(Nonviolent Peaceforce)

Nonviolent Peaceforce and the path to security without violence

Members of Nonviolent Peaceforce join Nonviolence Radio to discuss unarmed civilian protection in South Sudan and the Philippines.
(Nonviolent Peaceforce)

Subscribe to “Nonviolence Radio” on Apple Podcasts, Android or via RSS.

This week Nonviolence Radio revisits a 2018 interview with Yasmin Maydhane and Carmen Lauzon from Nonviolent Peaceforce, an organization dedicated to effective nonviolent conflict resolution. Yasmin and Carmen talk about their work doing unarmed civilian protection in South Sudan and the Philippines, respectively. They share inspiring stories about the power of entering into dangerous conflict areas unarmed, but committed to helping communities entrenched in violence to uncover their own solutions, based on their own wisdom and traditions. Nonviolent Peaceforce sees unarmed civilian protection as a way to allow conflict ridden communities to regain the knowledge and power that they’ve always had, and to use it to bring about and sustain peace. Here’s how Yasmin explains it:

The entire UCP principle is about resiliency. It’s about enhancing community or in-house protection strategies, monitoring strategies, general life stock. Like how have you always taken care of your community? And how do we use that and make it better? We are not the ones who suggest how to improve these things. We let the community tell us how they want to improve things. And we do that with them because we live with them. I mean we live in the same places that they do. We eat the same food that they do.

We are with them 24/7 which means we get to see if they don’t like something or they want something changed, we also at times can see why they want that. If we agree or don’t agree, either way, that decision is not ours. The decision is the community’s. The whole point of UCP is to engage with the community so that we, as humanitarian workers, UN agencies, you know, are no longer needed. The community is self-sufficient so as to be able to take care of themselves. And they are.

Stephanie Van Hook: Welcome everybody to another Nonviolence Radio. I’m your host, Stephanie Van Hook, and I’m here in the studio with my co-host and news anchor covering all of the nonviolence that’s not reported in the news – or at least a taste of it – Michael Nagler. We’re with the Metta Center for Nonviolence at our mother station, KWMR.

Nonviolence is not passivity. It’s an active force that draws from the harm and the intentions that we have to do good in the world. And it gives it a really constructive way of making those — maybe you could say — negative tendencies or feelings of incapacity turn into a capacity and a force for positive change in the world.

A lot of the work is focused on these constructive alternatives to the systems that aren’t working, for example, mass production of our mass food system; local food is an example of a constructive way of supporting a nonviolent future. Similarly, the question is, “What do we do about war? What do we do about human conflict?”

One of our favorite alternatives is called, civilian protection — unarmed civilian protection in particular. And one of our favorite organizations out there in the world is the Nonviolent Peaceforce. We have on the show today two peacemakers, two unarmed civilian protectors, one from Mindanao, one from South Sudan, who happen to be at the United Nations this week, and from the Nonviolent Peaceforce joining us. I’m going to start with our interview so you  can find out what Unarmed Civilian Protection is and the work that they’re doing in South Sudan and Mindanao.

Yasmin Maydhane is here on the phone from New York. Hi Yasmin.

Yasmin: Hi. How are you?

Stephanie: Thank you so much for joining us. I’m doing great here in the studio. You’re with the Nonviolent Peaceforce, are you working in South Sudan as a peacekeeper there, a civilian protector there?

Yasmin: Yes. I’ve been in South Sudan for a year and a few months now doing civilian peacekeeping as a protection officer. And it’s, as you said, very rewarding. A wonderful country and wonderful people. It’s been a great opportunity to work with NP conducting unarmed civilian peacekeeping in a very difficult environment and situation.

Stephanie: And how do you keep yourself safe if you’re not armed? That might be a question that people have for you. If you’re in a war zone or you’re in a high-intensity conflict, how are you protecting yourself?

Yasmin: That’s a good question, and it’s come up quite a bit this week. I think, honestly, we protect ourselves by putting trust in the community and with the people that we live with — just as much as they put their trust in us to be able to protect them. We live with them, we’re with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We try to be as much part of the community as possible to let them know who we are and what we stand for and how we can help them and how they can help us, so that in a way, the principle of peacekeeping comes from one of needing to have weapons in order to ensure safety, to one of needing community courage and engagement to keep peace.

