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Vatican City – On 4-5 April, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.for Promoting Integral Human Development and Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative organized a workshop on the theme, “Path of Nonviolence: Towards a Culture of Peace.” Final statement affirmed by workshop participants (in English, français, español) Cardinal Peter Turkson’s opening remarks Additional materials presented at the workshop are available here With a consideration and understanding of current situations of conflict and violence, participants engaged in dialogue about the roots of violence, the hope for peace and reconciliation, and reflected on paths to a conversion to nonviolence.It was this kind of commitment that would work to persuade a political opponent by “opening his ears, which are otherwise shut, to the voice of reason.” But is such a process of political persuasion truly possible?
For the left, nonviolence is associated with Gandhi’s Hindu-nationalism and his gradualistic approach to caste and economic reforms.
In this context, nonviolence seems conservative, even reactionary.
The campaign culminated in nationwide boycotts and demonstrations with thousands upon thousands of arrests.
Moreover, graphic accounts of the brutal beating of unarmed protestors circulated in the global media, turning public opinion against the British and bringing Gandhi and satyagraha to the world’s attention.
Gandhi began the salt satyagraha by leading a group of his closest associates in a thrilling 25-day, 240-mile march.
Each day the suspense around Gandhi’s imminent arrest and popular unrest excited public attention.When we picture nonviolent protest today, we tend to imagine vast crowds occupying public spaces, marching, waving signs, chanting slogans, confronting state authority.For Gandhi, however, nonviolent protest required something more than the peaceful mobilization of large numbers of people. Gandhi began to experiment with a novel form of political action, which he termed satyagraha.He asked Indians to boycott foreign cloth and withdraw from state offices and schools in order to disrupt the everyday machinery of government and expose the fragility of British claims to authority.But when undertaken on a mass scale it also proved impossible to ignore.Moreover, the salt tax disproportionately burdened the poor and became an evocative symbol of British disregard for Indian lives and interests.From the right, nonviolence is seen as weak, emasculated nationalism.And even Gandhians themselves insist that nonviolence is a way of life that would be disfigured by treating it as a political tactic.Over time, we have learned that nonviolence can draw participation from large numbers of people more effectively and efficiently than armed movements ever could.By either withdrawing participation and popular consent or criticizing and defying specific institutions and laws deemed unjust, successful nonviolent campaigns can puncture the legitimacy and authority of the state as such.