16 Ravensdene Park,
Belfast BT6 0DA,
Northern Ireland.
Tel: 028 9064 7106
Fax: 028 9064 7106

This is an archive of material
mainly from 1992 until December 2020.
Please go to our CURRENT WEBSITE
for material from January 2021 onwards.
What's new?

Billy King


Nonviolence News


Readings in Nonviolence

‘Readings in Nonviolence’ features extracts from our favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence, or reviews of important works in the field (suggestions welcome).

Researched and introduced by Roberta Bacic

Fortress Europe

Immigrant Europeans in the whole American Continent and North, South and Central Americans in Europe in our times

This month we would like to highlight a politically relevant issue in our Readings in Nonviolence section. It is about the situation that illegal immigrants are facing in this ever stronger Europe. It can be perceived how the EU grows and, at the same time, strengthens its position and closes walls to the ones who, for different circumstances, have taken the option of coming to live here. Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, addressed a public letter to those who were to take a decision around illegal immigrants in the EU. It is a brave letter, it goes back to painful times in European history when people had to leave and look for life and a future in another country, be that North, Central or South America. They were very well received. So were my parents in Chile after having lost all in the Second World War.

The letter uses the language of non-violence, appeals to ‘the other’, to consider the issue not as a matter of convenience, but as a matter of conscience, a humanitarian affair that needs to be looked into with open mind, solidarity and not to just think what is “ convenient “ to Europeans.

The letter proved to be a prophetic testimony as it had no impact at all. At the time of voting on the issue, things became tougher than they are now. At the end of President Morales’s letter, you will find an article which appeared in the New York Times on June 19th 2008. What can the ordinary citizen do to influence this?

Open Letter from Evo Morales Regarding the European Union's "Returns Directive"


Translated by Machetera

Until the end of the Second World War, Europe was a continent of emigrants. Tens of millions of Europeans left for the Americas in order to colonize, escape famine, financial crises, wars and European totalitarianism and the persecution of ethnic minorities. Today, I'm following the process of the so-called "Returns Directive" with concern. The text, approved on June 5th by the Interior Ministers of the European Union's 27 member countries, must be voted on in the European Parliament on June 18th. I feel that it drastically hardens the conditions for detention and expulsion of undocumented migrants, whatever their length of stay in the European countries, their work situation, their family ties, their will and their achievements at integration.

Europeans arrived en masse in the countries of Latin America and North America, without visas or conditions imposed by the authorities. They were always welcome, and they continue to be, in our countries on the American continent, which therefore absorb the economic misery of Europe and its political crises. They came to our continent to exploit its wealth and transfer it to Europe, with a very high cost for America's original population. Such is the case in our Cerro Rico, in Potosi, where the fabulous silver mines provided the European continent its coinage from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The goods and personal rights of the European migrants were always respected.

Today the European Union is the main destination for the world's migrants, as a consequence of its positive image as an area of prosperity and public freedom. The vast majority of the migrants come to the EU to contribute to this prosperity, not to take advantage of it. They occupy jobs in public works, construction, personal services and hospitals, which Europeans can't or don't wish to fill. They contribute to the European continent's dynamic demographic, to maintaining the relationship between the active and inactive that in turn makes possible its generous systems of social security, internal market stimulation and social cohesion. Migrants offer a solution to the EU's demographic and financial problems.

For us, our migrants represent the development aid that the Europeans don't give us - considering that few countries actually manage to achieve the minimum objective of 0.7% of their GDP in development aid. In 2006, Latin America received $68 billion dollars in remittances; more than the total foreign investment in our countries. At a world level, they reach $300 billion dollars, which surpasses the $104 billion dollars granted through the concept of development aid. My own country, Bolivia, received more than 10% of its GDP through remittances ($1.1 billion dollars), or a third of our annual natural gas exports.

This is to say that the migration flows are just as beneficial for the Europeans and marginally for those of us in the Third World, considering that we've also lost the equivalent of millions of skilled workers, in which our states, poor as they are, have invested human and financial resources in one way or another.

Unfortunately, the "Returns Directive" complicates this reality terribly. If we conceive that each state or group of states may define its fully sovereign migratory policies, we cannot accept that fundamental personal rights should be denied to our Latin American brothers and compatriots. The "Returns Directive" provides for the possibility of incarceration of undocumented migrants for up to 18 months before their expulsion - or "removal," according to the terms of the directive. 18 months! Without trial, or justice! As it is today, the Directive's text clearly violates Articles 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Specifically, Article 13 of the Declaration states:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. 2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

And worst of all, there is the possibility of imprisonment for mothers and children, without taking into account their family or school situation, in these detention facilities where we know depression, hunger strikes and suicides take place. How can we accept undocumented Latin American compatriots and brothers who've worked and integrated themselves over years, being put in concentration camps, without reacting? On what side is today's duty of humanitarian intervention? Where is the "freedom of movement," the protection against arbitrary imprisonment?

