|These are regular editorials
produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent
Also in this editorial:
The editor takes this opportunity to wish you,
and yours, the compliments of the seasoned nut loaf and a
preposterous new year.
Whatever you consider about the recent Michael
Stone incident at Stormont where he attempted
to kill Sinn Féin leaders in a blaze of publicity,
there are a number of conclusions can be made. Stone himself
may be bad, sad, mad, involved in a fad of egotism, opportunism,
misplaced idealism, whatever, all or none of these - it does
not matter much in the overall scheme of things. What does
matter is the difficulty which it indicates for some people
to move on, to adapt to a Northern Ireland which is slowly
building away from violence and in favour of something like
peace. Fire bombings by republican dissidents which have destroyed
property in Belfast and Newry over the last few months indicate
the same factor on the other side of the Northern Ireland
Building a peaceful society when recovering
from the massive fractures which have existed, and to a very
considerable extent still exist, is a massive task. While
much can be achieved in the short term, it is also the work
for the next generation or two - if the same fault lines that
caused the recent Troubles are to be overcome. There is likely
to continue to some violent incidents of various kinds for
the foreseeable future including occasional bomb attacks to
police and significant institutions of the state.
Moving on involves many factors which we have
detailed before. Confidence and trust do not come easy; in
disadvantaged working class areas it is particularly difficult
where poverty and disempowerment are rife and sectarian political
identities have previously given a certain amount of meaning
and purpose. On the other hand the middle classes, who largely
did not unduly disturb themselves during the Troubles, have
also to make a journey away from their politer but not necessarily
less invasive form of sectarianism. Young people need to be
equipped to be confident and open - confident in their own
chosen identity so they do not feel threatened by others who
have different identities (whether 'the other community' or
newcomers to Northern Ireland), and open to dialogue, discussion
and ways of handling conflict without violence. The latter
is something where people in the broad 'peace' sector have
to deliver opportunities to explore, train and understand.
But there certainly is hope. Ian Paisley's past
form would indicate him reneging on any progressive thoughts
if the going got tough - and yet, despite a certain amount
of fudge (Norn Iron's favourite political sweet) it looks
like he is becoming, of all things, a power-sharer, and with
Sinn Féin to boot, despite considerable opposition
within his own party and his church. If Ian Paisley can be
an old dog learning new tricks then so can many others who
might have been thought diehard political dinosaurs. Let us
hope he has, at long last, seen the light.
Tony Blair is pushing hard to get a replacement
for the British Trident 'nuclear deterrent' before he finishes
his term in office as prime minister some time in 2007. As
a sop to opponents he has offered to cut the number of Trident
warheads by 20%. This is absolutely and completely meaningless
since the existing stockpile is complete overkill (sic) anyway;
is the UK really going to unleash 200 or even 160 warheads,
each the power of 18 Hiroshimas? And the so-called British
'independent' deterrent is totally dependent on the USA for
British pro-replacement thinking stresses the
'uncertainty' over the future, and therefore the desire to
retain this so-called deterrent. However the one certain thing
is that if existing powers retain their nuclear weapons, more
and more people will be clamouring to join the nuclear club
and, come hell or high water, or both (in the case of North
Korea), getting on board. The obvious thinking is that if
you want to be a big boy in the world club then nuclear weapons
are de rigeur. This is exactly Britain's thinking in this
neo-post-colonial era; trying to prove itself a big hitter
when it is has recently just been cannon fodder for the megalomania
of the USA's leadership. Tony Blair referred to Britain's
nuclear weapons as 'the ultimate insurance'; in this he was
correct, though not in the way he supposed since it will be
the ultimate insurance that others will consider it worth
joining the club.
It is time for Britain to grow up and take its
place among the nations of the world as it is, not as it was
or as its leaders would wish it to be. If it wanted to do
something for peace then unilateral nuclear disarmament would
command respect internationally, lead by example, and challenge
the increasing nuclear proliferation in the world. A former
British Labour Party leader (Nye Bevan, 1957) spoke against
unilateralism by proclaiming it would be going naked into
the conference chamber; perhaps it would but that is one of
the principles of nonviolence and by doing things differently
it would lead by example. The waste of money on Trident replacement
would be a shocking squandering of resources when the same
amount would go a long way to making the UK carbon-use friendly.
It would also be breaking the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But then generals are renowned for fighting the last 'war'
and Tony Blair seems equally determined to get a decision
in place before he goes - long before that decision needs
to be taken.
