Follow teachers of nonviolence


Published: Monday, January 16, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 15, 2006 at 10:22 p.m.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s first nonviolent campaign to end racism and segregation in the
south. King was committed to overcoming injustice with love and transforming violence into nonviolence. His vision was of a beloved community in which there was mutual respect and freedom for all people.
This year is also the 100th anniversary of the beginning of Mahatma Gandhi's first nonviolent campaign to end racism and segregation in South Africa. Gandhi called his movement "satyagraha," which means "truth-force" or "soul-force." He was deeply committed to Hindu principles of nonviolence and Jesus' teaching that we should "love our enemies."
King and Gandhi are dead, but we are here. We can choose whether or not to follow their examples.
King's vision led to the end of legal segregation in the South, and Gandhi's "experiments with truth" helped establish a free India and eventually led to the end of apartheid in South Africa. Although they both died as victims of violence, their lives produced an abundance of peace and justice in the world.
We also have the capacity to produce such an abundance of good fruit in today's world, but only if we follow their examples and commit ourselves to the way of love and creative nonviolence. The Episcopal Peace Fellowship of North Florida has declared 2006 as a year for building peace and reducing violence. In a world so deeply influenced by the history and practice of war, we will be guided by the following statement to help focus our work: We draw upon the living spirit of the many world religions that have love as their guiding principle, and specifically the examples of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, whose "nonviolent anniversaries" we celebrate this year.
Whether or not you are an Episcopalian, we would love for you to join us in this work.
For more information, please call The Rev. Jim Wright at 372-4721 or e-mail Wright@Holytrinitygnv.org. War is not the answer. But, what is the question?
There are many questions. For example: How can we help people of different religions respect each other? How can we stop degrading and polluting our environment? How can we help all people have enough to eat? How can we reduce drug addiction? How can we eliminate the global slave trade? How can we reduce unemployment?
How can we make sure everyone has access to clean water? How can we reduce abortion? How can we eliminate terrorism as a strategy for achieving goals? How can we reduce the threat from nuclear arms? How can we reduce the gap between the rich and the poor? How can we more effectively prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS?
How can we assure basic human rights for all people? How can we reduce the rate of divorce? How can we stop government corruption? How can we prevent the extinction of animal and plant species? How can we promote democracy? How can we stop child abuse? How can we improve the welfare and freedom of women? How can we solve the problem of homelessness? How can we reduce the production and sale of weapons?
So, what is the answer? Well, the first answer is to stop war, since that is not the answer. We have been fighting wars and relying upon violence for a long time and that has not solved any of the above problems.
Once we have stopped war we can begin to creatively explore other possible answers. We can begin to listen to each other. We can begin to forgive each other. We can begin to share more with each other. We can begin to think about the welfare of future generations. We can begin to experiment with the power of love. We can begin to remember what the earth looks like from space.
We can become healers. We can seek truth together. We can learn the joy of giving.
War is not the answer. In order to discover the answer we must stop supporting war and start supporting the search for other answers.
The Rev. Jim Wright is director of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship of North Florida.

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