In parallel, the European Union is trying to convince the Andean Community (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) to sign an "Association Agreement" which includes a Free Trade Agreement as its third pillar, with the same nature and contents as those imposed by the United States. We are under intense pressure from the European Commission to accept profoundly liberalized conditions for trade, financial services, intellectual property or our public services. Furthermore, under the heading of legal protection, we are being pressured over our process of nationalization of water, gas and telecommunications, as realized on International Workers Day. I ask, in this case, where is the "legal security" for our women, adolescents, children and workers who seek better horizons in Europe?

Freedom of movement is promoted for merchandise and finance, while we are faced with imprisonment without trial for our brothers who try to move freely. This is to deny the foundations of freedom and democratic rights.

Under these conditions, to approve this "Returns Directive," we would find it ethically impossible to extend the negotiations with the European Union, and we reserve the right to regulate European citizens through the same visa obligations that have been imposed on Bolivians since the first of April, 2007, according to the diplomatic principle of reciprocity. We have not exercised it until now, as we awaited favorable signs from the EU.

The world, its continents, its oceans and its poles face difficult global challenges: global warming, pollution, the slow but sure disappearance of energy resources and biodiversity, while hunger and poverty increase in all countries, weakening our societies. To make migrants, documented or undocumented, scapegoats for these global problems is no kind of solution at all. It doesn't correspond to any reality. The problems of social cohesion suffered by Europe are not the fault of migrants, but the result of a development model imposed by the North, which is destroying the planet and dismembering the society of mankind.

In the name of the Bolivian people, of all my brothers in the continental regions of the world such as Maghreb, Asia and the countries of Africa, I call on the conscience of the European leaders and parliamentary members, the people, citizens and activists of Europe, to reject the first draft of the "Returns Directive."

That which we have before us today, is a shameful directive. I also call on the European Union to elaborate, in the coming months, a migratory policy that is respectful of human rights, that would maintain this beneficial dynamism for both continents and might repair once and for all the enormous historical, economic and ecological debt that the European countries have with a large part of the Third World, which might close at once Latin America's still open veins. They must not fail today at "policies of integration," as they failed with their supposed "civilizing mission" in colonial times.

Fraternal greetings from Bolivia to all of you, authorities, Members of Parliament, and comrades. And in particular, our solidarity to all those who are "hidden."

Evo Morales Ayma, President of the Republic of Bolivia


Original article published on 12 June, 2008

About the translator: Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity and editor of the blog This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, translator and reviser are cited.

NY Times, 19th June, 2008

E.U. Passes Tough Migrant Measure


STRASBOURG, France — European Union lawmakers voted Wednesday to allow undocumented migrants to be held in detention centers for up to 18 months and banned from European Union territory for five years.

Criticized by groups like Amnesty International as “severely flawed” and an erosion of human rights standards, the so-called return directive was passed in the European Parliament here by a 369-to-197 vote, with 106 legislators abstaining.

Manfred Weber, the German center-right legislator from Bavaria who shepherded the measure through Parliament, said that it provided minimum common standards for the treatment of migrants throughout the European Union while still showing citizens it was tough on illegality.

As for the migrants, he said: “The member states must decide whether they need them; if so, then please legalize them. If you don’t need them for your labor markets, then send them home.”

Ten amendments to the measure, proposed by Socialists and intended to offer migrants some protections and legal recourse, were rejected. They included a requirement that a judge approve detention within 72 hours of an arrest, the obligation to provide detainees with free legal counsel and the possibility of making the five-year ban on re-entry optional. Other amendments would have reduced the maximum detention period to six months rather than 18 and insisted on greater assurances for the protection of unaccompanied children.

One opponent of the measure, Cimade — the only French nongovernmental organization authorized to work in France’s 23 detention centers — released a statement saying that it deplored the passage of what civil liberties groups have called “the directive of shame,” and said it was weighing contesting it before the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights.

Amnesty International said it was “deeply disappointed” by the outcome of the vote, and appealed to member states currently applying higher standards not to use the directive as a pretext for lowering them.

The Europe Union has freedom of movement among 25 of its 27 member states but no overarching policy on immigration. Supporters see the new measure as a means to unify a patchwork of systems governing treatment of migrants who overstay their visas or who, in far lesser numbers, slip clandestinely across borders.

