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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

January 20, 2024: This is when we most need to stand up and say as loudly as we can that violence is not the answer!

Saturday, January 20, 2024

When the appeal and temptation to violence is most powerful; when the suffering and oppression is greatest; when the desire for vengeance is compelling, that is when we most need to stand up and say as loudly as we can that violence is not the answer!




Violence has the appeal of giving one an immediate emotional boost. The oppressed feel they are “teaching their enemies a lesson” and “giving their bully a black eye” by making them feel the hurt we feel and communicating to their oppressor “in the only language they understand.”


The problem is that once the decision is made to use violence, there are immediate consequences: victory at any price becomes the goal. Not justice, liberation, reconciliation, or peace.


The enemy must be dehumanized in order to justify their deaths and the destruction and suffering meted out to them. Resources need to be marshaled at increasing levels, and the war effort must take priority over all other public expenses, whether on education, health, quality of life, or prosperity.


The enemy also resorts to violence, usually at far greater levels, as the vicious cycle of death, destruction, hatred, vengeance, and suffering acquires its own momentum, absorbing all our efforts and resources. “Sacrifices” already incurred would need to be honored by continuing even further down the path of violence and war, and they are used as an excuse to avoid compromise or peaceful resolution.


All internal dissent is quashed, and any attempt at peace, reconciliation, or empathy with the other is viewed as betrayal and treason.



Eventually, it is the strongest, most cruel, and most destructive, not the most just and honorable, that is likely to prevail.


In the face of such powerful appeals to violence, those of us who believe in nonviolence must redouble our efforts to show that there are effective and worthwhile alternatives that must be considered. Our rejection of violence cannot be a negative or passive submission to the forces of oppression and evil. In fact, Gandhi himself said that if his only choices were violence and submission to tyranny, he would choose violence.


This week, we celebrate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who in spite of the great violence perpetrated against black Americans opted instead for nonviolent direct action in the struggle for civil rights and equality. He followed the principles of Gandhi and the teachings of Jesus.


Through discipline, solidarity, sacrifice and organization, he wielded a power that eschewed violence. He did not use violence, as some of his followers wanted, but persisted in long struggle until he achieved what violence could not achieve for him or his people. The struggle for racial justice in the United States continues, but it would not be the same without the witness of Dr. King and the black church.


This week, we witnessed South Africa, another powerful example of nonviolent struggle, bring a complaint against Israel for its genocidal practices in Gaza before the International Court of Justice at the Hague. Law, including international law, provides another important alternative to war and violence. It is true that the powerful try to bend or avoid the law and that judges do not always have enforcement mechanisms in place, but law, nonetheless, is one of the tools of the oppressed. It carries with it the power of legitimacy and is therefore another alternative to sheer force to settle disputes between individuals and nations.



When the appeal and temptation to violence is most powerful; when the suffering and oppression is greatest; when the desire for vengeance is compelling, that is when we most need to stand up and say as loudly as we can that violence is not the answer!


War must stop. Occupation must cease. The siege must be lifted. The struggle for freedom, equality and self determination must continue, yes, but with different methods and without violence, destruction, or bloodshed.


For this reason we must continue to call for Ceasefire Now, but that is not enough. The ceasefire must be followed immediately by genuine steps towards justice and liberation. That is the struggle we must be involved in.


Peace and Justice,

by Mubarak Awad and Jonathan Kuttab

Founders of Nonviolence International


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