(Facebook/Parfaite Ntahuba)

Meet the Burundian pastor working to end domestic and electoral violence

Pastor Parfaite Ntahuba of the Quaker Peace Network in Burundi discusses her work creating an Early Warning Early Response team to prevent violence on many fronts.
(Facebook/Parfaite Ntahuba)

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Quaker Pastor Parfaite Ntahuba joins Stephanie and Michael on this episode of Nonviolent Radio to discuss her wide-ranging and inspiring work cultivating and spreading nonviolence, both within her community in Burundi and across the globe. From an early age, Pastor Ntahuba had firsthand experience with both domestic and political violence and has spent her life trying to ensure that the terror and violence she endured will not be the fate of others.

She identifies the insidious power of patriarchy as a root cause of violence, showing through concrete examples the way it can destroy families, distort local justice systems and become a justification for gender-based violence.

Despite the hardships Pastor Ntahuba has witnessed and undergone herself, she remains hopeful and active, convinced that the practice of nonviolence can lead to real change. Just as her childhood experience in a Quaker household – a home grounded in nonviolent principles and practice – showed her a new way to live, so too can others, even ostensible ‘enemies’, once exposed to the ever-available power of nonviolence, see our world in a new light. And with this clear vision comes a sense of unity, of our shared humanity and our common goal of peace:

When we were running the trauma healing workshops on the second day, those people were coming from different political parties. They cried together. When they were crying together, it was the beginning of understanding that they are one person. We have the same emotions. And when they understood – when they cried together, it was the beginning for them to work together.

Stephanie: Greetings everybody and welcome to another episode of Nonviolence Radio. I’m your host, Stephanie Van Hook. And I’m here with my co-host and news anchor for the Nonviolence Report, Michael Nagler. We’re from the Metta Center for Nonviolence in Petaluma California.

On today’s show we share an interview with Pastor Parfaite Ntahuba. She leads the Quaker Peace Network in Burundi. And they led a powerful Early Warning Early Response operation in Burundi that played a significant role in preventing violence during the 2020 Burundi presidential election period. That’s a nonviolent Early Warning Early Response system. And these interethnic teams have expanded and are still at work today.

She’s an expert on Unarmed Civilian Protection in the African context, having recently provided training in Nigeria as well as for people in the Sahel region. She’s the head of the Friends Women’s Association in Burundi, which among many activities, runs a community health clinic. And she’s a minister at a Quaker church with 2,500 members in Bujumbura.

Now Parfaite’s background is far from easy. She grew up in a situation of domestic violence, of civil war, of strife, of losing family members. And today she is an incredible peacemaker and a peacebuilder with a deeply strategic and intelligent mind for how to end violence in our midst. She has something to teach everyone who comes in contact with her. And we were so grateful to have her here on Nonviolence Radio. I’m happy to share this interview with you.

Parfaite:  I’m Pastor Parfaite Ntahuba, I’m from Burundi and I’m the national coordinator of the Quaker Peace Network, Burundi. The name of my town is Bujumbura. Bujumbura Marie. I lived in the north – in the south end part of Bujumbura, which is called the Kanyosha.

I was born in a Catholic family in Burundi, and in my family, there was domestic violence. My mother was often beaten by my father. Most of the time, my mother was sent back to her parents. And I remember one time which was very hard to me, when my mother spent six months back to her parents.

I was 7-years-old, starting in a primary school. We were five kids in our home. I was the third child, and firstborn daughter. And in our Burundian culture, when the mother is not there, when she is absent, her responsibilities are somehow transferred to the firstborn daughter.

So, at that time it was not easy for me because I was the third child, but the firstborn daughter. I was starting in primary school. I had to care for my little brother and my little sister. My little sister was 5-years-old. And my little brother was 3-years-old. It was not easy at that time because we had to go to school and to prepare food, to look for firewood and water. It was one of the hardest times of my life.

These past days, I have been thinking about my work as a leader, and I remembered that sad story because I remember that I started to be a leader when I was 7-years-old. It was not easy. But it was since that time that I was against domestic violence, because I know how much I suffered when my father and my mother were not understanding each other.

Since my childhood, I have been against gender-based violence. I was against violence. And I don’t want more women or more kids to suffer with their families as I did.