The European Union has 224 detention centers for migrants, with capacity for 30,871 people. National regulations on how long migrants can be confined vary; in France, it is 32 days; in Germany, 18 months. Eight European Union countries have no time limit. European legislators visiting Denmark in April said they were concerned about some detainees who had been held for eight years.

Mr. Weber said the measure passed Wednesday provided a limit on detention in those eight countries — though two, Denmark and Britain, can opt out of the restriction. Opponents fear the directive will encourage countries with shorter detention limits to extend them.

Dragutin Mate, Slovenia’s interior minister, had warned lawmakers that failure to approve the directive would mean no agreement on immigration in the European Union for at least three years, which would jeopardize pending legislation on workers’ rights.

The vote came a day after António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said that the world was dealing with “a complex mix of global challenges that could threaten even more forced displacement” in the future than the 37.4 million people displaced last year.

The refugee agency is concerned about those fleeing conflicts or persecution who have the right under international law to seek asylum but opt for illegal entry to Europe because of a lack of legal channels.

It says that many people will be subject to the directive’s five-year re-entry ban, which does not take account of changes in their home countries that could force them to leave again.

Violence in Irish Society

“Violence in Irish Society: Towards an Ecology of Peace”

by the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs (ICJSA), 36 pages, A5, Veritas, €4.95, ISBN 978 1 84730 117 8.

Available on the ICJSA website at

Reviewed by Rob Fairmichael

This is a valuable and important statement on violence within Ireland by the ICJSA (a commission of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, see website address above) coming at a time when ‘the North’, at least in terms of paramilitary and military violence, has become much smaller as a source of physical violence while drug-related violent crime and death has soared. It is a considered and wide-ranging report which deserves to be widely read and pondered both by ordinary citizens, of all religious beliefs and none, and especially by those with responsibility, in both jurisdictions on this island (it deals well with both parts of the island), for the issues which it touches upon. We have become inured to many things; arguably most people became blasé about Troubles related deaths in the North, it would be a crying shame if we became inured to the level of violence existing within Irish society today, north, south, east, or west.

But, along with important statements and focuses, there are omissions that I would consider. There are also a few difficulties. The first difficulty I would identify is in the title. I can well see why they have used the term ‘ecology’ of peace, coming as it does from a quote by Pope Benedict. However I find the use of the term ‘ecology’ in this sense a bit difficult because the term is so well identified with, well, ecology in the green and environmental sense, which can be defined as “the relationships between the air, land, water, animals, plants, etc., usually of a particular area, or the scientific study of this” (Cambridge) and Merriam-Webster online dictionary extends the concept further with its entry on ‘human ecology’ as “a branch of sociology dealing especially with the spatial and temporal interrelationships between humans and their economic, social, and political organization”. If it’s relationships that the authors were thinking of I think they might have been clearer to have used that term instead of ecology, or even that old standby, a ‘culture of peace’.

The report does in general, however, call a spade a spade, or a sleán a sleán; it is good in identifying the fear associated with crime and violence, acknowledging hidden crime, and it clearly acknowledges Catholic Church involvement or complicity in sexual abuse. It is good on relative poverty as a source of alienation, and covers so-called domestic violence (which I would define as generally violence against women and children by a male partner, sometimes violence by women, within the home). I feel it could have extended the concept of powerlessness further though it clearly identifies power imbalances which can lead “disadvantaged to perceive themselves as outsiders in their own society.” (p.14) If there is a Durkheimian anomie lurking around then I think it stems largely from the lack of control which people feel over their own lives; modern gadgetry may provide some metaphorical bread and circuses but cannot compete with the fact that, in a complex and divisive modern society, the control which people feel over their own lives can be negligible. Without going into too many debates about the EU, I would feel that the June 2008 ‘no’ vote to the Lisbon Treaty was partly symptomatic of the way ordinary people in Ireland feel treated by elites at home and abroad; disregarded, and, when they do engage by voting the ‘wrong’ way, ignored or told clearly to change their minds because, despite a little bit of plámás, they don’t really count.

Ireland has moved from being quite an authoritarian society, with rebel streaks, to being a much more permissive society, defined as acceptance of a wider range of human behaviour. But our moral codes have not necessarily caught up with the transformation, so some of what is permitted (violence, inequality and injustice, lack of solidarity) is exactly what we need to change, not by returning to another authoritarianism but by developing a new collective morality. I feel there are a number of issues here which could repay work. I’m not sure whether it is always justified to talk about ‘violence to the environment’ but the callous disregard by Irish people for, in Christian terms, Creation is stunning and something which is only slowly changing.

