Many people are concerned about wars being fought in various parts of the world. Others are motivated by images of poverty and starvation locally or in distant parts of the world. Increasing numbers of people are inclined to take action in response to the ongoing climate catastrophe. And for some people, the issue that concerns them is violence against women, or refugees, or nuclear power, or species extinctions, or the occupation of Palestine or Tibet, or …
The list of issues is endless. And yet, something connects them all. They are all manifestations of human violence. But human violence, in itself, is not an issue about which groups campaign. That is, until now.
On 11 November 2011, a new movement to end human violence was launched around the world. Simultaneous launches took place in Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines and the USA. This worldwide movement, which invites individuals and organisations to sign a pledge to work to end human violence in all of its manifestations, has already attracted individual signatories in 40 countries and organisational endorsements in 15 countries.
‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ was conceived and launched by three Australians – Anita McKone, Anahata Giri and myself – based on several decades of research and nonviolent action. Tired of all of the violence we have experienced, witnessed and resisted throughout our lives, we decided to prepare and launch the Nonviolence Charter worldwide.
So what is unique about ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’? The Nonviolence Charter is an attempt to put the focus on human violence as the pre-eminent problem faced by our species, to truthfully identify all of the major manifestations of this violence, and to identify ways to tackle all of these manifestations of violence in a systematic and strategic manner. It is an attempt to put the focus on the fundamental cause – the violence we adults inflict on children – and to stress the importance of dealing with that cause. (See ‘Why Violence?’) It is an attempt to focus on what you and I – that is, ordinary people – can do to end human violence and the Nonviolence Charter invites us to pledge to make that effort. And it is an attempt to provide a focal point around which we can mobilise with a sense of shared commitment with people from all over the world.
In essence then, one aim of the Nonviolence Charter is to give every individual and organisation on planet Earth the chance to deeply consider where they stand on the fundamental issue of human violence. Will you publicly declare your commitment to work to end human violence? Or are you going to leave it to others?
And what, precisely, do you want to do? And with whom? The Charter includes suggestions for action in a wide variety of areas; for example, by inviting people to participate in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘ which is a simple yet comprehensive strategy for individuals and organisations to deal with the full range of environmental problems. It also provides an opportunity to identify and contact others, both locally and internationally, with whom we can work in locally relevant ways, whatever our preferred focus for action. In that sense, each participating individual and organisation becomes part of a worldwide community working to end human violence for all time.
Since being initiated, the Nonviolence Charter has attracted considerable support from people in many countries and some of these have notable records of achievement for peace and justice already. Professor Chandra Muzaffar, Helen Ng, and Nurul Haida Dzulkifli are key figures at the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) based in Malaysia, Dr Tess Ramiro heads Aksyon para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan – Center for Active Non-Violence at the Pius XII Catholic Centre in the Philippines, and Tom Shea and Leonard Eiger have lengthy records as effective nonviolent activists, organisers and networkers at the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in the USA.
Other signatories include 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize nominees such as nonviolent activists Kathy Kelly (USA), Father John Dear (USA) and Angie Zelter (UK); significant community leaders such as Ade Adenekan of the Pan-African Reconciliation Centre in Nigeria; the prominent human rights lawyer and consultant, Salma Yusuf, in Sri Lanka; religious figures such as Rev. Brian Burch of Canada and Rev. Nathaniel W. Pierce of the USA; prominent nonviolent activists like S. Brian Willson (USA); anti-war author/activist David Swanson (USA); as well as professors including Glenn D. Paige, founder of the Center for Global Nonkilling in the USA; Dietrich Fischer, Academic Director of the World Peace Academy in Switzerland; Raafat Misak, professor of desert geomorphology and head of the Kuwait Campaign to Ban Landmines in Kuwait; Mazin Qumsiyeh, Chairperson of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochment between People in Palestine; Bradley Olson and Marc Pilisuk of the Program on Violence, War, and their Alternatives with Psychologists for Social Responsibility in the USA; and Kevin P. Clements and Richard Jackson, Director and Director of Research respectively at the The National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago in New Zealand.
How long will this worldwide campaign take? It will undoubtedly take many years: ending human violence is no easy task. But the alternative – to tolerate human violence until we precipitate our own extinction – is, surely, unthinkable.
The Nonviolence Charter acknowledges our many differences, including the different issues on which we choose to work. But it also offers us a chance to see the unity of our overarching aim within this diversity. Hence, whatever our differences, we are given the chance to see that ending human violence is our compelling and unifying dream.
Would you like to consider joining the worldwide movement to end human violence? If so, you can read and, if you wish, sign ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.’