Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Season for Nonviolence

Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948 in India and Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated twenty years later on April 4, 1968 in Memphis Tennessee. Fifty years after the murder of his grandfather, Arun Manilal Gandhi established a Season for Nonviolence in 1998 to celebrate the philosophies and lives of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

The season begins on January 30, the day Gandhi was killed and concludes on April 4 the day King was killed. According the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence:
The Season, launched at the United Nations in 1998, marks the sixty-four (64) calendar days between the memorial anniversaries of the assassination of Mohandas K. Gandhi on January 30 and that of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4. It is a time to reflect upon the nonviolent practices of these two great leaders and to pay homage by actively demonstrating the effectiveness of nonviolence.
First in 1998 and ten years later in 2008 the Free Cuba Foundation, a student organization at Florida International University, observed the start of the Season for Nonviolence with the Gandhi, King, and Marti: Brothers in Thought Conference bringing a Cuban focus to nonviolence.

Now in 2011 the revisionist are at work offering alternative appraisals of both Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. generating debate and dialogue. At the same time the Season of Nonviolence continues to offer insights into the nature of nonviolent resistance and struggle. At the University of Rochester Nontombi "Naomi" Tutu, the daughter of Desmond Tutu, who grew up in the midst of the racist apartheid regime in South Africa gave the lecture “Our Shared Humanity: Creating Understanding Through the Principles of Martin Luther King Jr.,” and offered some keen insights on nonviolence such as:
  • "The lessons of Gandhi and King are that for true liberty and liberation, we have to be those who hold up the humanity of all.”
  • “We can’t dehumanize others without dehumanizing ourselves."
  • “We were going to be a family who did pray for those who oppressed us.”
The past few months have demonstrated both the power of nonviolence to overcome brutal dictators and the ineffectiveness of violent resistance in the face of violence, yet for some reason individuals are still tempted to embrace violence even when strategic non-violent resistance is working. This has been the case in both Libya and now in the Ivory Coast.

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Beyond cold reason and calculation based on observation and study over the past century that proves the superiority of nonviolence over violence in the course of conflicts it is apparent that more is required to convince others of its worth.

An understanding of both empathy and compassion can provide activists with the insight to carry out and maintain a nonviolent struggle against injustice. On Saturday April 2, 2011 the Dalai Lama reflected on the relationship between compassion and nonviolence:"Non-violence is an act of compassion. Genuine sense of concern, others' well-being, no matter how difficult are the circumstances, you treat them as human brother, sisters and realize they also have a right to overcome suffering."

A sociopath lacks empathy and an example of one historically in political power would be Adolph Hitler. His antithesis would be someone with great empathy. Empathy is the ability to feel what someone else is going through and compassion is taking action to make it better. With empathy you can feel someone else's pain while someone with compassion will take action to rectify the situation combating an evil. The Dali Lama's observation that nonviolence is an act of compassion is profoundly true because nonviolent resistance to evil doesn't harm others and in fact heals even perpetrators of evil.

Martin Luther King Jr. said of it: "Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals."

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