On violence in the media, particularly in television and film, I think the jury is still out but I would go strongly with the argument that extensive violence in entertainment does desensitise people to actual violence to some extent (though it may have a greater, and more ominous, effect on certain personality types). The report refers to the glamorisation of ‘Godfather’ type criminals whereas I would feel that this should have been extended to violence as entertainment in general. There are fundamental questions - psychological, anthropological, biological, and cultural - to be asked about why ‘we’ enjoy watching on screen violence, in the same way many ancient Romans may have enjoyed watching humans thrown to the lions. Where does this come from? What does it say about humanity? How can we overcome this tendency? I use the term ‘tendency’ deliberately because it is something which some enjoy more than others, and men, usually, enjoy more than women. This is perhaps well beyond the scope of a short report but there are nevertheless fundamental questions about the nature of ourselves as humans, and our cultures, which require answering. And, coming to some kind of answers will help us to deal with the culture of violence which undoubtedly exists within the entertainment industry.

The report mentions middle class crime (p. 15). Perhaps I could be so bold, in the context of a Catholic Church report, to quote that old saying that the greatest sins are committed in the boardrooms of the world rather than the bedrooms; if we think of ‘boardrooms’ in a broad sense to include government tables, then this is even truer. Wars, much of injustice and man-made (sic) ecological disasters come from decisions made in just these boardrooms. However there are also bedroom sins, including trafficking of women that this report does deal with, which are part of violence; the report does refer to the demand for what it calls, in inverted commas, ‘sexual services’. There are a wide range of issues to do with both prostitution and pornography, and the pornographication (if I can use that word) of mainstream images; these are not simple issues but they do impact substantially on women, and also on men. Homophobia is another source of violence; I would like to think that modern research which shows the brains of gay people are ‘wired’ like those of the opposite gender (which can also be stated as the opposite gender being wired like them) would allow Christian churches to move on in an acceptance of homosexuality, setting the same sexual and moral guidelines as for heterosexuals, through an appreciation of all gay people as part of God’s creation.

The connection between alcohol and other, illegal, drugs and violence is enunciated (p.16-17). It is correct in identifying the illegal trade in drugs as having a strong connection with violence; no drug trade, no drug wars. One other issue which the report does not deal with is car accidents; whether these count as violence or not, the effect is violent and often devastating for families. I’m not sure where it fits into classifications of violence but ‘death on the roads’, and our tacit acceptance of a transport system or systems with considerable numbers killed and seriously injured, with resultant trauma for their loved ones and friends, is an issue which society has only begun to tackle. Racism is another source of violence and one where churches, because of their ubiquity in this country, are quite capable of making a major impact; Catholic religious orders have been doing a very significant amount but ‘the church’ (or churches) could certainly do much more at both a local and institutional level.

After analysing the origins of violence, it moves on to the antidotes. It has a good section on the importance of the family (though I, personally, would have a different definition of what a family is). While the effect of both parents working outside the home is mentioned in relation to its possible effect on children, I think the other aspect of this is low pay where a couple can work long hours simply to keep on the treadmill. I think that as a society we need to be asking fundamental questions about income generation and where we want to get to in terms of income per head. This in turn asks other fundamental questions about social division, but it fits in well with ‘ecology’ - perhaps we could really be less well off, in material terms, and happier. Come back Eamonn de Valera with your happy firesides and crossroads scenario – technological advances mean it could more easily become a reality.

The report is also good in pointing out the importance of active citizenship, the active responsibility of me for you and you for me. It does not, however, point out the danger in going too far down the track of volunteerism which is that it can allow the state to relinquish its responsibilities. This is an issue in Northern Ireland but even more so in the Republic where the ‘welfare state’ has been less developed – admittedly the Republic has played a certain amount of catch up but it tends to be quite piecemeal. There should be no contradiction between pushing for better, and inclusive, state services and supporting volunteering so long as the latter is not allowed as an excuse for the abject failure of the former.

‘Solidarity’ is used and defined (from the ‘Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church’) as an attitude that is marked by ‘a willingness to give oneself for the good of one’s neighbour, beyond any individual or particular interest’ and an ethos “which favour[s] togetherness, and which teach[es] us to live in unity so as to build in unity, by giving and receiving” (p. 24). Interestingly, and I hadn’t sitten up and noticed before, it quotes a 2006 ESRI survey which shows volunteering in Ireland, the Republic, is around average or above average for European countries, and another comparative study North/South which showed the North was only slightly lower. Government policies in that have “relied on the voluntary character of sport, youth and community organisations and failed to ensure that their work is adequately resourced” and are criticised. It is good also in critiquing the absence of planning for critical social infrastructure. I would be dubious, however, about the positive effect of creating new awards for active citizenship and community service; these come after years of service and, while they may show people are held in high esteem by those who chose, can reward the great and the good rather than those who quietly do their thing.

