I am delighted to be attending this Summit, and I would like to thank President Gorbachev, Mayor Veltroni, and the City of Rome for hosting this event. Thank you for inviting me to make this contribution towards the Nobel Peace Laureates Charter for a Nonviolent World.
I believe that, one of our greatest challenges as the human family, is to transform our violent cultures into a nonkilling, nonviolent culture for the World. This journey from violence to nonviolence will be long and difficult, but human beings mimic each other, and as increasingly more people reject violence, and use the alternatives available, others will follow their example, and change will happen. Already many people are asking, ‘Is it possible to move beyond violence? To build Nonkilling, Nonviolent societies, and World?’ I believe, the answer is YES! However, where violence is endemic, it is easy to be apathetic. Also, particularly in our current world political situation, faced as we are, with an ethical and moral crisis, brought about by many Governments’ abuse of their power, especially those Governments’ who have the most temporal power, often civil society feel disempowered and hopeless.
But we should never give up hope. If we continue in a negative frame of mind, to accept violence, it will seriously threaten our quality of life, and our security. The bad news is that all violence, be it bullying, torture, homicide, violent crime, terrorism, violent revolution, armed struggles, suicide bombings, hunger strikes to the death, nuclear weapons, militarism, and war, tragically often take human life, and add to the culture of violence. And all violence, State and Non-state, is a form of injustice, which demeans us all.
Killings by Governments, and nongovernmental armed groups, and threats to kill, underlie all other threats to the survival of humanity, damaging peoples’ physical, psychological, economic, social, cultural, and environmental, well-being. If we are to reverse this downward spiral of violence, we need to uphold the Principal that, everyone has a right not to be tortured, or killed, and a responsibility not to torture, kill, or support the killing of others. These are basic human rights enshrined in national and international laws and we all must stand firm on the upholding of these Rights by our Governments and by ‘armed revolutionaries’ or ‘armed insurgency groups’.
The good news is that we are not born violent, most humans never kill, and the World Health Organization says Human Violence is a ‘preventable disease’. So happily we can be cured! Prevention starts in our own minds, with us choosing to reject negativity, changing to a positive, disarmed mindset, cultivating love of ourselves and others, and choosing not to kill. Prevention, also starts in our own conscience where we know what is right and refuse to be morally blinded in our mind and heart by nationalism and militarism, a moral disease which continues to destroy many people. For example, in Iraq, where the USA Government has carried out war crimes, in Chechnya where the Russian Government continues to commit war crimes, the Israel Government’s massacre in the occupied Palestinian terroritories, and State and non-state killings in many other places around our world.
Nowadays we hear a lot of talk about security, The greatest power on earth, the United States, decided that the way to achieve security was through shock and awe, destruction of countries, and the multiple deaths of people including her own young men and women transformed into soldiers. Over 654,000 Iraqi civilians and over 2,800 USA soldiers have needlessly died. Such violent reactions endorse a culture of violence, rather than a culture of dialogue with its citizens and perceived enemies. In Northern Ireland, we have been through all of that. And we know that it doesn’t work. Violence does not prevent violence. The failure of militarism, paramilitarism, in Northern Ireland is mirrored in Iraq. Should it not be obvious that we are now at a point of human history where we must abolish the culture of violence and embrace a culture of nonviolence for the sake of our children and the children of the world? But is such a quantum leap of thinking possible? Nothing is possible unless we can imagine it. So what is meant by such a society?
Prof. Paige in his book ‘Nonkilling Global Political Science’ (l) says: “A nonkilling society can be defined as a human community from the smallest to the largest in which (l) there is no killing of humans and no threats to kill, (2) there are no weapons for killing humans and no ideological justifications for killing – in computer terms no ‘hardware’ and no ‘software’ for killing and (3) there are no social conditions that depend, for maintenance or change, upon the threat or use of killing force”. I would add that it is not enough to decide not to kill but we need to learn to live nonviolently in our lives and families. Nonviolence is a decision to protect and celebrate life, to love oneself, others, and ones enemies, and to bring wisdom, compassion, forgiveness, and reconciliation into our relationships. Nonviolence recognizes principled dissent against injustice and the misuse of power and upholds the right to civil disobedience as an integral part of a democratic society. Nonviolence is based on unconditional love, truth, equality, justice, and respect for life, and all of creation.