Yeah, the change came when – at the beginning of the 12-year civil war in Burundi. It was in 1993. My father was killed at the beginning of that civil war. We didn’t get a chance to have – to bury him. We didn’t see his dead body. And because my father was killed, and that we were – our house was burned.

We were obliged to flee away from our home and we were saved by a Quaker family where I experienced a different kind of life. A Quaker family who were supporting each other; the wife and the husband were supporting each other. There was no violence in that family. And then, I understood that life without violence is possible. That’s why now I’m more involved in peacebuilding as a woman, a female pastor Quaker. Thank you very much.

Stephanie: Thank you very much for sharing your experiences. And this sounds extraordinarily traumatic and painful. I spent two years in Benin in West Africa. And in Benin, in villages, they have local processes for dispute resolution in the families.

Like there’s people who do mediation in the village for families, and there’s a village king, and so forth. Were there were processes in place in the town where you grew up that are in Indigenous, traditional, peace building councils, mediators, support networks, especially for domestic violence?

Parfaite: Okay, thank you very much for the question. Yes, in Burundi we have traditional practices to do mediation. Yeah, because at this time my father and my mother were always fighting, my grandfather with my uncle – my uncle, out of my mother – they came one night because my father was beating my mother, and they attacked our house.

And the following day, there was that traditional mechanism to bring them together. And that traditional mechanism asked my grandpa to pay a fine, to pay some beer, to ask for forgiveness to my father.

And my grandpa said, “I cannot pay anything for someone who wanted to kill my child.” And I remember that time. It was at that time that my mother came back in our house with a group of women, and then she took everything she had in our home, and then she left.

So, it is the law that is a traditional mechanism for mediation. But at that time, it was not successful because they were asking my grandpa to ask for forgiveness because he came to attack his son-in-law, which is forbidden in our Burundian culture. And today, when I’m thinking about it, I think that he was doing his own justice.

And then he refused. As he refused, my mother could not stay there. She took everything and went back to her parents for a period of six months.

Stephanie: And it seems like there was also, as you mentioned, political turmoil, this 12-year civil war. Can you explain for our listeners what was the cause of that civil war and what years did that take place so we better understand that?

Parfaite: Okay, thank you very much.

Yeah. In Burundi, in 1993, the first president was elected democratically. His name was Melchior Ndadaye, and he was killed after three months. And since that time, there was the beginning of the 12-year civil war, because the people started to kill each other.

People were coming from different ethnic groups. In Burundi, we have three main ethnic groups. We have the Hutus, we have the Tutsis, and the Batwa ethnic group. At that time, the ethnic groups – the main ethnic groups which were fighting, were Tutsis and Hutus.

And it was since that time that many people fled our country. They went to Tanzania, the neighbor countries, Tanzania, DRC, Rwanda. My father was killed at the beginning of the civil war. The president was killed on October 21, and my father was killed on November 13, 1993. Yes.

It was at that time, back then, we fled away from home because my father was killed, and we had no house or house-husband. And we were received by a Quaker family after the death of my father.

Michael: Parfaite, was that Quaker family African?

Parfaite: Yes, they were African. They were African, yeah, and they saved us. They gave us a safe shelter. They were – yeah, giving. Even to go to other Quaker families to find food and clothes for us because we arrived there with nothing. Yes.

Stephanie: Were you also in danger of violence during that civil war? Were you afraid for your life? Were you afraid of being killed at that time?

Parfaite: Yes. Thank you for the question.

At that time, when my father was killed, yes, as a family, we cried. But I was not very sad because I had no hope to live. Although my father was violent, he was also working hard for us to go to school, to have food, to pay our school fees.

And when he was killed, yes, I cried, but I didn’t think about many things, because I was expecting, also, me to die the next day or the next few weeks because many people were being killed at that time.

Stephanie: I think the question that I’m also trying to get at in these two major events of your life in terms of growing up with domestic violence in your house and the civil war, as you look back as an adult, and a pastor, and a Quaker, somebody who’s worked with violence everywhere, what were some of the causes of the violence?

Parfaite: About the gender-based violence, particularly the domestic violence, it is more mainly a cause of our patriarchal culture. In our culture, in order to get married, in order to have a woman to marry, you must pay a dowry.

