AFWW Newletter #11 - Nonviolence: Powerful and Necessary 16 Jan 2009

Quotable Quote
"Who overcomes by force hath overcome but half his foe"
- John Milton, poet (1608-1674)

A Good Book
Easwaran, Eknath. 1984. Nonviolent Soldier of Islam. Badshah Khan, a Man to Match His Mountains. Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press

A Future Without War
Believe in it.
Envision it.
Work for it.
And we will achieve it.

Nonviolence: Powerful and Necessary
"War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today." - John F. Kennedy, 35th US president (1961-1963)

A Future Without War works to speed the arrival of that "distant day" to which the U.S. President referred. The means used, moreover, must reflect the end to be achieved-in other words, the means must be nonviolent.


The Indian lawyer, philosopher, and activist Mohandas K. Gandhi was indisputably the modern age's greatest theorist and practitioner of nonviolence. He divided his efforts, in South Africa and later in India, into two different but complimentary programs. The more familiar one he called Obstructive Program (OP): the use of civil disobedience (or as he called it, satyagraha) as a means to achieve social change by converting one's opponents into cooperators and maybe even friends.

The less familiar he called Constructive Program (CP): engaging his followers in educational efforts and socially constructive works that served several functions, among them that the results of the constructive programs would be the backbone of the better future he envisioned. AFWW's nine cornerstones, for example, embrace a wide range of such CPs.

For those unfamiliar with how a nonviolent approach works, a fundamental needs to be clear from the outset: nonviolence is not a tool of the weak. Not the choice of those afraid to fight. Not the way of passive resistance. On the contrary, to be a nonviolent warrior or practitioner requires enormous courage. One must be willing to face an opponent-even one bent on doing you physical harm-unarmed and without animosity. Here is how Gandhi put it:

"There is hope for a violent man to be some day nonviolent, but there is none for a coward." - Mohandas K. Gandhi

This newsletter:

  • informs readers about a quick, concise introduction to the subject as practiced by Gandhi.
  • offers an essay on why historical and contemporary nonviolence movements, like those of Jesus, Buddha, U.S. suffragists, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr., have not yet transformed the world: because they were "before their time."
  • introduces other exciting and informative NV practitioners, like Abdul Ghaffar Khan (the "Muslim Gandhi") and Leymah Gbowee (a woman who used NV to win a peace treaty for the people of Liberia).
  • recommends a review paper on nonviolent resistance, an academic approach which provides relevant citations.
  • lists selected films illustrating nonviolent movements and their strategies.
  • provides links to organizations teaching and using nonviolence.
  • highlights websites having information about nonviolent efforts around the globe.

Hope or Terror?
Gandhi and the Other 9/11
In this concise, clear, compact 42-page-pamphlet, Professor Michael N.Nagler introduces key events in Gandhi's life, relevant aspects of Gandhi's philosophy, the working nature of Satyagraha, the ingredients for successful use of Satyagraha, when it should NOT be used, contemporary examples of successful application, and suggestions for forward movement.

Nagler teaches nonviolence at the University of California, Berkeley and is co-founder of the Metta Center, devoted to nonviolent conflict resolution. To obtain copies for a suggested donation of $5.00 U.S. go to the Metta center.

If Nonviolence is so Powerful, Why Hasn't it Succeeded in Transforming our Dominator Cultures into Peaceful and Egalitarian Ones?

In an essay by Judith Hand entitled "Until now, Nonviolence Movements Were 'Before Their Time,'" the works of suffragist Alice Paul, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Abdul Gaffar Khan are set into historical context.

Judith Hand

Two barriers are then suggested as the primary reasons why those movements, and many others which clearly made astonishing forward progress, have not yet resulted in the transformation of our violent, dominator systems of government:
  1. the dominant cultures of the day had not yet recognized the pivotal role that the natural allies of nonviolence--women--need to play in such movements and especially in the governing that comes afterward, and
  2. the world's people were not yet ready to listen to the voices of nonviolence because the world was not yet "full," nor were humans facing global catastrophes.