Stephanie: Right. What are some ways that you’ve been able to put trust in the community? Do you have a story or some way of helping us to better understand the work that you really are doing? Besides just the trust that they have in you and you have in them, what have been some situations that you’ve had to help support while there?

Yasmin: Yeah. I guess because we are present in the community, it allows us to build relationship with them, to understand what the community’s needs are, what they are going through, to experience even a fraction of what they experience. The conflict in South Sudan has been going on for so long, so the displacement is massive. There are a lot of refugees and IDPs all across the country, and most of the area of the country is hard to reach for a lot of NGOs and humanitarian agencies.

So, NP is present in these areas that are hard to reach and we live with the community. It means not only are we involved in almost direct contact with the government, opposition groups, with the community, we are also liaising with the international community to make sure that people get food, services come to them, they’re able to move around. And we do this by helping set up community peacekeeping initiatives, especially women peacekeeping teams who negotiate and almost implement their own protection.

Here’s an example of what’s happening. We have women peacekeeping teams who have gone through our training, through the training of unarmed civilian peacekeeping, all from different ethnic groups, have gone to their own commanders and commissioners and have negotiated access to checkpoints so that they can, for the first time in a really long time, cross the road so that they won’t be raped when they go through every checkpoint, so that they can go collect firewood, so they can go get food from the distribution sites. They can receive medical care. NP does that, one, by accompanying them – the women — so that they are safe, and nothing happens to them while we cross the checkpoints, when we cross bridges or community lines.

But also, so that they can do it themselves, so that they have the means to be able to go and talk to those in power and say, “I am going to cross this road and you will not attack me or will you not rape me. You will not hurt me.”

And we do that by building the relationship with the individuals that might or will cause harm, but also with the government officials with the community. So a lot of work goes into ensuring that the women and children and men are able to cross and get access safely.

Stephanie: So, just helping people to live out their normal lives in a way where they don’t have to be afraid of violence happening to them or to those around them.

Yasmin: Yeah.

Stephanie: And helping them then to create strategies, as you said, that where the Nonviolent Peaceforce is there for a little bit, but at some point you’re going to have to go.

Yasmin: Absolutely.

Stephanie: So, you’re trying to build resiliency into your methods.

Yasmin: Of course. The entire UCP principle is about resiliency. It’s about enhancing community or in-house protection strategies, monitoring strategies, general life stock. Like how have you always taken care of your community? And how do we use that and make it better? But we are not the ones who suggest how to improve these things. We let the community tell us how they want to improve things. And we do that with them because we live with them. I mean we live in the same places that they do. We eat the same food that they do.

We are with them 24/7 which means we get to see if they don’t like something or they want something changed, we also at times can see why they want that. If we agree or don’t agree, either way, that decision is not ours. The decision is the community’s. The whole point of UCP is to engage with the community so that we, as humanitarian workers, UN agencies, you know, are no longer needed. The community is self-sufficient so as to be able to take care of themselves. And they are. It’s not that they’re not doing it. It’s just that we are there to just give them that space to be able to do it, to protect them from harm.

Stephanie: Gandhi talks about this idea of swadeshi and swaraj and self-rule, and our ability to be able to handle conflict in our midst is one of the key skills that we need all over the world. It’s wonderful that NP gets to continue this tradition of creating tools and capacities for conflict resolution. Now, Yasmin, where are you from? I know that unarmed peacekeepers from Nonviolent Peaceforce come from all over the world and they work all over the world — and you’re working, you’re not volunteering. You’re getting paid for the work that you do, which is important that people know. These are real jobs or, you know, they’re paid jobs at least. So, where are you from and then how did you get involved in NP?