To build such a nonviolent culture we need first to move away from dependence upon threat and use of killing force for security, and by that I mean armies and all imitations of armies. Second we must stop using our economic resources for the unholy alliance of arms dealers and warmongers. Currently there are over 20 million people under arms, and an annual military budget of one trillion dollars a year. According to one United Nations report, an investment of less than a fourth of the world’s collective annual expenditure on arms, would be enough to solve the major economic and environmental problems facing humanity. If this is true, and I believe that it is, isn’t it a crime against humanity that those who exercise power in our world continue to pour billions of dollars into so-called security enriching the arms dealers in the process, while neglecting the children who are dying every day of poverty and disease. Ending the military/industrial corporations stranglehold on many Governments’ policies, and introducing policies which meet the basic needs of the people would help remove many of the root causes of violence. We know what to do, but what is lacking is the will of economic and political leaders, who continue their policies to feed the death culture of war, nuclear weapons and arms. This then is just not a political, economic, and socio-cultural crisis but a deeply spiritual and moral one.
The Human family is moving away from the violent mindset, and increasingly violence, war, armed struggles, violent revolutions, are no longer romanticed, glorified, or culturally accepted as ways of solving our problems. As a pacifist I believe that violence is never justified, and there are always alternatives to force and threat of force. We should challenge the society that tells us there is no alternative to violence. In all areas of our life we can adopt nonviolence, in our lifestyles, our education, our commence, our defense, our governance. Also the Political scientists and academics could help this cultural change by teaching nonviolence as a serious political science, and help too in the further development of effective nonviolence to bring about social and political change. Also by implementing the UN Decade for a Culture of Peace and nonviolence for the Children of the World, (2001-2010) and teaching it in educational establishments, can help evolve this new culture.
Nonviolence is an ideal that has seldom been explored. But it is not an impossible ideal. History is littered with examples of nonviolent resistance, many of them successful. Gandhi and King successfully used nonviolence for human rights issues; Italy’s own St. Francis, a Mystic/Ecologist/Environmentalist, is a model to us of how to apply a holistic approach to living nonviolently, especially in a world where climate change is one of the greatest challenges to humanity’s future. Abdul Khaffer Khan, a great Muslim leader, demonstrated the power of courageous Islamic nonviolence through the unarmed Servants of God army and parallel government to liberate the Pathan people from British colonial rule in India’s North-West Frontier Province (now in Pakistan). Their example deserves to be known widely throughout the world (2).
All Faith traditions can play a role in building this new culture, as each have their own prophets of nonviolence. They can teach the Golden Rule of ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you’ and also to ‘love your enemies’, which, I believe, is necessary for humanity’s survival in this age of military madness. I speak from my own faith tradition which is Christian. I myself came into pacifism and nonviolence in the early l97O’s. Facing State Violence I asked myself ‘As a Christian can I ever use violence”? I studied and rejected the ‘Just War’ theory and went to the cross where Jesus’ message of love your enemies, do not kill, is most clearly shown. I also agree with the American theologian, the late Fr McKenzie, who said ‘You cannot read the gospels and not know Jesus was totally nonviolent.’ He also described the Just War theory as a phony piece of morality. How tragic, in light of Jesus’ example, to know that the American Catholic Hierarchy, with a couple of honorable exceptions, have blessed yet again Catholics going to participate in an unjust, immoral and illegal war, in Iraq, thus ignoring their own Pope’s guidance on this matter. But, I believe, until the Christian Churches resurrect from their longstanding moral malaise of blessing, ambiguity, or consent-bestowing silence, on violence, militarism, and war, and gives Spiritual guidance by abolishing the Just War theory, and developing a theology more in keeping with the nonviolence of Jesus, it behooves those of us who are Christian, and those who follow other spiritual paths, or none, to follow our own conscience in such matters.