Finally, six historical factors going back rough 700 years are introduced that, along with the two changes featured in the essay, make our time, the early 21st century, extraordinarily different from all preceding historical moments ... factors that make our time RIGHT, at last, for nonviolent movements to achieve the social transformation they passionately desire. Read the full essay

Think It Can't Happen?
Some Things for Skeptics to Consider

Skeptics feel nonviolence can't work for a variety of reasons. In a great many cases it's because they're unaware of successful applications. The media do not place much emphasis on nonviolent successes. A remarkable contemporary example comes out of Liberia, a small country in West Africa.

Liberia isn't a "natural" African nation. It was formed when freed slaves from America returned to Africa at the end of the U.S. civil war. This movement didn't last very long, but it resulted in a country with a constitution, a democracy, and a name.

Over time, Liberia degenerated into a tyrannical dictatorship, most recently under the presidency of Charles Taylor. In 1999, a "second civil war" broke out. This set off the barbaric use of rape, mutilation, and murder, something seen elsewhere in Africa as well. After eight years of this mayhem, social activist Leymah Gbowee had a dream one night and when she awoke, she decided to call the women of her church together to pray for the end of the war.


By the end of the meeting the women had pretty much decided that something more than prayer was necessary. They decided to begin a campaign, a nonviolent campaign, in which they would seek to have an audience with Taylor, to convince him to join in peace negotiations. They would wear white T-shirts and turbans, they would stake out the road along which his caravan drove each day, and they would stake out the market. They would not give up until Taylor conceded to see them.

Then a woman stood up to say that, the fact was, she wasn't a Christian. She was a Muslim, and she knew a lot of Muslim women who felt exactly the same way. Women of the two faiths joined together and began their "action."

An inspiring film entitled "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," documents how the story worked out, including how the women of Liberia held their men hostage until a peace agreement was signed. Los Angeles Times columnist Kenneth Turan reviewed the film: "Making peace, a T-shirt at a time." Follow the links provided to get to the Movie site, which also has great music.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

That's not the end of the story. When it came time for the next election, the women of Liberia helped elect Harvard Educated Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the first elected women head of state on the African continent.

At this time (2009), Johnson-Sirleaf and Liberia's men and women struggle to build on this wonderful transformation in a land that is bitterly poor and crippled with a debilitating history of strife. But clearly, a determined and savvy application of nonviolence could cut through a nasty, brutal, violent civil war even in this day and age.

Another doubt skeptics will pose about the possible success of nonviolence is to say that Islamic radicals and terrorists cannot be reached by this technique. "These men are violent, their religion is violent, we can never reach them," is a protest heard many times.

In the essay above by Judith Hand, "Until now, nonviolent movements have been 'before their time," you will find more information about the importance of the nonviolent movement of a devout Muslim man, Abhul Gaffer Khan, a contemporary and follower of Gandhi.

Abhul Gaffer Khan

Born in the Pashtun region of what is now Pakistan, he was a man born into a Muslim religion and a culture of extreme male machismo and violent revenge. Passionately committed to nonviolence, he gathered a following of some 100,000 nonviolent Muslim warriors. The book Nonviolent Soldier of Islam. Badshah Khan, a Man to Match His Mountains is a fine exploration of his life, his movement, and the turbulent history of Northern India under the British.

For reasons having to do with their fear of Russia, the British engaged in especially brutal suppression of the Pashtuns in this region of what was then northern India. Khan's followers maintained their nonviolent resistance in the face of this vicious onslaught. (Eknath Easwaran. 1984. Nonviolent Soldier of Islam. Badshah Khan, a Man to Match His Mountains. Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press.)

Clearly the impediment for the Muslim world isn't Islam itself, for Khan was a profoundly devout man. Nor is a long cultural history of violence an insurmountable barrier.

Nonviolent Soldier

Contemporary Muslims need to find their footing in traditions of nonviolence, and when its leaders do, and other world leaders do so as well, we are all fully capable of using the power of nonviolent transformation.

See also a film documentary: "The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan, a Torch for Peace" by writer and filmmaker T.C. McLuhan (daughter of Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian media theorist). McLuhan spent 21 years to bring this story to the screen. A film review can be found at Sunday October 19, 2008 L.A. Times by Allan M. Jalon. "A Gandhi-like force for peace."

Eggheads Have Insights About Nonviolent Revolutions

A large and growing body of academic literature examines the ins and outs of nonviolence movements. A useful starting place is an article by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, "Why nonviolent resistance works. The strategic logic of nonviolent conflict."