Yasmin: I’m actually from Somalia. I lived and worked in Somalia for many years. I moved to the U.K., London, as a refugee, then moved back home after education. So, I’m back home. And I found out about NP through friends who told me about the concept of UCP. I’ve always worked with communities and it just seemed like a very natural fit. So, I applied and luckily they took me on and I’ve been with them for a while now. It’s been a very interesting and rewarding and entirely different concept to work with and engage with.

Stephanie: Well, it’s really awesome work. We admire it so much that even though we’re not doing the work in the field, we try to support the work of Nonviolent Peaceforce in any we can because we know that it takes all kinds of people in all kinds of places to, — you know, some people are out in the field and some people are helping to tell the stories. And some people are just learning about it for the first time.

Learning about it is part of the work too. We have to know it exists. So, you’re at the UN right now and you’re doing presentations about the work of unarmed civilian protection, or why are you there?

Yasmin: Yeah. So, this week there’s been — the permanent representative for Poland has convened almost a weeklong activities and sessions on protection of civilians. Luckily for us, NP has come to do a side event on the use of unarmed civilian peacekeeping to protect civilians.

Stephanie: Oh, that should be the main event.

Yasmin: Should be. No, we’ve had – people have been welcoming. We’ve had a lot of meetings to discuss because the concept of UCP is old and it has been used, but it’s still – in the world of UN — it’s still a very new concept that people try to get their heads around. So we’ve been really meeting a lot of people to give them a reality of what UCP is and how it works, and how the community works by showing them visually that it’s – it may be different, but it’s ultimately the same principle which is to protect civilizations at times of war.

Stephanie: Yes. And it’s so wonderful that you get to participate. It’s really historic what you’re doing, that you are participating in this awakening, this world awakening to the work of unarmed –

Yasmin: Thank you.

Stephanie: Thank you for what you’re doing. And you know, down the road, other generations are going to look and they’re going to know your name because you are a pioneer in this work. So, thank you.

Yasmin: No, thank you. Well, we really hope – me and Carmen coming here — we hope that they know the names of the communities in the countries that we’re doing this because ultimately, that’s a legacy we’re going to try to leave behind because we are in multiple countries implementing programs, thousands of women, men, youth, are doing UCP voluntarily all across these countries compared to 160 staff members in South Sudan, compared to over 2000, you know, youth and women who are conducting peace. That’s the future and the legacy we’re trying to leave behind. So, I hope they know them more than they know us.

Stephanie: Well, it’s beautiful. Thank you for pointing that out too. And now you have a colleague with you. Carmen Lauzon. We’d love to talk with Carmen too.

Yasmin: Yes, she’s just right here. Let me pass the phone to you.

Stephanie: Yes, thank you, Yasmin.

Carmen: Hello Stephanie.

Stephanie: Hi Carmen. How are you?

Carmen: I’m okay, I’m okay. We’re just wrapping up some work here in New York. This is our last day, so we’ll be going back home.

Stephanie: What has been your impression of the reception of the United Nations and the new friends you’re meeting there to the concept of unarmed civilian protection? And maybe what are some of the challenging questions they ask?

Carmen: The way I looked at it, there are interests among the people that we talk to, or those who have attended. I can see that there is hope in promoting further, escalating up the use of unarmed civilians for peacekeeping. But then you know, it’s really like a paradigm shift that might not be easy and may take long to really be completely embraced and accepted by the UN, as an international body. But individually within the different nations, we can see that the interest is there.

Stephanie: That’s really hopeful news. I hope that the people who get to listen to this show really feel special that they heard some of the best news happening out there in the world: at a high level, there are people working to change the paradigm of security.

Carmen: Exactly. I think it’s about time that people look at other ways. It’s about time that we be more creative, we be more open to other options and ways by which we address the different conflicts around the world, especially since for the last how many decades – the 1940s, when the UN started —  violence and armed conflicts never stopped. I mean, there must be something that we are not doing well, or we are not effectively doing that can really make a difference in the lives of people who are affected by wars, who are affected by conflicts and violence around the world.

Stephanie: Right, I read that.

Yasmin: So, what we’re saying is even the unarmed civilian protection or peacekeeping, it’s not new. There’s nothing new about this. It has been there since even before the UN I mean the praxis of the community’s, no? To self-protect, to mediate their conflicts, to prevent violence in their communities. That has been there. That needs to be taught and be maximized and be mainstreamed, be part of an institutional framework.