This has caused the women to be manipulated. When you are married, they consider you as an object, so that they can have or reject, when they want to.

The problem of dowry and also when a woman is married, it is as if she has no place in the world. Because when you are married, even though you might meet some problems in your married life, it assumes you cannot go back to your parents.

Because they don’t – because the women don’t have the right, inheritance right. If you go back to your parents, your brothers, after some years, they’re going to be against you because they feel that you are going to have to inherit from your parent’s lands. Yeah. This is the patriarchal system is the main cause.

And even the religious beliefs. The religious beliefs – some people use the Bible so that they can continue to dominate people. In that, the women have to submit to their husband.

In order to face the issue of gender-based violence, the work I have been doing through my organization is to empower women economically so that they can be independent economically. Most women suffer in their homes because they are 100% dependent on their husband.

And I remember one Pastor, male, who told me one day, “Pastor, you have lost your pastoral call.” And I asked him why and he told me, “If you are empowering women economically, they will no longer submit to their husband.” So, religious beliefs are also the causes of domestic violence. They use the Bible to justify their violent behavior.

And this is the main cause that I joined, I responded to my pastoral call. It was to break the gender barrier. Because even today, in our church, we are only four women who are pastors among the more than one hundred – a hundred – men who are pastors. These are some of the main causes of the issue of gender-based violence.

It is through that, now in our country we have rights. We have laws to prevent gender-based violence. But in the culture it is as if the three things are fighting against each other. We have the culture. We have the religious beliefs. We have the laws. And it is since the law has to be on his side, the religious beliefs and the culture are there as if they are still above the laws.

Stephanie: And your association, is that called the Friends Woman’s Association. Is that it?

Parfaite: Yes. It’s the Friends Woman’s Association.

Stephanie: You’re doing some economic projects? What are those projects? How are you empowering them economically?

Parfaite: Yes. What we do is to bring together domestic violence survivors through trauma healing workshops so that they can be able to share what they have been going through.

And then, after the three-day workshop, we’ll organize home visits for them to see how they are doing. And then, we encourage them to organize themselves into self-help groups so that they can empower – as a way to empower them economically.

If it is a group of 20 people, after three days, we encourage them to start a self-help group. It means that they will meet once a week for one hour in order to continue to discuss how they are living.

And also, if they have some money, to save some money together. And if each one of them needs a loan to start a small business, they give each other small loans. So that they can have some financial income to feed themselves and their family, and to be appreciated in their family as women who are contributing in their families.

We also organize what we call a Street Business School for gender-based violence survivors. We teach them how they can start a small business just with a small capital with the money they are saving together.

We teach them how they can identify what is needed in the community. If in the community there’s no sugar or if there’s no soap, then they can start the small business as a way to be a solution in the community and at the same time to have some financial income as women. This is what they are doing.

And they can also run – we encourage them to run income generating activities together. And some have started to grow rice together. Others have started to grow potatoes – white potatoes together. Others are now growing beans as a way to empower themselves economically.

And among those self-help groups, we have those people who are from the Batwa ethnic group. The Batwa ethnic groups are the minority in Burundi. I can compare them to the First Nations people in the US or the native nations. Also, they have their self-help groups. And they are growing potatoes together as an income generating activity for them.

Stephanie: I think the other side of the work that you’re doing with the Friends Women’s Association that does trauma healing and income generating projects. And helping give women back their dignity to get them out of gender-based violence and rehumanize them. But you also have a health clinic, which, I think, is a very practical and powerful support system for women, I think.

Especially in the US, there’s a kind of crisis for women’s health because so many rights that women have are being regulated in new ways here in the US. So, having health centers for women is very powerful. Can you talk about those centers before we get into the work of Unarmed Civilian Protection?

Parfaite: Okay, thank you very much for the question.

Yeah. The Friends Women’s Association started in 2022. And it was in a post-conflict period, you know, the civil war – the third civil war.

And the main objective of Friends Women’s Association was HIV/AIDS, to face the issue of HIV/AIDS. It was after attending a workshop on trauma in HIV/AIDS that women from the Evangelical Friends Church came together to start the Friends Women’s Association.

