Ashland University's Center for Nonviolence to Show Documentary Film

9/19/10 ASHLAND, OH -- "Little Town of Bethlehem," a documentary film focused on the lives of three nonviolent activists in Israel and Palestine, will be shown twice in the Ronk Lecture Hall in the Schar College of Education Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 7 and 9 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

According to film director Jim Hanon, "Little Town of Bethlehem" shows "the struggle to promote equality through nonviolent engagement in the midst of incredible violence that has dehumanized all sides."

Ashland Center for Nonviolence is showing the film because the story of these three men-a Palestinian Muslim, a Palestinian Christian and an Israeli Jew-explores the possibilities and the power of nonviolence in a violent setting, according to ACN Executive Director John Stratton.

Filmed on location in the West Bank, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, "Little Town of Bethlehem" brings awareness to a growing nonviolence movement in the Middle East that seldom makes international headlines.

Sami Awad is a Palestinian Christian whose grandfather was killed in Jerusalem in 1948. Today, he is the executive director of Holy Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that promotes Palestinian independence through peaceful means. Yonatan Shapira is an Israeli Jew whose grandparents were Zionist settlers who witnessed the birth of Israel. Today, he is an outspoken advocate for the nonviolence movement, both in his homeland and abroad. Ahmad Al'Azzah is a Palestinian Muslim who has lived his entire life in the Azzah refugee camp in Bethlehem. Today, Ahmad heads the nonviolence program at Holy Land Trust, where he trains others in the methods of peaceful activism.

According to a student who has previewed the movie, "The film shows a new and interesting view of this troubling conflict. Each of the three men chose nonviolent action in the hope of creating a better life."

"Little Town of Bethlehem" was produced by EthnoGraphic Media (EGM), an educational nonprofit organization exploring contemporary critical issues, such as HIV. Other EGM films include Beyond the "Gates of Splendor," the award-winning "End of the Spear," and "The Grandfathers." Like all EGM films, "Little Town of Bethlehem" was created to reach a global youth audience; but Hanon, the writer and director, says that "Little Town of Bethlehem" will connect with any viewer who desires a deeper understanding of conflict resolution.

"The major themes in the film are universal and timeless. The desire to end violence through nonviolence is not a demographic phenomenon, though often it is youth who mobilize. The theme of this film is appropriate for anyone who deals with conflict.  This hopeful message of equality is for all, as 'Little Town of Bethlehem' doesn't focus on who is right or who is wrong-but instead on three men from different backgrounds struggling together toward a common goal through nonviolence. We feel that the nonviolent approach promoted by the film is a humanitarian message with the power to transcend religions, nations, politics, languages, and cultures," Hanon said.

The Ashland Center for Nonviolence began as an ad hoc group of individuals who wanted to challenge the willingness of American society to resort to violence. The ACN instead poses the question, "What else can we do?" It strives to do this through programming and training that foster discussion. The center recently affiliated with Ashland University through the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Center's programming is dedicated to progressive personal and social change. By providing programs for children, families, professionals, and individuals in our community, it considers issues, both historical and contemporary, related to nonviolence. By linking people to information about nonviolence and to activities exploring and promoting nonviolence, it serves as a resource center for people exploring nonviolence.

According to Stratton, "Our goal is to build a culture of justice and peace in a world filled with injustice and violence. We know we will not eliminate injustice and violence, but we believe we can transform the ways that we think about them and respond to them. We know that all such transformation begins with ourselves. We attempt to link the ways we think about ourselves and our communities with the ways we think about the world."

Programming has included major presentations by Arun Gandhi, Yolanda King, and Jim Wallis, and workshops on anger, forgiveness, and restorative justice.

Additional information about the center is available at any of its programs, at its website www.ashland.edu/acn,<http://www.ashland.edu/acn,> by calling 419-289-5313 and leaving a message, or by e-mail at acn@ashland.edu<mailto:acn@ashland.edu>.

Ashland University (www.ashland.edu<http://www.ashland.edu>) is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.