I remember one of our speakers in the side event, who is a member of the high-level independent panel that looked into the – who studied the peacekeeping operations, saying that unarmed civilian peacekeeping was how it was when peacekeeping by the UN was conceptualized at the beginning. It was really the idea of having unarmed peacekeepers. But throughout the years, something evolved that it came to be known now as it is, in operation, the way it operates right now, which is being recognized that enough is enough. It’s inadequate. There must be some things that need to be reviewed and reformed, if I may say so.

Stephanie: Say it. I think it’s also important that the language that you’re using because as you’re holding the idea of this paradigm shift of the way we do security and protection, you’re not saying that the other way is bad or it’s wrong. You’re saying it’s inadequate. It’s not doing the work it intends to do. Because you’re there on the ground and you’re seeing –

Carmen: There are some things not seen. Then if you can look at the – in our own discussion, the discourse even in peacekeeping, when you have forces outside of a community, strangers may be who come in and then who go out after a mission. It’s really an entirely new approach to solving conflicts or addressing the roots of conflict.

Stephanie: Interesting. And now, how did you get involved, Carmen? You’re in Mindanao?

Carmen: Yes, yes.

Stephanie: Where are you from and then how did you get involved in Mindanao?

Carmen: I’ve always been into this kind of work, actually. Even before NP came to the Philippines. From the beginning, I have started my work as a human rights advocate, a human rights worker, and then I was a peace advocate, I’ve been able to go around the different conflict areas around the country. In fact, one of my first work was really delivering humanitarian assistance in displaced communities who had been victims of militarization.

So it happened that in 2007, when NP came, I was with an NGO that was consulted by NP also when they were starting to come in so I’m very familiar with how it worked. Eventually, when there was a post that was announced and I was free from my other commitments, I applied with NP. Now I’m officially serving as the program development officer of the NP Philippines office.

Stephanie: Wow, it’s so wonderful to hear that. You know, your background as a very serious peace advocate, that’s really putting your life on the line for this work. I mean, you are willing to risk your life, just like a soldier is willing to risk their life. Can you talk about any of the work or stories that are coming out of Mindanao that help us to understand? Some people might not even know about any conflict there, for example.

Carmen: Yeah. In our side event, I highlighted one very concrete incident, a story that is really very close to my heart. There was this remote community in the Mindanao province and there is a school there where the children of the armed groups are studying. Then two years ago, during a graduation ceremony, it turned out because both sides are present in the school premises, the armed groups clashed with each other and it disrupted the entire graduation program.

So all of those children were scampering, and it was really very chaotic, very violent, because it’s really very close, all the fighting. So what NP did, after that graduation, was to engage the community, engage the school, and engage the armed groups. Because NP has been known in that community, they know already that some kind of a protective accompaniment and protective presence can be done by our peacekeepers, our civilian peacekeepers.

The next year, during that graduation ceremony again, our monitors in that field team really made sure that their presence were in the strategic location, and all over. We carried all over the school premises. They were watching. In fact, one of the stories from our staff was – one was by the stage, at the backstage, by the school entrance, by the school exit. They were on the ground doing their patrol, and they were all unarmed. They were wearing our uniform, which is a vest that says, “Nonviolent Peaceforce.” They made sure that the armed groups were not able to get inside the premises with their arms.

Even if there are parents, relatives, and family members of the graduating students, they won’t be able to get into the school with their arms. So when the preparations were done to make sure that the school is secured during that program – what happened was the family, the families of the graduating students and all the other students, while they still have the trauma of the previous graduation violence, they had gained some confidence to attend. And it was really a successful graduation ceremony. No violence. It went on smoothly.

The idea is that just the mere presence of unarmed civilians, doing patrols, making the rounds is really like giving a sense of security to the community and delivering that message to the armed actors, whoever are involved in the conflict, that they are being watched. In a sense, that’s the big boost to the confidence and the sense of safety and security of the families, of the civilians in the community. That’s just one concrete example.