And the Friends Women’s Association’s mission is to provide a comprehensive community-based health care to women and their families, to promote women’s leadership and autonomy, and to strengthen peace and solidarity in Kamenge and other communities of Burundi.

So, to respond to our mission, Friends Women’s Association has a clinic called Ntaseka. It was through that clinic that we are now offering ARV treatment to HIV-positive people.

Now we have a total of 330 people under ARV treatment in our clinic.

And also, we are organizing discussion groups for HIV-positive people so that they can encourage each other, so that they can share how they have been stigmatized in their different communities. So that they can understand that they are not alone, that they are facing those same issues as a group. So that they can find, together, the solutions for their own problems.

So, in Ntaseka Clinic, now recently in 2022, we headed the official integration of Ntaseka Clinic maternity ward. it was a three and half-year project and the reason we did this was to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child. And now the Ntaseka Clinic maternity ward is functional.

At Ntaseka Clinic also, we have a project that we call, “Improving women’s reproductive health.” With this particular project, we organize outreach educational sessions in order to encourage both the men and the women, the younger people, to practice the family planning methods.

Because in Burundi now, we have an average of 5.3 kids per woman. We have an overpopulation, which leads to land conflicts and malnutrition. It was reported that 80% of the conflicts that are incurred are land related. Land related conflicts.

So, that’s why at the Friends Women’s Association we have started to implement this project. And today we have an average of 500 people who are coming to our clinic for family planning methods.

So, overpopulation is the issue in Burundi. That’s why even sometimes we have floods or inundation. I don’t know if inundation is an English word. Is it an English word?

Because of overpopulation, sometimes you find the people, they have even built in places where they were not supposed to build. And then we have the floods, we have the inundations. And we are facing the issue of climate change in Burundi.

Stephanie: This is very powerful. And I think it all ties together to you also getting involved in work for Unarmed Civilian Protection, understanding root causes of conflicts and helping people to resolve their conflicts without violence.

You’re an expert in UCP in the African context, in particular. For our listeners, how do you define what Unarmed Civilian Protection is? And what are some of the things that you’re doing for Unarmed Civilian Protection throughout Africa? Because you’re not just doing it in Burundi. I heard that you’re giving some trainings in the Sahel region, in Nigeria, and so forth, which is on the other side of the country.

Parfaite: Okay, thank you so much for the question.

Unarmed civilian protection, it is an approach which is used to prevent violence and to promote civilian protection, or even to mitigate the impact of violence in zones or areas where we have conflicts. Yeah.

Unarmed civilian protection principles are: nonviolence, non-partisanship, the primacy of local actors, and the independence and the respect of human rights.

Unarmed civilian protection or UCP has different strategies including proactive presence. And they have the capacity – recognition and capacity enhancement, and relationship building, and monitoring. Yeah. These are the main strategies that we have been using as Unarmed Civilian Protection practitioners.

Stephanie: How did you get started with Unarmed Civilian Protection?

Parfaite: As I was involved in peacebuilding with my organization, Friends Women’s Association, I worked on an opportunity to do peace studies at Selkirk College in Canada. It was 2015, during the 2015 elections, and it was – there was violence in Burundi.

Then I had an opportunity to go to do peace studies from August to December. And I came back to Burundi. Many people didn’t understand why I came back to Burundi because it was a threatening period. But because I was committed to peacebuilding, I went back to Burundi.

I first heard about UCP when I was doing peace studies at Selkirk College in 2015. And when they organized the training on Unarmed Civilian Protection, Selkirk College started to organize the training on Unarmed Civilian Protection in 2017.

Then I got an opportunity to attend that course. It was online for three months, from January to the end of March. Then there was a face-to-face part in the month of May 2017.

It was since that time that when we were learning about UCP, Unarmed Civilian Protection, I started to think about how we can apply those skills in our context to prevent violence which had occurred, both in 1993 when there were elections, and in 2015 during the 2015 elections. Yeah.

It was since that time then I started talking with people. And in 2018, I was attending the UN 62nd Commission on the Status of Women in New York, when I got an opportunity to meet with Mel Duncan, the founding director of Nonviolent Peaceforce.

