A lesson in nonviolent activism

Earlier this month, a Palestinian schoolteacher from the West Bank named Hanan Al Hroub was awarded the 2016 Global Teacher Prize for her innovative approach to helping children suffering from trauma recover and learn nonviolence through play. Pope Francis awarded the prize in a video recorded in Rome, and messages of support were sent from notables including Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and Prince William.

Ms. Al Hroub was inspired to help child victims of violence after her own children were left emotionally scarred by witnessing their father being shot by soldiers as they walked home from school one day.

“My children were traumatized, and I had to take it upon myself to teach them how to cope with their trauma,” she explained in interviews after the Global Teacher Prize was announced. “I felt that other children besides mine would suffer from the same trauma. I felt they would get lost if I were not teaching them. So I changed my proficiency in university to education in order to get the qualifications to be a teacher.”

Her play-focused, nonviolence-centered teaching approach, which has been shared widely at conferences and teacher training seminars, has delivered remarkable results. It has led to a decline in violent behavior in schools, a chronic problem in Palestine where children, almost all of whom have seen or been personally subjected to violence, often act out as a response to the tense climate around them.

Ms. Al Hroub has not only survived but thrived in the most inhospitable of circumstances, giving back to a community that desperately needs peaceful solutions for change. We applaud both her achievements and her tenacity. Her example has done enormous good.

But the heart of the problem she strives to address–violence–remains unresolved. And although it is especially pervasive in Palestine, violence is a global problem, the solution to which is neither simple nor immediately recognizable.

It’s clear to me that the problem of violence, though endemic to our species, is exacerbated by modern weapons and their frightening efficiency at maiming, injuring, and killing. Indeed, that’s why there has been a movement in my field of socially responsible investing to take action against weapons manufacturers whose products are so often used to take lives.

One company that profits directly from deadly violence–Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. (ticker: RGR)–was recently placed on a list of companies that we will not consider for investment at Azzad Asset Management. In addition to the AR-15 assault rifle that has been used in mass shootings throughout the United States, RGR manufactures a sniper rifle, the Ruger 10/22, used by soldiers to control the Palestinian population and, oftentimes, to kill. Sadly, the Ruger 10/22 is an all too familiar sight in and around Ms. Al Hroub’s native land.

People of conscience should be aware of how their investments can perpetuate the problem of violence in far-flung regions of the world, including the volatile Middle East. As investors, we have the ability to contribute–albeit in a small way–to lessening the impact of violence caused by modern weapons. By refusing to support weapons manufacturers we minimize our complicity in the tragic phenomenon of gun violence.

Like Hanan Al Hroub, I believe that nonviolence can bring about dramatic and lasting change. I am inspired by her message, and I want to do my part to help create a world that supports the sanctity of life. I encourage you to do the same.

Joshua Brockwell is Investment Communications Director at Azzad Asset Management, a socially responsible registered investment advisor located in Falls Church, Virginia. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and may not be reflective of those held by Azzad Asset Management.

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