Stephanie: Right. I just wanted to add something and add a question for you, because I’ve been in situations even at an airport going to a specific country where there were guns present in order to make people feel safe. There were soldiers ready to threaten everybody. Can you talk to me about why unarmed protection was more effective than having soldiers or even UN guards with guns saying that we are watching this graduation. Why was that more effective? Or what was your experience there?

Carmen: Actually, it’s because the environment is really very hostile already and when you adapt to the violence again — I mean, it’s really the concept of violence cannot be solved by another violence. So when you see that there are a lot of guns already proliferating – and that has become the normal thing, when there is something that is unarmed, it’s something radical. And that makes people make a second look. “Oh, that’s something different.” Like when you see everybody having big – bearing arms in a community and then you get to see all these unarmed people coming in, and they’re not afraid at all, facing all those armed people.

Somehow, that makes you think. And something’s strange about that. And there’s something powerful about that.

Stephanie: What it makes me feel like, is that if I were to see that in order for somebody to feel safe, they have a gun then I would feel I need one of those to make me safe. But if I see women and other people that are doing protection work and they don’t have a gun, and yet, they’re making people without [guns] feel safe and they’re unarmed, I would feel like I want to do that too. How can I do that? How can I access that power within me? And have you ever been scared as a peacekeeper?

Carmen: For myself? No, no.

Stephanie: You’ve never been scared? Wow.

Carmen: No. Not at all.

In fact, there are several areas in the country that are really very vulnerable to different forms of violence. I think it’s my trust in the people, because that’s how we’ve been operating. We’re there. We’re connected. We’re very much within the community. We know what they feel. We know what they think. They trust us. We trust them so much. So whenever there is any threat or even a potential threat, we are informed. There’s that mutual trust to be a presence in their community and the community themselves.

Even providing us early warning signs, information just coming from them to be relayed to us, is already an indication that they wouldn’t want any harm to happen to us. Because that would also put their lives or their communities at greater danger or risk if we’re not there.

Stephanie: And it’s really incredible.

Carmen: It’s like just being a holders of the peace.

Stephanie: Yeah. It’s incredible, Carmen, because here you are saying that we can – you’ve just given like a master class in conflict resolution and nonviolence within just a minute. That’s really the beauty of folks who are in the Nonviolent Peaceforce, is that you are so steeped in it, you don’t realize how beautiful what you’re saying really is and how wonderful what you’re saying is. I heard that we can understand – we don’t have to wait until violence breaks out to understand that that could happen. There are signs. There are early warning signs – one.

Secondly, that the means that you’re using nonviolence, the way that you are defining nonviolence here that I hear is you’re saying, “Trust and good communication.” Because when trust breaks down, that’s when violence happens. When communication breaks down, that’s when violence happens. And when there’s no trust or communication, boy, watch out. That’s a real sign.

Carmen: Exactly.

Stephanie: So, how simple is that, that in our everyday lives we can work on building our capacity to trust, our capacity for people to trust us, and our tools of how to communicate well with everybody.

Carmen: Exactly. Yeah

Stephanie: Carmen, thank you for joining us on Nonviolence Radio. And just give us a sense of how we can support the Nonviolent Peaceforce because you guys are at the UN right now. Then you’re going back to Mindanao. Yasmin will be going back to her post in South Sudan.

Carmen: South Sudan, yeah.

Stephanie: So, how can we support you guys?

Carmen: I think just spreading the word would be enough.

Stephanie: I know. When you hear it, you want to –

Carmen: Spreading the word like the word to – especially the decision makers.

If more people will be talking about this, more people will get engaged, their own governments, their own local government officials. Maybe somehow, someday, the snowball will roll. And you know, a big constituency clamoring for this kind of an approach will be heard by those who are in power, those who are in position to make decisions on what peace should be for our world, for our country.

Stephanie: And I want more people like you and Yasmin and all the people that you work with in your communities to be those people in power, right? So, thanks again for joining us and we look forward to supporting your work.

Carmen: Thank you, Stephanie. It’s my pleasure.