Larry Speight brings us his monthly column:
Be Merry Buy Now
"Be Merry Buy Now - Pay December 2007 This
Week Only", is an advertisement from Dell for desktop
computers advertised in The Guardian, 25 November 2006. Other
advertisements this past week included the captions "It's
a way of life", "My style my way", "Image
is everything" and "You says you have to choose".
These one-liners, which it is almost impossible to avoid receiving
are designed, along with the imagery, to induce us to spend
money on things that are superfluous to our needs, suggesting
that if we had them we would be happier, more fulfilled, more
likeable and more powerful. The psychology employed is that
of exploiting, as religions have long done, our primeval sense
of magic that is embodied in folklore and fairy tales. As
holy water, prayer and ritual are considered by many to be
agents of transformation, so is the long list of non-essentials
we are forever enticed to buy. Commerce relies on millions
of people walking into shops and purchasing things they had
up until then not known existed, or had any intention of buying.
Credit cards make it all so easy, as do such one-liners mentioned
above that through repetition have become part of how we make
sense of the world and see our place in it. They are designed
to help us justify our purchases and encourage the gullible,
insecure, status seekers to believe that shopping is as human
an activity as walking or breathing air.
The true costs involved in what we buy are hidden
from view, the social injustices, loss of biodiversity, air
and water pollution, global warming, the mountains of waste
which society no longer knows what to do with and the loss
to future generations of vital resources. As in many fairy
tales the negatives are considered not to exist, and it is
considered impolite to ask a store manager about the production
and transport history of the goods we buy, as it is of the
person who gives us a present we suspect has cost the environment
and the quality of peoples' lives dear. Thus it is as we embrace
the biggest shopping festival of the year, Christmas, buying
in the name of God, generosity and good cheer. We could of
course celebrate the mid-winter festival in a way that harms
neither the Earth nor others. This surely would be a gift
appreciated by all.
Sean McCrum provides some notes on the first
in a series of seminars run by Dublin Peace Committee, 18th
November, 2006 at Churchtown Meeting House, Dublin
This was the first of three seminars and a conference.
The second is Power and the Other, 24 February 2007, in Irish
School of Ecumenics, Belfast; the third is Religion and the
Other, in May 2007, in Dublin; the conference is Peace and
Complicity, in Dublin in September 2007.
Main speakers: Miriam Logan, psychotherapist;
Jude Lal Fernando, completing a PhD in Peace Studies, Irish
School of Ecumenics, Dublin. and Sri Lankan peace activist,
supporting a negotiated peace in Sri Lanka; Edward Horgan,
peace activist who moved from the Irish Army.
Everybody likes peace. It provides us with a
comfort zone. What do we really mean by peace: to put ideas
into action. Too often, we like the emotion but will not invest
in facts in a complex world. Peace advocacy groups in the
EU require fact-gathering and concise terminology to make
successful presentations to 26 self-interested countries.
Despite the EU's proving that Europe can exist
without continental-wide war for sixty years, we are continuously
confronted by immensely sophisticated governmental and arms
industries' PR and marketing of war-centred attitudes and
economics. Over the centuries, our species has made institutionalised
human obliteration and agony romantic and desirable - now
we experience war second-hand through edited media coverage.
This first seminar focused on the central blockage
to peace, fear of the other. How individuals deal with this
in themselves, then how to transmit that experience into action
in the public sphere. Peace is uncomfortable - it demands
the integrity and self-awareness of the individual.
Miriam Lawlor approached the idea of the other, as the object
of fear within individuals. We focused on how individuals
become aware of this presence and seek to deal with it.
Fear at one level, is a necessary part of human
survival in response to dangerous events. If fear does not
cease when the event is over, it stays and corrodes an individual.
It is important that people learn how to assess fear and different
levels of fear. Internalised fear, similarly to fear in a
specific event, requires a target, an other.
Fear of the other can be internalised into oneself;
it can be projected outwards onto another individual or group.
If people feel secure, wanted and necessary, they feel safe
- at peace. If they feel threatened and excluded, they become
frightened and act accordingly - they may become violent and
aggressive, or reclusive. There are many causes for this,
mostly overlapping with each other.
Fear at a personal level involves the other
in some form. As a species, human beings function well as
small groups. A small group perceives different groups as
other to itself. It is easy to move from here to very large
groups - countries, ethnic or special interest groups. It
is easy to compound that with fear of the other as unknown
- differing cultural attitudes, needs: lack of knowledge of
oneself and the other.