As world citizens working together in solidarity we can abolish nuclear weapons and war, demilitarize the World, build neutral and nonaligned countries, develop unarmed policing and nonmilitary forms of self-defense. We can establish or strengthen nonviolent institutions, such as: Global Nonkilling Spiritual Council: Global Nonkilling Security Council: Global Nonkilling Nonmilitary self-defense Security, such as the Nonviolent Peaceforce: Global Nonkilling Leadership Academies: Global Nonkilling Trusteeship Fund: Ministries of Peace by National Governments: (2) (All of these proposed nonviolent institutions are described at as addendum to this paper).
To build a nonviolent culture will also mean changing Patriarchal and Hierarchical systems which are unjust and under which women, suffer from oppressive structures and institutions. It will mean in particular challenging violence and injustice in our own societies and extending our support to all humans who suffer injustice everywhere. To people who are suffering torture, the imates in Guantanamo and other such Guantanamos in whatever country, and supporting whistleblowers like Mordechai Vanunu who continues to suffer for telling the truth. It will not be easy but it is necessary, and it is possible together, in our interconnected, interdependent human family, to build a new world civilization with a nonviolent heart.
Peace and happiness to you all,
Mairead Corrigan Maguire (www.peacepeople.com)
Note l: “Nonkilling Global Political Science” (Xlibris 2002) by Prof. Glenn D. Paige (Freely posted on web at www.globalnonviolence.org). It is being translated into 24 languages. Former Indian Prime Minister I.K. Gujral has advised, “This book should be read in every political science department and by the public”. In his introduction to the Russian edition, Prof. William Smirnov, Vice-President of the Russian Political Science Association and the International Political Science Association has written: “The basic idea in this unique book can and should become the basis of common values for humanity in the 2lst century as well as a programme for their realization”.
Note 2. The Pathan Unarmed (Oxford University Press 2000) by Dr. Mukulika, Banerjee.
Details of nonviolent institutions:
Global Nonkilling Spiritual Council: Composed of men and women elected to represent faiths and philosophies committed to principled nonkilling. Serves as a continuing body to counsel the United Nations, governments, other institutions, and world citizens.
Global Nonkilling Security Council. Composed of persons elected among distinguished contributors to the theory, strategy, tactics, and practice of nonkilling domestic and transnational defense. Serves as a continuing source of nonviolent security alternatives for consideration by all parties in potential or actual deadly conflicts that threaten physical, economic and ecological well-being.
Global Nonkilling Service: Composed of locally rooted professional and volunteer workers in every country, trained in nonmilitary skills of security, conflict transformation, constructive service, and humanitarian and disaster relief. Builds upon nonviolent military and nongovernmental experience such as the Gandhi and Shanti Sena and the Nonviolent Peaceforce.
Global Nonkilling Leadership Academies: Prepares local and transnational leaders, partly by biographical studies, to take nonkilling initiatives in response to the interdependent human needs for security, economic well-being, dignity, ecological sustainability and problem solving co-operation. Seeks to build mutually strengthening relationships based upon the nonkilling principles in co operation with the United Nations University Japan, the UNU International Leadership Academy in Jordan, the University of Peace in Costa Rica, and other peace-seeking educational and training institutions.
Global Nonkilling Trusteeship Fund: Established in the Gandhian tradition of mutual trusteeship for the well-being of all, honors pioneers of nonkilling service to humanity, throughout the world. Collects voluntary and service contributions to support implementing institutions. Management board to be composed equally between representatives of the most and least wealthy global citizens.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire received the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize and the 1991 Nuclear Age Peace Foundation Distinguished Peace Leadership Award. She recently participated in the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 2006 International Law Symposium, “At the Nuclear Precipice: Nuclear Weapons and the Abandonment of International Law.”