Stephanie: Wishing you the best. Thank you.

Carmen: Yeah, have a nice day.

Stephanie: You too.

Carmen: Yeah, bye-bye.

[Nimo Patel – Prayer]

Nonviolence Report

Stephanie: I’m Stephanie Van Hook and you’re at Nonviolence Radio. Nonviolence is happening all over the world, though it’s underreported in the mass media. Our next segment is the Nonviolence Report with Michael Nagler. Michael is the president at the Metta Center for Nonviolence, author of “The Third Harmony: Nonviolence and the New Story of Human Nature” as well as the “Nonviolence Handbook.” He’ll share news, events, and analysis which might even inspire you to take action where you live. Let’s tune in.

Michael: Greetings everyone. This is Michael Nagler from the Metta Center and I’m reporting to you for this episode of the Nonviolence Report. There is, as usual, a lot going on.

There’s a very interesting angle on probably the most intense and difficult conflict going on in the world right now, which is the overthrow – attempted overthrow, attempted so far anyway –  in Myanmar.

One interesting angle is – I’ll have a lot to say about the Myanmar conflict in a little bit — but an interesting angle that is an article in The New Yorker, is the internet access. You know, we make such a fuss about the technology that’s available – or not – these days.

And the internet access is complicated because if the regime shuts it down, which they want to do to stop the protests from communicating, then the country can’t function. It really needs their internet. And if they have it up, so are the protests. So, just one of the interesting little complications that’s come up in modern nonviolent action. As I said, more on Myanmar in a minute.

DC Peace Teams, you know, Washington, D.C. Peace Teams is definitely doing its homework, I’m happy to say. They are reporting on the outcomes of their recent events around the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. That sounds strange – attack on the Capitol when we’re talking about our own Capitol.

Well, they will be providing the raw material then for history and best practices as we go forward. Learn our techniques and improve.

Around this same time, there’s a typical peace team action that’s coming up that isn’t domestic. It’s Meta Peace Teams. M-E-T-A – with one T. And they are now recruiting volunteers for an action this summer, an intervention which would be in Israel-Palestine.

And I just wanted to read to you some of the languages from their description because it is so instructive and so typical of how peace teams are organized and what they do. So, they first state that they have been invited, and that is an important principle that’s always followed. I didn’t think it was all that important, but I probably was wrong. You only go where you have been invited. That’s a way of avoiding what’s called, “Peace imperialism.” You know, where we march in and say, “Here’s peace whether you want it or not.”

So, they’ve been invited to place an international peace team in the West Bank by Palestinians. I’m reading again, “By Palestinians who are committed to nonviolence and striving for justice under occupation.” So, that’s another important principle. We try to limit our services to communities that are committed to nonviolence for the obvious reasons.

The next part I wanted to stress is that team members will be prepared through an extensive training program. So, prior to departure, people will be taught how to do Unarmed Civilian Protection, which is the main activity of peace teams these days. Human rights monitoring and reporting are an extension of that. How to use protective accompaniment most effectively, and other creative tools of nonviolence. The preparation also includes learning the culture and history of the Palestine-Israel difficulty in the West Bank. And they go on to say, “Living conditions can be kind of basic where they’ll be working. And they may include staying with Palestinian families.”

I’ve always said that the basic training would have to be three parts. It would have to include local conditions, which was the last one I just mentioned. Basic principles of nonviolence and the specifics of accompaniment and other activities done by these teams.

So, Myanmar in the news again. I’m a member of the Peace and Justice Studies Association which is a professional association for peace scholars and on the 16th of March, they will be doing a conversation called, Myanmar, Hong Kong, and Egypt. From activism to strategy. It’s the first webinar in a new series, which they’re calling, “The Improving Practice Webinar Series,” this year. And they will be sharing their thoughts on keeping a peaceful movement. One of the participants will be author, Lisa Schirch, who has been one of the important historians of the nonviolent movement. She’s working now with a group called SNAP. That is an acronym for Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding, an action guide and she’ll facilitate the conversation. So, we have more learning formats that are being added to our repertoire and all that is very much to the good.

