On the Road to Peace
A Monthly Newsletter from Fr. John
Fifty years ago, in that watershed year of 1968, Dr. King told the crowd the night before he was killed: “The choice before us is no longer violence or nonviolence,” he said. “It’s nonviolence or non-existence.” Now fifty years later, we face another watershed year. This is the Year of Nonviolence or Nonexistence.
Every day, it seems we are faced with the choice of “nonviolence or non-existence.” Fifty years after Dr. King’s challenge, we inch closer to “non-existence.”
Instead of choosing nonviolence, we foolishly choose global violence. We cut back on care for the poor, the prisoner, the immigrant, the homeless, the child, the student and the environment. Government and military leaders seem to choose non-existence in a race toward permanent warfare, nuclear annihilation and catastrophic climate change.
It’s as if we are drunk on violence, racism, greed, and environmental destruction. Like the addict, we blindly step toward global self-destruction.
Dr. King gave his life to a bold vision of universal nonviolence. He connected the dots between all the issues and angles of injustice and worked tirelessly to end violence in all its forms, from racism and poverty to war and nuclear weapons. He was killed for that stand, that connection, that vision.
Dr. King’s visionary nonviolence is often left out of his birthday commemorations, but it was the centerpiece of his life, philosophy, spirituality and politics. His wisdom and vision offer perhaps our only hope, not just as a warning but as a way out, even a way forward, toward a new culture of nonviolence.
In this watershed year, we ignore Dr. King’s assessment at our own risk. His word “nonviolence” is practically banned by the culture, as if it were the most feared, most dangerous word in the English language. That has to change. It has to enter the mainstream culture again if we are to reclaim justice, equality and peace.
Kingian nonviolence calls for active, universal love toward all human beings, all creatures, and all creation, that refuses to kill or be silent in the face of killing. It is a way of life, a spiritual path, and a political methodology toward peaceful conflict resolution and global justice.
It means trying to be nonviolent to ourselves and to those around us, trying to be nonviolent toward all the creatures and the environment, and doing our part to build up the global grassroots movements of active nonviolence for a new culture of justice, equality, and peace.
“A culture of nonviolence is not an impossible dream,” Pope Francis said recently, following up on his 2017 World Day of Peace message, Nonviolence—A New Style of Politics, the first statement on nonviolence in the history of the Catholic Church.
No, Pope Francis, we think, a culture of nonviolence is an impossible dream. No, Dr. King, there is no choice; non-existence is inevitable. Deep down, that’s what we think, isn’t it? That’s what the culture of violence, the voice of despair, tells us.
If we give in to such despair, then our fate is sealed. Do we want unlimited money for a handful of billionaires and their multinational corporations? Do we want permanent warfare, even nuclear war? Do we want catastrophic climate change with its destruction, starvation, displacement and wars?
If not, then we have no choice but to speak out, take action, and join the global movements of active nonviolence for a global intervention against the drunken “fake leaders” who would take us over the edge. We have to build a global “people power” movement of nonviolence to resist the culture of war, racism, greed and environmental destruction, and insist on a new culture of global solidarity, economic and racial justice, environmental stewardship and nonviolent conflict resolution.
The good news is that there have never been as many nonviolent movements, as many nonviolent victories in history as we have witnessed in the past few decades. It’s just that now, everyone has to join them.
Dear friends, I hope and pray that everyone of us can rise to the occasion this year and do our part to practice, spread and teach Gospel nonviolence. Thank you so much, and God bless you!