What about the report’s conclusions? Some of it can be surmised from the above, such as supporting family life by promoting family-friendly work practices, and this is essential from many points of view (with the caveat of my broader definition of family, already mentioned). It does seek a ban on “violent videos and electronic games aimed particularly at young people that promote a culture of violence”; a positive which needs to be set in a much broader canvas which asks why ‘we’ enjoy ‘recreational violence’. In stating that “there must be a renewed commitment to breaking the link that connects Irish identity to alcohol consumption” it is hitting a nail, or a bottle, on the head, and indicating a major task.

It may be churlish of me to criticise a Catholic report on ‘Violence in Irish Society’ by raising wider questions about the Christian approach to violence but I think, nevertheless, this link is vital for a Christian report. All life is one. The fact we are talking about violence within Ireland should not deter linkages with violence elsewhere. The fact is that one jurisdiction on the island is part of a state which uses war as a matter of political policy (Afghanistan and Iraq being the current grossest examples), while another supports the only global superpower with the one facility it wanted from Ireland for its war of aggression in Iraq (Shannon airport). I believe that, at some level, the casual use of state violence has an impact at an interpersonal level – like I say, all life is one.

While this is a forward looking report – analysing the present, looking to the future, there is also the issue here of the recent Troubles in the North. There was considerable antagonism between the republican movement and the Catholic Church over the repeated condemnation by the latter of paramilitary and political violence. What I’m not sure was done so well – I hasten to add by any of us - was helping those engaged in political violence to find alternatives. When alternatives were found they came more through internal processes than external pressure (though this did, on occasions have an effect, not necessarily always the one intended). Meanwhile the ‘Just War’ theory – largely unrefined and undefined - was hanging around as a fig leaf for those who supported violence. I feel further reflection on this is needed if lessons are to be learnt – lessons in general but also in case political violence should re-emerge as a more major issue at any time in the future – and it is still there, lurking in the shadows. There is unfinished business here and not dealing with it, while not brushing it under the carpet, will simply allow the dirt to pile up over it so that it is forgotten.

Furthermore, there are many outworkings yet from the Troubles and sectarianism in the North. The fact that people are refraining from killing each other is not actually an indicator that all in the garden is rosy. The extent to which paramilitaries have been ‘integrated’ positively into society varies, with loyalist paramilitaries quite behind on the matter, and some few republicans remaining committed to an armed strategy. Segregated housing and education are still the norm in Northern Ireland. Issues concerning victims are still very much around. While many things have moved on, many more remain the same and need dealt with if Northern Ireland is to avoid any risk of returning to more Troubles in the future. So I would say there is much mopping up, and preventive, work to be done regarding violence in the North.

The report commends both Irish Aid which has taken conflict resolution as an important aspect of its work “and also the non-governmental organisations such as Pax Christi, which is committed to the promotion of conflict resolution through non-violent means….” Pleased as I am to see a mention of Pax Christi (of which I am a member), there is no mention of wider issues of Christian nonviolence, even Franciscan in the Catholic context. And my comment about the ‘just war’ theory is that it amounts to just getting war. Pulling together some threads here is important, I feel, in having a Christian approach to violence (seeing this is a report from a Christian church). If it was me writing the report I would certainly also have included the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) as a valuable approach to assisting people at a personal level to deal with violence.

One recommendation which I would liked to have seen that was absent would be a demand for the educational systems, in both parts of the island, to take seriously mediation and conflict resolution/transformation issues and teaching, not just as a teaching subject, but, as the late Jerry Tyrrell emphasised, in their whole school approach. Any society, and particularly a society which has come through a trauma like the Troubles, is remiss in it duty to its young citizens - and to itself - if it has not equipped them with a knowledge of conflict including stages, responses, interventions and practical experience of peer mediation. These can then be applied to all aspects of life – family, work, social circle, as well as politics (with a small ‘p’). Of course I would also like to see an emphasis on nonviolence and the possibilities of nonviolent struggle for justice as well.

The report ends off by acknowledging that a short position paper cannot be anything like a definitive analysis and that it is “written as an invitation to dialogue.” This piece is my contribution to that dialogue and it is my prerogative, as a reviewer, to have come up with my own wish list for inclusion.

Copyright INNATE 2016