The paper compares the outcomes of 323 nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns. It examines and compares resistance movements in Southeast Asia: East Timor, the Philippines, and Burma. The summary indicates factors that correlate with success and factors that don't. Many useful citations and footnotes.

Recommended Films
Some outstanding films showcase nonviolence as an engine of social transformation. The starred films, in the opinion of AFWW, should be considered essential viewing for serious practitioners of satyagraha.

A Force More Powerful - 154 minutes. This fascinating PBS series of six documentaries focuses on strategies and tactics used by specific nonviolent movements to successfully battle entrenched regimes and military forces. These people had no desire to be passive or to simply plead and wait: they wanted to overturn the rulers or the laws that subjugated them, and they found a way. The series recounts Gandhi's civil disobedient Salt March; the sit-ins and boycotts that desegregated downtown Nashville, Tennessee; the nonviolent campaign against apartheid in South Africa; Danish resistance to the Nazis in World War II; the rise of Solidarity in Poland; and the momentous victory for democracy in Chile. Can be purchased at the Force More Powerful website.*

Gandhi - a reasonably accurate Richard Attenborough film starring Ben Kingsley that is a primer on the power of the techniques developed by Gandhi, first in South Africa and then during many years as he worked to free India from British control.*

Iron Jawed Angels - The film starring as the U.S. suffragist Alice Paul shows how the application of aggressive nonviolence was used by women, Paul and her colleague Lucy Burns and their allies, to secure in the U.S. Constitution the right for women to vote.*

Pray the Devil Back to Hell - an Abigail Disney film documents how Christian and Muslim women of Liberia mobilized for peace, and eventually held their men hostage until a peace agreement was signed. (for further information, see the entry above, "Think It Can't Happen?")

The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan, a Torch for Peace - By writer and filmmaker T.C. McLuhan. Documents the struggles of this Muslim leader in what is now Pakistan to mobilize historically violence-prone Pashtun men into powerful warriors for nonviolence. (for further information see the entry above, "Think It Can't Happen?")

A World of Info
A World of Information at Your Fingertips
The Internet is one of six innovations or historical events AFWW considers precursors that make our moment in history ripe for the abolition of war. The IN makes virtually instantaneous and global communication available to us as individuals, as allies, and as coalitions, and it is a vast library of information to dispel ignorance and enlighten our path forward. The following are a few of many websites that provide information regarding nonviolence: lists of organizations, sources of information, and so on.

AFWW PNCR (Promote Nonviolent Conflict Resolution) links:
Lists selected organizations that focus primarily or substantially on promoting nonviolent conflict resolution and nonviolent communication and living

Better World Links:
Offers over 30,000 well-organized links addressing subjects focused on how to leave our children a world worth living in; in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Petra Kelly and the Dalai Lama.

International Center on Nonviolent Conflict:
Circulates a daily selective digest of world news related to past, present and potential nonviolent conflicts, including active civilian-based struggles against oppressive regimes, nonviolent resistance, political and social dissidence, and the use of nonviolent tactics in a variety of causes. They also include stories that help readers glimpse the larger context of a conflict and that reflect on past historical struggles. A link on their home page will allow you to sign up for the newsletter.

The Global Directory of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution Programs:
A joint project of the Peace and Justice Studies Association and the International Peace Research Association Foundation, this directory can be purchased here. It is an annotated guide to peace studies and conflict resolution programs at colleges and universities worldwide. This edition profiles over 450 undergraduate, Master's and Doctoral programs and concentrations in 40 countries and 38 U.S. states. Entries describe the program's philosophy and goals, examples of course offerings and requirements, degrees and certificates offered, and complete contact information, including links to email and websites.

Global Peace Index:
The table provides GPI rankings for 140 countries analyzed in 2008 and 121 countries analyzed in 2007, as well as year-on-year comparison. Countries most at peace are ranked first. You can click on a country to see the detail of its peace indicators and drivers. In 2008, Iceland ranked most peaceful followed by Denmark and Norway. The United States ranked 97. Iraq sat on the bottom of the list.

With warm wishes and hope.
- Judith
Contact Info
A Future Without War
Dr. Judith Hand
P.O. Box 270074, San Diego, CA 92198
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