On Non-Violence

Dear friends,

In the many encounters that I have had over the years with a wide variety of difficult individuals and networks, some of whom have been hostile, ruthless, or even violent, I have come to understand that evil is not final. It is not unchangeable, or irreversible. Active peacemaking breaks the cycle of violence and counter-violence. It leaves open the possibility of conversion. It is unlikely to alienate our opponents.

Non violence essentially means abstention from all forms of violence. This includes not just physical violence, but also verbal violence and violence of thought. There is a complete rejection of aggression and confrontation, of thought, of words and of actions. It is based on the conviction that forgiveness can change even an enemy into a friend. This is the central message of the gospel. Martin Luther King said,’ Nonviolence means avoiding not only external, physical violence, but also internal violence of the spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.’ Non violence therefore goes deeper than withholding from violent behaviour or words. It means caring in one’s heart for everyone, even those who are violent, or those with whom one strongly disagrees.

Non violence and peacemaking believe in the inherent worth of dialogue with opponents, in order to understand their motivations. In order to be heard by one’s opponents, one must also be prepared to listen. It also signifies respect for all human beings, created by a loving and forgiving God.

The technique of separating the deeds from the doers allows the possibility of the doers changing their behaviour, and perhaps their beliefs. When the goal is not to defeat the enemy, but to win them over, love and understanding can be created between all. Actively fostering goodwill can help us arrive at the outcome of persuasion and reconciliation. There is no room for coercion, humiliation or provocation.  Also, the better the opponent understands our position and our conduct, the less likely he is to resort to violence. 

Student's meet at IYC The greatest personal challenge posed is to practice non violence. This requires us to practice love and compassion at every opportunity.

Let us have truthful and tender encounters with all, and remember that non violence does not demonstrate weakness, but rather demonstrates courage, dignity, and strength.

With my best wishes.

Kiran Martin

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