In the afternoon, we moved to considering fear
of the other in the public sphere. We asked how individuals
had overcome their internal, personal fear and moved to assisting
others to achieve this through public action.
Jude Lal Fernando
For Jude, the crucifixion itself is unimportant compared to
Jesus' response to it and thus our response to it. He liberated
us through his response. Response to a situation liberates
us. An individual becomes a person in relation to, not in
isolation from, the other. Each child is part of a family.
Jude's fears came through demands of family,
education and elements of his background. During the 1980s,
he became part of a youth movement to non-violently voice
the grievances of the unemployed.
In Sri Lanka, religious divisions emerged. Anti-Tamil
riots during July 1983 massacred 3,000 people. Between 1987-1989,
60,000 died. He lost fear of arrest by seeing the risks taken
by journalists to report the truth.
Jude passed through check-points because he
belongs to the majority Sinhalese, speaking Sinhalese. But
for Tamils, language was a source of fear. He crossed this
divide by learning Tamil. Government and Tamils were polarised:
each suspected him. He was in no-mans land.
In Sri Lanka, most adolescents join the army
for social worth and power, countering alienation similarly
to Palestinians or Iraqis. Each tries to make the best of
life, like UK and US soldiers in Iraq. We need to speak to
Violence constructs the other from fear. Fear
is expressed in different modes: in the USA, Iraq, Palestine
and Government of Sri Lanka, it is psychological: in Afghanistan,
Iraq, Palestine or Tamil Sri Lanka, it is also physical/material.
I become only in relation to the other. God
is the absolute other. The more we relate to different others,
the more we relate to God. We are all related.
Killing people to make peace is contradictory. We need to
challenge the state. The very act of challenging is a valid
experience. We must act to prevent what is wrong through active
pacifism. We must build individual responsibility.
We need to seek knowledge. Knowledge carries
responsibility. We are actively complicit in the use of Shannon.
We allow what we know: people renditioned through Shannon
are being tortured elsewhere, violence done in our name.
Governments involved in war don't want reality.
The media sanitise the reality of war. That reality is individuals
who are shredded, half killed and left to die for weeks, even
months. Politicians warn us about losing US investment here,
to excuse 650,000 people killed. Sweden and Switzerland have
maintained neutrality: it has not affected their economies
Edward has worked in many different countries. People are
the same as we are in Ireland. Difference is literally skin
deep, if even that. We are One World. There is no justification
for otherness, for racism.
In the context of responsibility for supporting a useless
war, Ireland owes its part of a debt of reparation to the
people of Iraq. One hundred billion Euros is owed to Iraq.
But we can only build back the buildings, not the lives of
Unless we stop wars now, our grandchildren will
face nuclear war. Challenge the government to justify what
it does. We need to control society, not have society control
Fear-perpetuating divisions are false. We are
all brothers and sisters. We need to create peace only by
peaceful means. Be Active Pacifists.
Repeatedly, we returned to human individuality and integrity,
the danger of group thinking, the importance and responsibility
of knowledge, the exploitation of fear of the other, the need
for concerted thinking and action by individuals in agreement.
A report by Rob Fairmichael
This five meeting series in Belfast in September
and October 2006 was an enjoyable and informative look at
'active nonviolence', marked the Peace People's 30th anniversary
and was co-hosted with the Irish School of Ecumenics whose
Johnston McMaster chaired most of the sessions. In this article
I will seek to share some of the main points made by speakers
and build some commentary around what was said.
Attendance at the sessions ranged from the mid-fifties
up to ninety people. Inviting non-specialists to speak about
nonviolence can get interesting results, particularly if the
commentators are well known. The disadvantage in doing this
is they may miss features which seem quite obvious to those
within. A caveat in my reportage here is that I would advise
reading the approved words of the speakers when they are published
as perhaps being more accurate than my note taking and interpretations.
