editor
After almost four years of contemplating and countless conversations, Paul Goncalves is gearing up to lead a silent protest he hopes will spur conversations about a Christian’s stand on violence.
Goncalves, senior Biblical text major from Itu, Brazil, spent his summer in Brazil and said after discussing the Iraq war and violence as a whole with his friend Josh Love, senior Biblical text major from Abilene, and his fianc‚e Brooke Kucinsky, senior missions major from Fort Worth, he decided it was time to stop thinking and plan a peace protest, which will come on Friday, International Day of Peace.
“We felt very free to discuss very overtly political issues like homosexuality.issues evangelicals are allowed to care about,” Goncalves said.
But an issue like war, where no majority of Christians stands on either side, is not addressed much at the university, Goncalves said.
“We believe it’s possible to follow Christ and believe in non-violence,” he said.
While the group hadn’t met face-to-face until Sunday, protestors joined a Facebook group called “Peace is the Way (ACU anti-war protest)” and have been in discussion among a group of students, staff and faculty who hold various positions on war.
“We want to make sure everyone out there knows what they’re protesting,” Goncalves said.
Not all members of the group will turn out for the protest, Goncalves said, because he is not certain of the legal ramifications of the planned protest. While the right to peaceably assemble is guaranteed by the First Amendment, the university is private property. As of press time, Goncalves said he spoke with SA executive president Matt Worthington and planned to meet with Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson, vice president and dean for student life, to discuss the protest.
Goncalves said he has considered many options for the day but has decided on a silent protest – no megaphones, just signs. He said protesters will be outside Moody Coliseum before Chapel, and he said he hoped to spend some time in prayer during Chapel. After Chapel, the group will be ready with signs and information, hoping to begin a conversation.
“It really isn’t about the intention [of a war]; it’s about the violence,” Goncalves said. “More than a protest, this is just a questioning.”
And the question is what the university, and those who make up the university, truly think about war. Or, for that matter, if they’ve thought about it, Goncalves said.
The protest will not address political vote, Goncalves said.
The Facebook group contains 95 members, some of which have joined because they disagree. And a start up counter-protest group, “Anti-ACU War Protest,” contains 27 members, some who could show up on Friday, Goncalves said. According to posts on the counterprotesters’ group, members say an anti-war protest demonstrates hostility toward troops, especially during a time of war, and pacifism is not the answer.
For his part, Goncalves said he does not want to aggravate his opposition.
“I don’t want this to be a fight,” he said.
For Goncalves, pacifism is about mimicking Christ’s methods of being subversive. “What you see is people dying,” Goncalves said. “Death is our calling as Christians.”
And to him, usurping power or using violent force to create change is not the answer – a story his signs will tell at the protest, even if he is the only protester there, he said.
“I felt like I needed to do this for so long,” he said. “We need to make our voices heard if we believe something.”