Stories of Nonviolence and Reconciliation
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History

Power of Goodness Power of Goodness: Stories of Nonviolence and Reconciliation grew from a book, Lighting Candles in the Dark, originally collected in English and published in the U.S.A. by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM, 1964), which later turned the copyright over to Friends General Conference (FGC, 1992 and 2001). That book included short stories about people who showed bravery and courage as they dealt nonviolently with dangerous or difficult situations and social issues. Friends International Library committee added a pool of inspiring stories from many countries and cultures based on universal themes—courage, nonviolence, justice, friendship, cooperation, and care for the earth—that spoke to Russians and Chechens.

As their instructor in 1994, Janet Riley read and discussed these stories in English with a group of twelve-year old students at a local school in Novgorod, a town of about 200,000 not too far from St. Petersburg. She had expected them to respond favorably but never expected such deep understanding and enthusiasm. During one of the last classes, the children were invited to give their honest opinion of the stories and about the appropriateness of making Lighting Candles in the Dark accessible to other Russian children.

“There are moments in these stories where we can do the same.”
“They teach us how to act.”
“Yes, they teach us to be kind and to help one another.”
“They show us another way.”
“They show that love is important.”

Our experience with adult English language learners and university students in Novgorod and Elektrostal showed that the stories are appropriate for all age groups due to simplicity of vocabulary coupled with rich moral content.

Here is a brief synopsis of their comments:

“It is good for us to know about children in other places in the world.”
“They give us ideas for our lives.”

English teachers in Novgorod were also moved by the stories, commenting:

“They remind me of the children's stories of Tolstoy.”
“They will help Russian school children relate to children in other parts of the world which is so important.”
“The response on the part of children would not be emotionless - they would understand and feel because the stories are devoted to children.”
“This book will be a valuable resource for teaching English and for stimulating classroom discussion.”

Because of a shortage of textbooks in some regions of Russia, teachers, students, and parents greatly appreciated the 5,000 copies donated to teachers, schools and orphanages in the communities of Novgorod, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Electrostal, Serpukhov, Perm and Kez. The stories serve as a springboard for classroom discussions in addition to use in language study in Chechnya, Russia and among Russian immigrants in the USA. Our experience with adult English language learners and university students in Novgorod and Elektrostal showed that the stories are appropriate for all age groups due to simplicity of vocabulary coupled with rich moral content.

In the process, stories from Chechnya emerged and were selected for translation and publication in Power of Goodness: Stories of Nonviolence and Reconciliation a Chechen Edition and distributed in Chechnya to schools, community libraries and refugee camps. Young people (ages 6-20) illustrated these stories. The response among children, parents and others was so overwhelmingly positive, it was decided to publish a second edition with additional stories from Chechnya with an accompanying manual to broaden the scope of the work. Peacebuilding UK developed a study guide for the Chechen Edition of Power of Goodness with questions and activities to stimulate discussion. Psychologists in Peacebuilding UK’s Little Star program use the stories in their programs as a peace education and human rights tool with children who have been traumatized by war and violence. The Chechen Ministry of Education has supported this program.

Many of the new stories in the Chechen version are taken from real life stories of contemporary Chechen children. Others deal with personal reconciliation between Chechen and Russian people – some contemporary, some historic. We were fortunate to make contact with an art school in the bombed Chechen capital of Grozny. They provided many beautiful youth illustrations for some of the stories. Some of the comments from the Little Star psychologists include:

“The children said that such a book will help them to be patient and to treat other people as their own relatives. I always have some extra books on hand to give to the children to take home. The book’s purpose is broad. Educating children with such moral values as truth-seeking, mercy, and courage is the key objective of any teacher.” Aishat Zubayrayeva, Goyskoye Village.
“The publication of Power of Goodness … demonstrates that the Chechen people are part of humankind and aren’t left alone in coping with its grief.” Medinia Khaskhonova, Alkhan-Yurt Village.
The true story, ‘The Mosque’, was actively discussed and Imashka asked a question, “So, not all the Russian soldiers are bad? After all, he could have died or drowned!” Rashana Shamkhalova, School 33, Grozny.

Many people from many places and backgrounds contributed to this project in many forms.

Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific took the Power of Goodness Global Story Pool under our care to expand the pool by continually adding new stories, which may be selected and translated to other languages and cultures as requested. We were pleased to make Power of Goodness accessible to all who are interested.

Janet Riley Discusses the Power of Goodness project


Jenna@Power-of-Goodness.info • 90 W University St. Alfred, NY 14802 USA • 607-542-9029