Non-Violence: Pacifism or Passivity?
What answer do you give to the question: Does being pacific mean being passive? Let’s look at some examples:
We know Martin Luther King was pacific but certainly not passive. Not only did he act but gathered thousands to act with him in a non-violent manner to gain the human and constitutional rights of the black Americans.
Look at Ann Frank: in the midst of her doom, she chose life. She believed in the goodness of humanity and left us an inspiring written legacy. That was action.
You know the story of little Samantha Smith whose deep concern for peace moved her to write to Yuri Andropov, President of the USSR — the enemy! — and accept his invitation to come and visit. What a lovely witness she gave to the whole world. That was action.
Have you seen the recent film Sophia? It is the story of a young woman, Sophie Schöll and her brother Hans who resisted the Nazis by leafletting. Both were executed. Sixty years later the story is poignant and moving. That was non-violent action, the kind Cesar Chavez taught us.
Think of Mahatma Gandhi, the epitome of non-violence based on truth, a Hindu who was inspired by the life of Jesus. How monumental was his achievement! And he never aspired to be Prime Minister of India.
All the peace groups, committed to non-violence, each with its particular “charism” for creative action and witness, prove that non-violence is not passivity. Without them, we would never have arrived at the disarmament treaties that were signed and kept until this new wave of saber-rattling overtook the world. The culmination of their activities in the peace walk of 1,000,000 people of all descriptions that passed by the United Nations in a special session for disarmament in1982 (of which I was happily one) is another proof that non-violence is not passive. But it IS creative!
By Mary Alban Bouchard CSJ