Meantime, this is something similar – Nonviolence International, it was started by Mubarak Awad and he’s based in Washington D.C. On the 10th of this month, March 10th at 10AM to 11:30AM Eastern time, 7:00 AM our time. And it’s called, Resisting Occupation: Connecting Palestine and Western Sahara. So, obviously our colleague and friend, Stephen Zunes whom we interviewed recently, who is really the foremost news conveyor about Western Sahara – a serious conflict in Northern Africa which we would have known almost nothing about. I don’t want to go back into all of the details now, but he’s an expert both in Palestine and Western Sahara and he’ll be one of four presenters.

This is actually likely to be a historic webinar because it’s one of the first public discussions between Sahawaris and Palestinians, who have a similar struggle. It’s about their occupation. It’s about a struggle for justice under those conditions. There are now more than 100 countries which have historical claims of some kind or another over neighboring territory. You know, think of China and Tibet. If we start using those as making an exception to the prohibition against the use of military force, we start doing interventions in all of them, you can imagine how much violence could unfold.

Now to look Myanmar for a moment; the last we heard, there are almost 40 people, protestors, who have been killed and the military government is increasing its use of violent tactics to attempt to deal with the mostly peaceful protestors. Now that “mostly” is an important qualification because the fact is, even a little bit of violence can mitigate the nonviolent impact of an episode. There are some episodes of protestors who have thrown Molotov cocktails at the police, which of course only results in further escalation.

On the other hand, they are finding increasingly creative ways to protest. They’re blocking traffic. There’s something called, “An onion protest,” where they drop bags of onions on the street and slowly go around picking them up so that they can’t be accused of illegally disrupting traffic. And then they’re boycotting the lottery to disrupt an important source of income for the regime. Reporters have been refusing to attend press conferences with the new government, that is, the military junta.

Some of these methods really are questionable. It’s like a curse campaign which consists of naming and shaming generals. I think in Gandhian principled nonviolence you would never do that. You would never do anything to compromise the dignity of a person, whoever that person is, in any way.

And when you think about it, all of these varied tactics fall into the general category of what we call, Obstructive program. What I have yet to see — that doesn’t mean it’s not there — but what I have yet to see, and certainly, what’s yet to be reported on in the news is what we might call, Constructive program, where people will be creating schools and community organizations and so forth.

To move on now to another resource, even in death, it seems, the great Abdul Ghaffar Khan is making peace and making contributions to nonviolence because his biography, “My Life and Struggle” has recently been translated and just come available to us through India. And what’s interesting in particular is that this publication was a joint venture of India and Pakistan.

So, there is an increasing consciousness, in fact, among the Pashtun community, or what used to be call the Pathans, who were against oppression and war. And that has led to resurgence of interest in Bacha Khan and his powerful weapon of nonviolence, his emphasis on including women in all walks of life, his belief in religious tolerance, his legacy speaking truth to power. All these things are of increasing relevance. Malala Yusafzai, who is Pashtun and who is the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize, she said this, “Bacha Khan’s message of the power of peaceful protest for liberty, equality, and justice changed our culture and customs forever and inspires me everyday in my activism for girl’s education and women’s empowerment.”

There’s so much available now. It’s rewarding when it’s not bewildering to consider it all, but Pace e Bene, the Franciscan organization is doing a six-week workshop which will take place on Zoom. I’m particularly fond of this one because it’s called, “Compassion as Presence – Level II.” There was a Level I. “Level II of Applying Meditation for Nonviolent Living.” Now, I have long felt that meditation is going to be the most powerful tool that we can use for any kind of nonviolent or constructive work.

It’s a two-hour workshop on Tuesday, April 6th from 2:00 to 4:00PM Pacific Time, and they’re going to have some of the foremost authorities in Kingian nonviolence in education. The facilitator of this will be Veronica Pelicaric and it’ll cost $80.