Eamonn Phoenix kicked off the series with his talk on 'Physical
force traditions and state violence', and the respondents
to the talk were Jeffrey Donaldson and Alban Maginness. Eamonn
Phoenix took a quick tour through some Irish history from
the Plantation of Ulster onwards - the gratuitous and routine
killing by Chichester and his forces in 1601, violence which
was repaid against settlers in the 1641, the driving underground
of the United Irishmen in 1795 and the bequest of a physical
force tradition from the 1798 rebellion. In the early twentieth
century there was a rise in militant Ulster unionism from
1912 and in 1913 the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) copied
unionist military tactics with the setting up of the Irish
Volunteers. The Easter Rising of 1916 had little popular support
but became a triumph for the grave through executions and
martyrdom. The IRA (of the War of Independence period) was
very much influenced by the British policy of counter-terror
which alienated the population, and then came the emergence
of vicious paramilitarism in the North including the Ulster
Special Constabulary. I would have liked more analysis from
him, e.g. on the chances of superseding physical force traditions.
Geoffrey Donaldson took a wander through Protestant
and Presbyterian perceptions of Irish history and acknowledged
the physical force tradition associated with Protestantism
from the Plantation onwards. There were Presbyterians who
embraced republicanism in its truest sense (at the end of
the eighteenth century) but sectarian atrocities (against
Protestants) in Wexford and elsewhere influenced them. By
1912 Protestants were prepared to take on the state to defend
the union. He acknowledged that from 1921-69 Unionism was
the state in Northern Ireland, and that republicanism and
unionism had failed to accommodate the people from the other
tradition. He asked whether we were now moving to a new political
dispensation where the two traditions could be accommodated
under the one umbrella.
Alban Maginness pointed to the madness of doing
the same thing (violence) and expecting a different result,
though he did point to very little violence in nineteenth
century Ireland beyond the landlords. He spoke about the legitimisation
of violence, for example of paramilitary violence being seen
to have saved Unionists from being incorporated in an Irish
Free State. He said to beware of utopians and idealists who
believe in the certainty of their cause and use ruthless violence;
the last thing to do in our society, he said, is to use violence
and divide people further. He saw the ultra-nationalist movement
as chauvinist and not republican. The only protection he saw
against violence in the future is to create the necessary
accommodation and partnership between unionism and nationalism.
In the discussion from the floor, one commentator
stated that the people who have the power dictate the mode
of the conflict - e.g. Sinn Féin were refused participation
in the conference at Versailles after the First World War,
but in the last ten years we (people in Northern Ireland)
have more of a choice. Alban Maginness pointed to the IRA
reintroducing the gun and reinforcing Unionist fears in the
recent Troubles; another comment from the floor spoke of the
IRA's guns being used for protection when houses were burnt
(in Belfast). While the tit-for-tat nature of much of the
violence mentioned in this session was acknowledged, I think
further analysis would have helped to understand this including
why people chose to use violence. I take it for read that
the vast majority of people engaged in violence did so because
they felt they had no choice; acknowledging this does not
mean in any sense that we agree with them but they deserve
that recognition. 'We' may have a different concept of the
possibilities of nonviolence.
- - - - -
The second talk saw Prof Christine Kinealy speaking on 'The
Irish Story of Nonviolence', and she announced that she would
speak mainly about the nineteenth century. Referring first
to the time of the Famine of 1846, she spoke of how 'Speranza'
(who happened to be Oscar Wilde's mammy, my terminology) moved
within three years from unionism to being a nationalist and
supporting armed action. Christine Kinealy spoke of the 1790s
as being the start for understanding modern Ireland, with
the draconian policies of the British government in 1796,
the 1798 rebellion leading to Union with Britain, premised
on the lie that there would be Catholic emancipation. Meanwhile
the Orange Order had been founded in 1795 though Presbyterians
were only admitted in 1834. She spoke of Daniel O'Connell
and the different response he received in the North - he was
pelted with stones in Belfast. His nadir (my term) came in
1843 with the Clontarf mass meeting banned and, she said,
his realisation that peaceful tactics for Repeal had failed.
'Young Irelanders' (so called by O'Connell) argued for getting
more Protestants involved but were expulsed in 1846 over their
refusal to renounce violence which, she said, they had no
intention of using at the time (things changed by 1848 and
revolutionary fervour in Europe).
Christine Kinealy spoke of the unionist reaction
to Butt and Parnell's Home Rule movement in the latter part
of the nineteenth century. She dealt briefly with the events
leading to partition but said that by the 1920s the physical
force tradition was increasingly marginalised and the two
new states were openly repressive and authoritarian. The 1960s
civil rights movement aimed unsuccessfully to be inclusive
but increasingly there was a security force response of violence.
The peace movement in 1976 seemed to herald better but failed.