So since that time, we have stayed connected with Mel Duncan. I then was invited, because I shared the work we were doing. Friends Women’s Association is a member of Quaker Peace Network of Burundi – a network of eight organizations, two of which are international and six are local. And we have been doing observation since 2005.

And then, when we were talking with Mel Duncan, and Madelyn MacKay, who has been a volunteer at Nonviolent Peaceforce, there was that inspiration that we kind of used UCP skills to prevent violence for the 2020 elections.

Then, again, because I was the only one from Burundi that was trained on UCP, I contacted Selkirk College so that I could train more Burundians on UCP. And it was in May 2019 that Selkirk College sent someone to train 20 people from Quaker Peace Network on Unarmed Civilian Protection.

And since that time, even those people, I was alone then because the 20 people were trained. We came together to say we need the UCP to prevent the violence in Burundi.

And then under the support of Nonviolent Peaceforce, a delegation of five people from Burundi went to South Sudan in November 2019 for a field exposure, to learn how UCP skills can be practiced, can be used to prevent violence. Then, we were a delegation of five people under my leadership because I’m the national coordinator of Quaker Peace Network, Burundi.

And we met with Mel Duncan in South Sudan for ten days. We went to different places. One team went in Bentiu, where Nonviolent Peaceforce is working. Another team went – we went in [Inundri]. And after that visit, we came back in Juba.

And then, there were two people from Nonviolent Peaceforce who trained us about Early Warning Early Response. And then, from there, we developed a project to contribute to violence prevention during the 2020 elections.

The project was entitled, “Contributing to violence prevention and civilian protection before, during, and after the 2020 election.” That’s why we developed that project. And since that time we had coaching from Nonviolent Peaceforce.

Every week, we had a Zoom call for one hour on Wednesday at 5PM, from 5PM to 6PM Burundi time. We had a Zoom call to coach how we had implemented that particular project.

And it was even Nonviolent Peaceforce who is part as – to have the funds we use for the 2020 elections, from the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, since they are in Washington DC. We were able to implement our project in five different communities which had experienced the high rate of violence in the 2015 elections. Yes.

Stephanie: You’ve led such an amazing life, coming out of all of your experiences, you’ve really dedicated yourself to ending violence in very specific and concrete ways. It’s very inspiring.

Can you help us better understand what Early Prevention Early Warning systems are?

Parfaite: You know, I told you at the beginning, the civil war, which started because of the 1993 elections and then the violence in 2015 because of elections.

I thought that we needed to do something so that we can prevent electoral violence. That was why we did that, as we were traumatized, you know.

Because our culture has experienced cycles of violence, we started to provide trauma healing workshops. In the five different communities, we train 125 people on trauma-healing. It means 25 people per community.

These people included young people, men and women from different political parties. They included the people who are already involved in peacemaking for our different organizations, members of Quaker Peace Network of Burundi.

And they came for a trauma-healing workshop, every day – a trauma healing workshop. And when they were there, because of the trauma healing workshop, on the fifth day, we tried to define what is trauma, what are the causes, what are the symptoms, what are the consequences.

We also speak about what is called a Johari window. Where we have four parts of one window. Saying that, the first part is the part that I know myself and others, that others know. This part is called the open part of the window.

The second part is the things that I know about myself that others don’t know. These are the secrets of my life.

The third part is about the things that I don’t know about myself, but that others know about myself. This is called the blind part of myself.

And the fourth part is mysterious because there are things I don’t know about myself and that others don’t know about myself.

So, this leads to the second day, for people to be able to practice active listening. To share the sad stories that they have gone through. And it was on the second day that many people cried.

When we were running the trauma healing workshops on the second day, those people were coming from different political parties. They cried together. When they were crying together, it was the beginning of understanding that they are one person. We have the same emotions.

And when they understood – when they cried together, it was the beginning for them to work together. After each trauma healing workshop, the group was asked to elect five leaders who will be leading their group. And each community elected five from their group. And the 25 people were brought together so that they can be trained on Early Warning Early Response. Yeah.

Five people from Quaker Peace Network of Burundi, the ones who went in South Sudan, were the ones who trained the 25 people on Early Warning Early Response. And these five people were also trained by Nonviolent Peaceforce on Early Warning Early Response in the month of March of 2020.

