Global Movement To Create A Nonviolent World Launched
By Robert J. Burrowes
19 December, 2011
On 11 November 2011, the 93rd anniversary of the armistice of World War 1,
a new movement to end human violence was launched around the world. 'The
People's Charter to Create a Nonviolent World' was launched simultaneously
in Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines and the United States and has
already gained signatories in eighteen countries.
The aim of the Nonviolence Charter is to create a worldwide movement to
end violence in all of its forms. According to Anahata Giri, the Charter
gives voice to the millions of ordinary people around the world who want
an end to war, domestic violence, oppression, economic exploitation,
environmental destruction, and violence of all other kinds. The Charter is
also designed to support and unite the courageous nonviolent struggles of
ordinary people all over the world.
People who wish to join the movement are invited to sign a pledge to take
personal action to progressively eliminate the violence they inflict on
themselves, others and the Earth, and to engage in acts of nonviolent
resistance and/or creation to bring about a nonviolent future.
A report from a launch organizer in the United States, Tom Shea, included
photos taken by fellow organizer Leonard Eiger. The launch, which took
place in Seattle, involved several groups: the Ground Zero Center for
Nonviolent Action, the Puget Sound Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Declaration,
Seattle Veterans For Peace Chapter 92, Collective Voices for Peace USA,
Collective Voces Ecologiacas Panama, and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Seattle Chapter. Tom reported that it was a great gathering.
After a moment of silence at Seattle’s Wall of Remembrance (which lists
the names of Washington State military killed in major US Wars), Tom
reported, 'we began our spoken presence'. Even amid a cold rain, over
twenty people representing a broad variety of peace people assembled.
These included four from Occupy Seattle (two of whom were dressed in
military garb), the Colgans – who’ve been holding a vigil in front of the
Seattle Federal Building every Tuesday since 2004, in honor of their son
killed in Iraq – a woman in a wheelchair and the Buddhist chair of the
Seattle Peace Team (a group that does training and is active as
peacekeepers in places of conflict in town). 'We spoke briefly about The
Charter, how individuals can participate ... and shared information about
six of the groups present.'
The launch in Malaysia was organised by the International Movement for A
Just World (JUST International) and was held as part of the
Inter-civilizational Youth Engagement Program (IYEP) 5 held at the Shah’s
Village Hotel in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. It was organised by Professor
Chandra Muzaffar, Helen Ng and Nurul Haida Dzulkifli.
On arrival, guests were welcomed, shown the video 'Do unto others' and
given hand-made poppies. This was followed by dance performances of the
Indonesian 'Thousand Hands Dance' and the Korean 'Sorry Sorry', the music
video 'Wonderful World', and the poem 'I Want to See What I Saw Again'.
Guests then heard a talk by Dato Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi on 'The Violence
of Capital Punishment', a guitar performance of 'That’s Why I Love You', a
drama performance of '500 Days of Violence', a talk and video by Mr.
Khampi on the Zomi Education Centre for Myanmar Refugees, before the song
'We Are The World'. Finally, 'The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent
World' was read out, with the dramatization of selective clauses, the
pledge was taken, the Charter was signed and poppies were placed on a
'field' on their Charter banner.
In the Philippines, the launch took place in ten barangay (village) halls
in Quezon province and involved the praying of the rosary and lighting of
eleven candles. It was organised by Dr. Tess Ramiro who is Director of the
main nonviolence organisation in the Philippines, Aksyon para sa
Kapayapaan at Katarungan (Action for Peace and Justice) – Center for
Active Nonviolence, at the Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. In her
report, Tess indicated that, according to the base groups, the activity
was very successful. One base group alone reported an attendance of 100
persons and the event was supported by the parish priest.
The launch in Melbourne, Australia, was organised by Anahata Giri, Anita
McKone and myself. Eight ordinary people spoke about why they are going to
work to end human violence and what they are going to be doing differently
from now on.
The speakers included a diverse range of people from various ethnic and
religious backgrounds including Samah Sabawi, a Palestinian born in Gaza;
Kijana Majok Piel, a Sudanese Muslim who spent 17 years living in a
refugee camp in Kenya; Karen Thompson-Anderson, who teaches nonviolent
communication; Frank Ruanjie, a Chinese pro-democracy activist now exiled
in Australia; Tenzin Lobsang, a Tibetan Buddhist who fled Tibet as a
child; John McKenna who relies on a wheelchair for his mobility and works
with intellectually disabled people; Isabelle Skaburskis, a Canadian woman
who did rehabilitation work (yoga therapy) with women and children who had
been sexually trafficked in Cambodia; and Annie Whitlocke, a woman of
Jewish heritage who has suffered much violence throughout her childhood
and married life.
The launch also featured Samah Sabawi reading her evocative poems 'The
Liberation Anthem' and 'A Confession' (which was accompanied by sound
effects, including a recording of the Israeli bombing of Gaza during
Operation Cast Lead, managed by her nephew Omer Elsaafin). Tenzing Yeshi
sang his powerful song 'Cho Sum Mirik' about the life of His Holiness 14th
Dalai Lama of Tibet. Anita and Anahata sang 'Freedom for
Palestine/Everyone', and 'We Sing Nonviolence' written by Anita
specifically for the Charter launch.
My own talk, explaining the purpose of the Nonviolence Charter, included
the following words:
'So what is unique about "The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent
World"? The People’s Charter is an attempt to put the focus on human
violence as the pre-eminent problem faced by our species, to identify all
of the major manifestations of this violence, and to identify ways to
tackle all of these manifestations of violence in a systematic and
strategic manner. It is an attempt to put the focus on the fundamental
cause – the violence we adults inflict on children – and to stress the
importance of dealing with that cause. (See 'Why Violence?'
http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence) It is an attempt to focus on what you and
I - that is, ordinary people - can do to end human violence, and "The
People’s Charter" invites us to pledge to make that effort. It is an
attempt, as Anahata said to me the other day, to combine the deeply
personal with the deeply global: to listen to our deep inner selves to
restore humanity. And it is an attempt to provide a focal point around
which we can mobilise with a sense of shared commitment with people from
all over the world. In short, as of tonight, it is a new, worldwide
movement and its specific focus is ending human violence....
'So, together with people in Malaysia, the Philippines and the United
States, tonight many of us will choose to pledge ourselves to a new,
concerted and worldwide effort to end human violence, in all of its
manifestations, for all time.
'This is undoubtedly a monumental endeavour. Perhaps, it is the greatest
endeavour in human history. I feel privileged to share it with you all.
And I love you all for making that endeavour....
'We are committed to leave here tonight to struggle to end human violence.
In my view, there can be no greater calling than this. Whatever our
differences, ending human violence is our compelling and unifying dream.'
You can read 'The People's Charter to Create a Nonviolent World' and, if
it feels right to you, sign the pledge at
Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to
understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research
since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has
been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of 'The Strategy
of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach', State University of New York
Press, 1996. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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