She challenged perceptions of O'Connell; while
often held as a model of peaceful agitation, he was opposed
to violence not because it was wrong but because it would
fail - he had killed an opponent in a duel in 1815 and admired
USA and South American struggles for independence. His tactics
failed and she said this showed the limitations of moral force
arguments, and his view of the Irish nation was exclusive
- where did Protestants fit in? But he was still seen as a
model by others including Gandhi. She pointed to complexities
in the pacifist approach; were the hunger strikes moral or
physical force? How can political change happen when there
is no access to political power and the struggle is ignored?
Sinn Féin in 1905 opposed violence and supported passive
resistance. Taking the example of Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington,
who was not a pacifist but also not personally violent, where
did she fit into the spectrum? The division between violence
and nonviolence is not always clear cut, she said. Few people
embrace violence as their first option but when they decide
to change the effects can be brutal.
Alex Maskey gave the first response to Christine
Kinealy's talk. He began by speaking of the incident which
led to the formation of the Peace People in 1976. He went
on to say that we have never had a successful peace movement,
and he didn't think there is a pacifist tradition in Ireland.
He nevertheless spoke of people believing in pacifism 'who
sit in the house' - I would agree that certainly there are,
there are also people who believed in armed struggle who 'sat
in the house' , and he was not the only one who seemed to
give a 'passivist' label to 'pacifism'. He said that, for
him, the question of violence or nonviolence was not a question
of morality or theology but informed conscience. He dealt
with some aspects of the peace process including John Hume
being pilloried, 'almost crucified', for engaging with Gerry
Adams. He asked as to who now is for solving the problem rather
than characterising it as 'the men of violence'.
David Ervine spoke of politicians saying "a
good job yesterday" (referring to a violent incident),
and of superiority versus inferiority feelings described in
"We are the people" - but who encouraged people
to shout 'we are the people'? He said that, personally, he
did what he did because he didn't know what else to do and
felt he had to do something. Attacking those who waved fingers
or were inconsistent, he felt those genuinely nonviolent can
make a difference. He said that if we had waited for constitutional
politicians to set conditions (for peace) we would have waited
for a very long time. Discussion included some analysis of
the role of women in achieving peace, with divergent views
I was pleased to have provided everyone with
a copy of the "Nonviolence - The Irish Experience - Quiz"
(see INNATE website) on their seat for this session because
that showed a considerable number of instances through history
on his island where people have dealt with life and issues
without violence which were not otherwise covered. A question
I ask myself about the concept of 'nonviolence in Irish history'
is - is it permissible to take a concept and label the past
in this way, reinterpreting it now? Yes so long as we are
not trying to say someone unfamiliar with the concept supported
'nonviolence' but if the strictures and structures they lived
were in accord with what we would call nonviolence, then why
not? Every generation, and every 'ism', interprets history
in new ways and this is fair enough if we don't bend the facts
to fit. The fact that O'Connell failed with 'his' nonviolent
tactics does not mean we should accept it was impossible to
succeed with other nonviolent tactics (not that we should
say either that he could definitely have succeeded) - that
is one of the prerogatives of looking with hindsight.
- - - - -
We moved on to rather different ground at the next session
with Johnston McMaster and Cathy Higgins presenting a paper
on "Jesus' Nonviolence". This was a remarkable exposition
which I would recommend people, especially Christians, read
(when the papers are published by the Peace People) because
it challenges the whole Constantinian construction that has
been the underpinning of the (bulk of) the Christian churches.
They began by setting the violent context of Galilee at the
time of Jesus; they spoke about the Jewish world "where
violence underpinned the military ideology of Empire, the
brutality of client kings, the cultural and economic conflict
with imperial structures, the imposition of Hellenism, the
religio-economic oppression of Jerusalem, and the gendered
violence of a patriarchal system." Jesus, by contrast,
spoke of the Reign of God where there would be no hierarchy,
poverty, illness, domination, oppression, injustice and suffering.
Some of Jesus' parables have tended to be understood as portraying
vindictive landowners and kings as God; Johnston McMaster
and Cathy Higgins pointed to an understanding which contrasts
this behaviour with God's kingdom (i.e. this vindictiveness
if the opposite of God's kingdom).. They analysed some other
passages where there is a radically different understanding
possible from what is common.
"In the pre-Christendom period (30-313
CE) Christians were uninterested in theories of atonement.