Then after the training of the 25 people, each five people went back to their communities and trained the remaining 20 people with one coach from Quaker Peace Network. And then there was the establishment of five Early Warning Early Response teams in five different communities.

Those people, they have been working together to prevent violence before, during, and after the elections. Because people – as they were coming from different political parties, as people have seen, that then they were at that time working together, people in the community were trusting them. And that’s why they were able to support each other among themselves.

Because I remember in one community, when there was someone who was afraid – who wanted to run away because in our context, the people usually associate violence and elections.

But when the EWER team, the Early Warning Early Response team, learned about the person who wanted to flee because he felt threatened, they started to be together to go to visit him in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening. And then they stayed there, he was not able to run away from home because of the protective presence from the EWER team.

Yeah. And the EWER team have also been doing protective accompaniment from those who felt afraid to go and vote. They accompany them to go and vote on the day of elections. And even on the day of elections, EWER teams were present at the polling stations as a way towards protective presence so that people can go and vote.

This is what we have been doing, and also the EWER teams now are still – the Early Warning Early Response teams, are still there on the ground. And now, what they are doing is to prevent gender-based violence in their different communities.

And if they meet cases which are beyond their capacities, they just defer the case to the cause or do a protective accompaniment for those who need medical care. If there is someone is facing sexual violence, they do protective accompaniment so that she can first benefit from medical care. Yeah.

This is what we have been doing. I’m thankful. We are thankful for the small contribution that we have brought in our communities.

Yeah. Thank you.

Michael: Parfaite, have these groups that have been trained, have they ever been involved in open conflict, in armed conflict? Do they try to intervene in some way when armed conflict breaks out?

Parfaite: Thank you so much for the question. Do you mean, for instance, there’s some people who are using guns?

Michael: Yes.

Parfaite: Those who are using guns, I don’t think that they have intervened in such cases because after the 2020 elections, I don’t think that we have any Burundians, some groups, who have used the guns to fight against each other. Yeah. This is what I think.

Stephanie: Parfaite, I just want to thank you so much for everything that you’re doing and for making time to speak with us today.

Parfaite: Yeah. Thank you very much. Thank you for taking your time to listen to me. And yeah, I’m still involved and committed for UCP promotion. As I have been also in Nigeria to train younger people for electoral violence prevention. It was in August 2022, and in January 2023, I got an opportunity to be a remote coach for a Sahel – students from the Sahel region who had trained on UCP.

So, I’m still committed to promote UCP because it is very effective. It gives a more positive impact to prevent or mitigate the impact of violence in the different communities. Yeah, thank you.

Stephanie: I just want to ask you one last question. And that is, what do you think that people can do today, wherever they are, and they’re listening to you right now, what message do you have for them about peace and nonviolence.

Parfaite: Oh, thank you very much.

The message that I can give to people is that peace is possible. Another thing is that it is good to be trained on peace education. But in order to have more impact, we need mentors, we need coaches, because those people who have been coaching me, they have impacted me more. Yes.

We need to learn from each other. We need to network in order to have a more significant impact as peacebuilders. Thank you very much.

Stephanie: Yes. I think you should get a Nobel Peace Prize for your work. So, we said you were on Nonviolence Radio first. When you get your peace prize, then we’ll have to have you come back again.

Parfaite: Thank you very much.

Stephanie:  You’re at Nonviolence Radio. You’ve been listening to our interview with Pastor Ntahuba from Burundi. And now we’re going to turn to more good news, more inspiring news from the world of nonviolence with the Nonviolence Report with Michael Nagler.

Nonviolence Report

Michael: I’m Michael Nagler and this is the Nonviolence Report for the end of May 2023.

Students Demand Action

I want to start off by citing an interesting movement. The name of it is Students Demand Action. And the motto is, “We are turning our outrage into action,” which is an excellent Gandhian technique.

What they’re concerned about, of course, is gun violence. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for young people in the US today. And so, they are building a movement which actually began in 2016 as a pilot program and swung into action two years later after the mass shooting at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It’s high school students, college students across the country and it started small, but they now have more than 600 groups across the country and active volunteers in every state and the District of Columbia. So more power to them. I hope that they can awaken the consciousness of the nation and swing the country to doing something against this plague, as it’s often been called, of gun violence.

