Non-violence and Nonviolence: Working Towards Positive Peace

Yesterday we had the pleasure to attend one of the most inspiring and exciting lectures so far: Power of LoveThe Militant Power of Nonviolence by Kazu Haga. Kazu, who has over 15 years experience in social change and nonviolence work, is the founder and coordinator of the East Point Peace Academy based in Oakland, CA. Generally, nonviolence encompasses several practices and “branches,” including civilian peacekeeping, grassroots organizing, nonviolent communication, nonviolent meditation, and nonviolent civil resistance. Personally, I have been interested in studying nonviolent movements around the world, and in particular I am interested in the ways this political tool is used as a method to stand up against an oppressive government that does not allow protests and political participation in general. For this reason, Kazu’s perspective was both incredibly relevant to my area of interest and very informative, as this was the first time I had the opportunity to formally learn about Kingian nonviolence methods.

Kingian noviolence is a philosophy and practice that provides the knowledge and skills needed for people to pursue peaceful strategies for solving problems in their communities and societies. The six key principles of this approach include: (1) nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people; (2) the community is the framework for the future; (3) attack forces of evil not persons doing evil; (4) accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve a goal; (5) avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence; and (6) the universe is on the side of justice.

Besides this, one of the most important lessons from this was learning the distinction between non-violence and nonviolence, and how we should reflect upon the values that each of these terms stands for. In essence, the hyphen in non-violence changes the word into an adjective. So, non-violence stands simply for the absence of violent behavior/action—as in “I am not violent, therefore, I consider myself non-violent.” On the other hand, nonviolence is not about what not to do. Instead, it is a principle that calls for standing up against injustice in order to make a positive change in our communities. This relates to the Kingian idea of negative peace, which basically refers to the “peace” (i.e. quiet, calmness, absence of riots, avoiding conflict) that often serves as a facade for injustice. In contrast, positive peace is aligned with building community based on respect and mutual justice for all people.

In short, Kazu introduced us to an inspiring and effective set of principles in order to fight injustice and shake up the status quo in societies where violence and oppression are the norm.


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