Nonviolence is often described as the ‘politics of ordinary people’. As a means of radical social change, nonviolence draws on a rich history of people’s struggles from around the world. Grassroots people’s movements have brought down dictators, stopped armies, undermined corporations and halted entire industries with nonviolent resistance.
Nonviolence can be applied personally as a way of life, or collectively as a method of transforming conflict and building peace. As a strategic and grassroots approach to social change, nonviolent campaigns apply a huge array of creative protest actions, mass nonco-operation and nonviolent interventions with the aim of redistributing power in society. Revolutionary nonviolence aims to create conditions for just, peaceful and sustainable societies that meet the needs of all people. At its core is a recognition of the shared humanity of all people and the value of life itself.
Nonviolence as a guiding principle is at the core of work to create genuine safety and peace. Principled nonviolence usually implies a commitment to reconciliation, a basic respect for life and a refusal to apply violent methods of resolving conflict or resisting injustice.
Many people have a moral and philosophical commitment to nonviolence, but some espouse nonviolence for partly, or purely, practical reasons. Some recognise that “violence perpetuates violence”, and wish to break the cycle of attack and retaliation in which their community or society may be trapped. Some feel that to bear arms would make them more of a target to others. Many communities in regions of intense conflict are deeply sick of violence and wish to create a space in which its members are safe to live, work, and raise their families.
Training for nonviolence
Training for nonviolence is necessary in all cultures as so few human institutions teach us how to deal constructively with conflict. Usually we are taught to avoid it or to leave it to the authorities. Neither of these paths are open to people who directly confront violent conflict. Experience gained by Pt’chang over many years has allowed us to improve our training program each year.
A principle trainer for the Dharmayietra peace walks in Cambodia once said “Our biggest obstacle to working for peace is fear. We have to help people continue to act and confront their fears if we will ever make peace.”