Learning and studies of interconnectedness

Now, I have a personal contribution, I think, I can make, and I’m working on that now. Some years ago, the religion scholar, Huston Smith, whom I had the pleasure of knowing at Berkeley, pointed out that we really don’t have a working concept of human nature in our civilization.

When I was in school, I remember hearing the phrase – I didn’t know at the time that it was borrowed from Plato. We heard the phrase that as a human being, I am a primate with flat fingernails. So, I looked down and yes, by golly, I have flat fingernails. And I suppose I’m a primate.

And it took me a long time to realize that they were talking about my body. There’s a very serviceable formula which enlarges that picture tremendously and appropriately. It’s not a controversial model. It states simply we are body, mind, and spirit. Or if you will, body, mind, and consciousness.

And the significance of this is that as bodies, we are completely separate. As minds, we are interconnected and mysterious mind-to-mind connections are being turned up by science all the time. And as consciousness, frankly, we are indivisible. As consciousness, we are one.

So, the very simple reason that we’re having this plague of gun violence and every other kind of violence, is thinking of ourselves as bodies. We think of ourselves as separate. So, if there could be an educational push through the media and so forth – media and formal educational institutions, to enlarge our concept of who we are, it would ipso facto remind us of our interconnectedness and make the idea of shooting another person just about unthinkable.

So, I am working on that idea for the time being. That’s going to be a project of mine.

Maternal nonviolence

Meanwhile, I’d like to point out something, well, quite interesting. I’ve talked about this actually on and off for quite a while, that last Sunday was Mother’s Day. Now, Mother’s Day was begun in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe. And the whole point of that holiday was summed in one sentence. “We will not raise our children to kill another woman’s child.”

So, it was an extremely strong anti-war movement and anti-violence movement when it was originally founded. And it would be interesting to note at what point the original purpose was forgotten and Mother’s Day just became another reason to buy greeting cards.

Speaking of mothers – I’ve been speaking of young people. They’re – they’re stepping up beautifully on gun control. Mothers on six continents now are demanding action to protect children from the climate crisis.

One of them says, “If we don’t act now, it will be too late,” she warned. “I could not live with myself as a mother, as a doctor and as a human being if we didn’t do all we can to try and bring about the much-needed systematic change.”

USPS goes EV

So, while we’re on this topic of the climate and changes, I’m happy to announce that the US Postal Service will soon be getting 9000 new electric vehicles, and will be installing 14,000 charging stations for those vehicles. Hopefully, I too will be able to use some of those charging stations.

I’m going to move around to other parts of the world.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi

Just heard this morning about a disturbing development in India. There have always been Gandhi detractors in India. My theory about that is that Gandhi is such a challenge that people who don’t feel that they’re up to that challenge, they just try to brush it away, dismiss it, and they end up dissing Mahatma Gandhi in the process.

But now they’re actually starting to move on a priceless treasure, which I have a copy of on my hard drive. It’s called the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. And it contains all the speeches and writing of Gandhi. It’s about a 98 volume set, of which we have 60 volumes in hard copy here in the office. And as I say, I have the whole thing on my hard drive.

So, you can receive a free set from the CMW Gandhi Group from one of their co-chairs or WhatsApp or a phone call and download that and keep it on your server. And then let them know, the CMW Gandhi Group, of your actions and your commitment to the mission.

Gandhi Museum Houston, Texas

On the positive side, I’m happy to report that the Eternal Gandhi Museum of Houston is on track to open in the summer of 2023. The only hurdle to be overcome now is some fundraising. It doesn’t lead me to think, you know, the old saying that a prophet is never honored in his own country. He’s going to be honored more in Texas than in India pretty soon.

Iranian protest dancing

So, while we’re in that part of the world, there’s an interesting and kind of a nail-biting development taking place in Iran, where young people are starting to dance in public as a new form of protest.

So, last week, which was International Women’s Day, there was a brief video of five young women dancing without the mandatory headscarf in Tehran. And dancing to a song called, “Calm Down,” by Selena Gomez and Nigerian singer, Rema – a song which I was not familiar with, but perhaps Stephanie is.