Jesus died to save/liberate them; they celebrated the resurrection
as victory over spiritual and political powers that oppressed
them. Christus Victor was their primary experience of cross
and resurrection. In the Christendom period (313-1970) Christians
were no longer interested in the political, social, and economic,
implications of Jesus' life, as the church and state had become
one 'Christian empire'." They concluded that "To
rediscover Jesus' non-violence, may well mean unlearning much
of the biblical and theological interpretation that has shaped
us. It will mean learning to re-read our foundational documents."
Rev Dr Donald Watts was the first respondent
and started off by saying we should celebrate how far the
community has come in thirty years. He said Johnston and Cathy
had reintroduced the 'active' into nonviolence and contrasted
active nonviolence with pacifism (which was given a negative
connotation); this was, again, I feel, a false dichotomy and
an outsider labelling and understanding a belief or philosophy
in a negative way which insiders would not necessarily do;
as previously stated, doubtless there are 'pacifists' and
'believers in nonviolence' who 'sit in the house' just as
there are socialists, capitalists and lots of other 'ists'
who do the same. But I would argue that the pacifist/nonviolent
ideology itself is not necessarily either negative or supportive
of inactivity. However he was on stronger ground, for Christians,
in saying that God's shalom is already realised (in Jesus)
- and asking how do we live in the present, with the conclusion
that Christians are called to a radically different style
Fr Tim Bartlett said he was trying to ask some
difficult questions including mentioning the requirements
of legitimate defence in Catholic thinking - Augustine said
the state had a duty to protect citizens from attack from
outside. He felt there is the danger of not addressing the
realities of evil and violent structures and states. We can
use active nonviolence as far as we can but what if North
Korea or other states were threatening to use nuclear weapons?
Or what about aggressive Islam? He felt that while you could
talk of the death of Christendom in Europe but not elsewhere,
e.g. America. Discussion included various views on the role
of women in their churches, and the question of whether Northern
Ireland would have been better or worse off in the Troubles
without the churches (which for me begs a hundred other questions).
Donald Watts' take on being asked to bless tanks
was that he would bless people doing anything because they
are made in the image of God. I would have a profound disagreement
with this approach because in my Christian belief this is
rendering to Caesar the things that are God's. When Archbishop
Eames went to visit an Irish regiment in the British army
serving in Iraq I profoundly disagreed with that; if the war
was not in accord with Christian principles then he was playing
straight into the warmongers' hands - such a visit could only
be interpreted as being support for the British Army in Iraq.
If he had openly condemned the war and then offered to go,
and, certainly to bless the troops if they wanted, that would
be a different matter. Further on in the discussion, Tim Bartlett
said his personal disposition would be only to be violent
to, say, protect a child. A commentator from the floor said
Christians should behave like Christ, not like sheep.
- - - - -
The penultimate session had a variety of speakers from different
faith traditions and one humanist, Brian McClinton. He felt
the humanist tradition, which he interpreted quite widely,
was something quite loose and had a real but subtle effect
on the world, and he quoted Buddha, Pythagoras, and Confucius
whose thought included the 'Golden Rule' (do not do to others
what you would not like done to yourself). Humanists have
a tradition of writing and campaigning for good causes, often
under the aegis of other organisations. He felt Jesus may
have taken ideas from the pacifist humanist tradition, and
that the doctrine of Just War was challenged by Renaissance
humanists. He then took a quick tour through to the 20th century
concluding that those who organised the violence in Northern
Ireland need to admit it was wrong, and mistrust will continue
until they do so.
Ronnie Appleton represented Judaism and spoke
of God as the God of all humanity, and that God intended diversity.
Judaism as a religion teaches peace, Moses that you should
love your neighbour as yourself, and the Torah that you should
love your neighbour. 'Shalom' is the meeting and leaving greeting.
Jews did not retaliate for the Holocaust when six million
were cruelly put to death; he pointed out that there had been
no comparable anti-semitism in Muslim countries and anti-semitism
only got there in the mid-twentieth century. He then proceeded
to give a pro-Israeli analysis of the Israeli/Palestinian
situation and of Israel's survival against attacks. He contrasted
the 15 million Jews worldwide with 2 billion Christians and
1.2 billion Muslims.
Mamoun Mobayed presented the Muslim analysis.