There’s a new book called the “Glossary of Civil Resistance: A Resource for Study and Translation of Key Terms. This is being brought to us by the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict. The authors are Hardy Merriman, who’s the executive director of ICNC and Nicola Barrach-Yousefi. So, it’s taken them six years to create this. They have defined over 150 key terms, used them in sentences, have extensive commentary and introduction, and links to translations of key civil resistance terminology in 31 languages. I have yet to see this wonderful resource, but it promises to be really excellent, given the quality of the work that is done by ICNC.

Moving around the world a little bit: in a historic referendum that took place recently, in Ecuador, in the city of Cuenca which is the third largest city in that country, they voted to ban mining in the area. And that was more than 80 percent and the electorate voted for that.

Meanwhile, the Peace Alliance, based back here in Washington DC, has listed a number of ways that people can get involved this month. You’ll find that on the Peace Alliance website. I won’t go into all of it here, but they do point out that there are three interesting bills before congress: H.R.350, which is the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, H.R.666 – hmm, that’s an uncomfortable number, isn’t it? — which is called, “Anti-racism and Public Health Act,” and finally, the sponsor of this being our Oakland representative, Barbara Lee, H.R.1111 to establish a Dependent of Peacebuilding – something that was originally proposed, if I’m remembering correctly, in 1784. So, you know, you don’t want to fool around with peace.

There will be an introduction to restorative justice workshop also on March 6 and an advanced one on March 20th that the DC Peace Teams, who I mentioned before, will be doing. And you can get their information on DC Peace Teams website.

One more thing, meanwhile from Meta Peace Teams — I mentioned a big resource of theirs coming up later. It will be a workshop called, “Stories of Nonviolent Tactics. De-escalating Tension.” You know, as we’ve known for some time, when it comes to teaching people how they can behave and what to do, nothing seems to be as effective as stories. Several books in the education field have kind of established that. You can try to explain to young people why they should behave in a particular way, it’s not likely to have much effect. If you tell them a story, even if you don’t tell them the meaning of the story, the impact at the end, they will get it from that narrative because they identify with the characters.

I mentioned that things are heating up in Myanmar. Unfortunately, the same is happening in India where the government also has been increasing their tactics, unethical as they are, because they have been made increasingly uneasy about the protests. They’ve been doing things like cutting water, electricity, and telecommunications for the activists who are camping at the protest locations, and this escalation of theirs seems to be backfiring as it’s drawing in tens of thousands of new protestors.

Now this is a good example of what George Lakey used to call, “a dilemma action,” where you put your opponent in such a position that if they don’t try to repress you, of course you win. And if they do try to repress you, you also win because of the backlash like that we’re seeing happening now in India. It still remains a very tense situation that requires changing tactics, another way of approach because the protests and repressions have just been very costly and not really seeming to move the conversation forward.

So, as you see, I am jumping around. Back here in the USA, there was a petition calling on President Biden to stop the Line 3 Pipeline Project which is in Minnesota. And again, the issue just as at Standing Rock, is the fracking of oil versus the fresh water supply. The Indigenous people in this case are the Anishinaabe. And because he has blocked — the Standing Rock protest — he’s now being called upon to follow suit and do the same thing with Line 3. So, once again we seem to have a lot of conflicts, a lot of campaigns that are hanging in the air.

The Institute for Local Self Reliance has launched a campaign to build 30 million solar homes with a focus on localism. Remember Gandhi’s swadeshi, localism. They’re not just looking at energy. They have other initiatives that they’re looking at, such as a community broadband network initiative and an independent business initiative. And these are really good examples of constructive program, where you build what you need instead of, or at least before, calling on the regime to stop doing something that you don’t want them to do.

Also, there are three cities in the United States that are switching to what they call, Life-affirming economies. You can read about that in Yes! Magazine.

So, that is the report for now. As you can see, there’s a mixture of good news and bad news from the point-of-view of outcomes, but the overall movement in terms of the development of nonviolence, it’s sophistication and learning tactics is improving dramatically. And that is bound to be creating an impulse or a force for a better future. So, that is the episode for this week, and I look forward to reporting again with you soon. Thank you.

Music by Nimo Patel.

Transcription by Matthew Watrous.

Related Episodes