On the Road to Peace
A Monthly Newsletter from Fr. John
Peace be with you! Fifty years ago, on April 3, 1968, the night before he was killed, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The choice is no longer violence or nonviolence; it’s nonviolence or non-existence.” That sums up our predicament today: hanging on the edge of nonexistence, called to become people of Gospel nonviolence who lead humanity back from the brink.
Non-existence is upon us, Dr. King said, but there is a way out, a way through, a way forward, and that way is active, creative, bottom up, people power, global grassroots movements of nonviolence. If we dare wield the power of organized, active public nonviolence, we can transform the nation and world.
These days, we know through social science research that he was right: where active movements of nonviolence and nonviolent conflict resolution were organized, they led to more nonviolent outcomes, more nonviolent democracies, more nonviolent justice.
Last month’s “March for our Lives” against gun violence is a prime example of the teaching. Over a million people took to the streets peacefully in Washington, D.C. and hundreds of other cities, led by the Parkland students to speak out against gun violence. “Welcome to the revolution,” one of the students began. “Change is at hand.”
That mobilization was so heartening, so hopeful and so empowering for us all, and it needs to continue. This has to become the new normal, the new ordinary, a new way to understand our own personal, ordinary lives, in my opinion. In a time of insane warmaking, corporate greed, rampant racism, nuclear threats and environmental destruction, Saturdays have to become our weekly day of marching for justice, disarmament and creation. In fact, I think this is the best way to follow the nonviolent Jesus in these dangerous times.
“There’s nothing like the ‘tramp, tramp’ sound of marching footsteps in the streets to bring about change,” Dr. King said shortly before he died. The nonviolent revolution happens as we invite each other out onto the streets and make a public nonviolent nuisance of ourselves until our vision becomes contagious and the transformation occurs.
And every step along the way has to be meticulously nonviolent, Dr. King teaches, so that the means reflect the ends and become the ends, so that along the way, we put down our guns, quit the military, stop making bombs, model nonviolence, envision a new culture of nonviolence and work to legislate and institutionalize nonviolent conflict resolution for a more nonviolent world.
Until the end of May, I’m traveling the country, speaking almost every night, on a three-month, fifty city tour about my new book, They Will Inherit the Earth: Peace & Nonviolence in a Time of Climate Change, and everywhere I go, I hear how people are mobilizing, speaking out, and taking new steps. Everywhere along the way, I’ve been inviting people to join Campaign Nonviolence.
At CampaignNonviolence.org, we are organizing our fifth national week of action for Sept. 15-23, 2018, with over 2000 marches, actions, and events across the nation in all fifty states against that spectrum of violence, including racism, poverty, war and environmental destruction, and for Dr. King’s vision of a new culture of nonviolence.
We’ve also called for a national march from the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue to the White House, on Saturday, September 22, in a show of active, creative nonviolence. After a rally at the Dr. King statue, we will march in silence in Gandhian satyagraha, walking in pairs to Lafayette Park where we will vigil for a new culture of nonviolence. (See www.campaignnonviolence.org)\
The “tramp, tramp” that Dr. King talked about is the heart beat of the movement, a sound that will resonate through the halls of power as we vote them out and raise up new nonviolent leaders who will help us legislate justice, disarmament, and environmental protection.
Like the Parkland students, we can no longer be just activists; we all have to become organizers and speakers, too. We have to learn as the kids did how to organize pubic events, actions, and marches, how to promote them and build them, how to speak out and how to keep the movement moving. We all have to pitch in and help out. And we can’t afford to be cynical, or give in to despair, or give up. We need to rise to the occasion!
If we keep speaking out, stepping out, organizing, and taking to the streets, in Dr. King’s spirit of active nonviolence, in the spirit of the great march to end gun violence, and connect the dots between every form of violence to demand an end to all violence in pursuit of a new world of nonviolence, then perhaps Dr. King’s vision of nonviolence will catch fire again, and the light of peace might dawn upon us all. This I believe is the mission that Jesus calls us to live. May we do our best! God bless you!