In Islam there is the Q'uran as primary source, plus the Hadith
(Mohammed's teachings) - any teaching which contradicts these
is not accepted, and after these there is only opinion. Islam's
emphasis for individuals and nations is based on peace but
war is a contingency or necessity at certain times but only
to stop evil triumphing and not to be waged when there is
a chance for peace. However the term 'jihad' has been misinterpreted,
it connotes struggle, there is no word in Arabic for 'holy
Lucy Lee, a student of Tibetan Buddhism, spoke
of the Dalai Lama's approach to peace and conflict. She said
that Buddhism is about developing love, compassion, forgiveness,
patience, generosity and tolerance and these are good antidotes
to anger, violence and hatred. We need internal; and external,
disarmament. Despite 49 years in exile the Dalai Lama continues
to spread a message of peace, she said.
Raj Puri spoke of the Hindu approach and of
the concept of ahimsa, which Gandhi made the cornerstone of
his philosophy. Hindus believe in karma and reincarnation
so thoughts, feelings and actions will return - violence will
return by a cosmic process, and we kill ourselves when we
intend to kill others. Nonviolence is not cowardice - it is
wisdom and the knowledge of love. The best way to teach being
peaceful is by example in the home, it is up to parents to
set up the peacemakers of the future. The following discussion
covered a variety of aspects of violence, non-violence, and
- - - -
Mairead Corrigan Maguire spoke on this final topic, sharing
her vision of nonviolence. We should embrace the idea of a
nonkilling society and to do that we first of all need to
move away from dependence on threat and the use of killing
force for security. There are always alternatives to force
and the threat of force. She went on to look at fear as a
barrier to progress; there were no armies on the streets of
Northern Ireland in 1969 but "we had such a deep ethnic
fear amongst a divided community that when the genie of violence
was released, what became known as 'the troubles' became unstoppable
for over 35 years."
Mairead Maguire made a comparison between stopping
smoking and stopping violence; once there was agreement that
smoking was bad for our health, it became possible to change
to a nonsmoking culture. So with violence, and she mentioned
the role of faith communities in building this culture. As
a Christian she asked herself if she could ever use violence
and studied the Just War theory but concluded that Jesus'
message of loving enemies clearly showed not to kill. Mairead
then went on to look at forgiveness, and trust, and concluded
that she had great hope for the future. Nonviolent transformation
will mean demilitarised countries, unarmed policing, nonaligned
countries internationally, and changing patriarchal and hierarchical
May Blood was the first respondent to Mairead
Magire and said she was also a pacifist but had questions
and came at things from a different angle. How do we get to
a nonkilling community? Is there a hunger for nonviolence
and peace? The absence of war is not necessarily peace and
while she is delighted with where things are at (in Northern
Ireland) she still sees violence on the streets and people
getting harder. Poverty and injustice remain. Dealing with
the past will be difficult, she said, the La Mon bombing might
be thirty years ago but for friends and those involved it
is like yesterday. Northern Ireland still has two power blocs
where one side says 'no' when the other says 'yes'. There
is still real fear of the other, and fear of the future. We
need to develop a concept of citizenship beyond Catholics
and Protestants. Reconciliation is a journey and not a destination.
She said there are 5 elements in TRUTH - Trust, Responsibility,
Understanding, Tenacity and Honesty.
As the second respondent to Mairead Maguire,
I tried to explore some of the issues and problems in building
communities of nonviolence, facing a multiplicity of major
issues; to deal with any of the necessary tasks "we have
to build alliances - alliances with single issue groups, trade
unions, other organisations in civil society, interested individuals,
and even at times political parties and certainly people of
ideologies such as socialism or anarchism." The basis
we should proceed on is the Quaker one of, in religious language,
'seeing that of God in everyone', or, in secular language,
'respect' - the sense of which I said is closer to Ali G than
Tony B. To illustrate the mundane and unconscious use of nonviolence,
as opposed to the heroic, I gave an example of 'disguised
disobedience' by school students during my secondary schooling;
without any organisation, we scuttled an attempt by our principal
to introduce an elitist and generally appalling attempt at
a school anthem - we sang it as half-heartedly and lack-lustrely
as possible and it was quickly ditched.
In discussion, May Blood referred to the length
of 'peace walls' in Belfast, and Mairead Maguire spoke of
the need to show symbolically that we want to live together.
Other discussion focused both positively and negatively on
the role of the churches. Kevin Cassidy, chair of the Peace
People, concluded the series and said the Peace People intended
producing a booklet with the talks which had been presented.