In any case, that video went viral. And sure enough, that prompted the regime security forces to hunt down these young girls. And fortunately, didn’t do violence to them. But forced them to do another video where they retracted and said that they were sorry.

Cyclone Mocha hits Bangladesh refugees

You know, nature can be harsh. And particularly, in Bangladesh, which is subject to cyclones and there was a very strong one building in the Indian Ocean this year. They named it Cyclone Mocha. Fortunately, it was not as bad as feared. It did do its landfall in an area called Cox’s Bazar, which is a refugee camp from the civil war in Myanmar, which has displaced 1.8 million people. That is an enormous number, when you consider the size of the country. And in fact, this region south of the Bangladesh border is an active fighting zone and a home to several large refugee camps.

I’m jumping around geographically, and I hope that’s all right.

Serbia’s mass shootings

But Serbia has started to experience – maybe this isn’t a start, maybe they’ll be able to stop it. But it has suddenly experienced two mass shootings. And so, one person who hasn’t been named, attending the demonstration, said, “I am here to demonstrate solidarity against the pervasive violence in the media, in parliament, and in daily life. To show my support in the wake of events that have shattered us and to pay tribute to the lives of the children we have lost.”

So, they are imploring the government minister to resign. They’re calling for withdrawal of licenses to the state controlled mainstream media that promote violence. And that does remind me that the 1990s war was also very largely promoted, triggered, shall we say, by hate media in what was then Yugoslavia. And here’s a very nice quote from a woman named Biljana Stojkovic, who’s the leader of the party called, “Together,” a leftist party.

“We have to learn anew how to speak to each other and how to create a healthy future, to nurture the beauty of living, of art, science, and humanity.” Pointing out, “The worst among us have been in power for an entire decade. And they imposed the norms of aggression, intolerance, crime, and lies.” So, this looks like a very important awakening in Serbia, and I wish them the very best. I hope they succeed, and I hope that in this country we can copy their success.

I know that nonviolence implies nonviolence to animals, something that we feel very strongly about also here in Metta. And I’m happy to announce that the Humane Farming Association, which advocates for the wellbeing of farm animals, just had a big win.

Euphemisms to ease cognitive dissonance

They secured a drastic reduction in the keeping of calves who are caged for “veal”. Now, I purposely put that euphemism in quotes. You know, they would call them calves, when we think of them as animals. We call them veal when we’re interested in eating them. We call them cows, their mothers, when we think of them as animals, ranging the hillside and mowing down the lawns for us. And we think of them as quote “beef,” again from French, boeuf.

And it is noteworthy that – how shall I put this? Every time we discover that we were using a euphemism for something, it’s a strong suggestion you should not be doing that thing.


So, I want to close this report for this time period, just mentioning a few resources. There’s another group to look out for. It’s called, We Are Not Numbers – WANN. And they’re arising now in response to the 75th anniversary of what Palestinians call The Nakba, or catastrophe, of Israeli independence. And then there’s a book on this subject by Mitchell Plitnick. And it’s called, Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics.

Finally, there’s an interview and an article. The interview is by Joan Baez, a great friend of mine from my folk-singing past. And she has an interview in New Yorker which is very interesting. Joanie is in her early 80s, a little bit younger than me. And she’s not singing anymore, but she’s doing art.

And then I know a lot of us have been worried about the hardening of ideologies on the left and on the right. And somehow, these ideologies always end up in obscuring our humanity and leading to violence. So, Chris Hedges, an opinion writer whom I always get a lot of out of, in something called Scheerpost.com. But you can also read it this week in Popular Resistance. It’s a website. And his article is called, Cancel Culture, Where Liberalism Goes to Die.

So, there is an awful lot of good that is happening in the outside world, that is outside the Metta office. And we need every bit of it. And I hope that this report helps you to find a place where you can get engaged.

Stephanie: You’ve been listening to Nonviolence Radio. We want to thank our mother Station, KWMR, to Matt Watrous, Annie Hewitt, Bryan Farrell over at Waging Nonviolence, to all of the syndicators through the Pacifica Network, thank you very much. To you, our listeners, happy to have you with us on this journey. You can find the show transcribed and archived at NonviolenceRadio.org. And we’d love to hear from you. So, be in touch. And until the next time, please take care of one another.