Active Nonviolence is a Sign of Hope

September 13, 2016

 

Our analysis of nonviolent resistance must begin, of course, by taking a look into ourselves. Gandhi often spoke of “turning the search-light inward,” meaning that the outward situation often reflects our inward state of conflict. We need to see this clearly. It requires great self-denial and the surrendering of ourselves to God to be committed to peace and to nonviolent action to bring change. This technique may have no immediate positive effect, and it may lead to outward defeat. Whether successful or not, it will bring suffering. But if we believe in nonviolence as the true way of peace and love, we must make it a principle not only of individual but also of national and universal conduct.

 

Nonviolence should not, however, instill feelings of moral superiority, because we know how

soon we may stumble when we are put to the test. We may talk about peace, but if we are not

transformed inwardly, if we still are motivated by greed, if we are nationalistic, if we are bound by beliefs and dogmas for which we are willing to destroy others, we cannot have peace in the world.

 

How can I have peace within when I worry so much about life in general and the lives of my family members? How can I have peace within when others call my people terrorists and justify our oppression by quoting the Bible? How can I have peace within when our movement is restricted in our own country, when walls are built to imprison us and separate us from one another?

 

Fear and loss surround us; many forces are at work to make us feel marginalized and disempowered. At best, the work ahead seems overwhelming.

 

In the midst of deprivation, anxiety, and suffering, I found my hope was simply to acknowledge my dependence upon God. I thought often of the affirmation of Paul in his letter to the Philippines: “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:1 1b-13). I know, wherever I am, whether I have personal liberty or not, that I am under the guiding hand of God and that God has a service for me to render.

 

I have dedicated most of my adult life, for nearly forty years, to sharing the truth. This means offering the narrative of our lives, a narrative that so often is forgotten or neglected. It also means networking by forming alliances between like-minded people and organizations involved in the various struggles around the globe. Ultimately, I have learned that nonviolent action to strengthen human rights in one place is an action on behalf of people everywhere.

 

I have managed to find peace within, without having to embrace with approval the violence around me. Love of one’s enemies forces me to recognize that my enemy, too, is a child of God. This realization is necessary if our enemies are ever to make the changes we are requiring of them. It is really only in the light of love that I am liberated to work for peace and freedom.

 

Our shrinking world makes us all neighbors and I am increasingly aware of two facts about ourselves as inhabitants of this world. One is that we are very different from one another in color, life­style, culture and belief. The other is that we are exceedingly alike. There is a fantastic range of common needs and desires, fears and hopes that bind us together in our humanness, and the well-being of each is interrelated with the well‑being of all.

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