Nonviolence: The Hope of the Future

By Dear, John | Tikkun, March/April 1999 | Go to article overview

Nonviolence: The Hope of the Future


Dear, John, Tikkun


The Hope of the Future

In a world of war and injustice, any real spirituality has to engage the struggle for peace and justice. In a culture of violence like ours, what we need from people of faith and conscience are active spiritualities of nonviolence. Now more than ever, we need the faith-based nonviolence practiced by Abraham Heschel, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mohandas Gandhi.

Currently, over 40,000 people, mostly children, die every day of starvation (at least 20 million a year), while over 30 wars are being waged and over 20,000 nuclear weapons are still maintained. From starvation to ethnic hatred to war and the ongoing threat of global destruction, the spectrum of violence overshadows us all.

In a world of suffering and systemic injustice, our faith must address these realities, seek peace, and offer the alternative vision of nonviolence, or it loses its authenticity, as the prophets insist.

We in the United States can no longer claim a private, spiritualized religion when our own country leads the way in this addiction to violence and thus violates every spiritual and moral value. Dr. King called America "the greatest purveyor of violence on earth." Today, our faith challenges us to make it the greatest purveyor of peace.

Last summer, the United States bombed Sudan and Afghanistan, killing at least 30 people, in response to terrorist bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which killed 263 people and injured more than 5,500.

In December, we watched in horror as the United States bombed Iraq killing at least 65 people, injuring scores more, destroying schools and hospitals, and knocking out water supplies in Baghdad for over 300,000 people.

Retaliatory violence, bombing raids, and war never solve anything. State-sanctioned murder not only violates international law, it also inflames existing hatred and leads to further terrorist attacks and even more distrust, death, and destruction. Armed military terror, initiated by the United States and aimed at Africa or Asia, escalates the spiral of violence in regions already drenched in blood and despair.

Our warmaking economy thrives on the death of others, and so we keep on bombing and preparing for war, even though we have no enemies. We cut funding for jobs, health care, education, and food for the hungry, but increase our military spending by another $100 billion. The bomb makers and military "defense" contractors grow rich on the suffering of the world's children. In the process, we lose any trace of authentic religious belief.

Look at the situation in Iraq. By bombing Iraq, we killed Iraqi people to send a message to Saddam that he should not kill Iraqi people or threaten other nations. There is no logic to such madness, yet we repeat this failed policy time and time again. As a result, the people and children of Iraq have suffered too much. Already, according to the United Nations, more than one million Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the economic sanctions. They should not have to suffer any more-whether from the Iraqi government or the U.S. government.

We should stop all our plans to bomb Iraq, and immediately lift the economic sanctions, while continuing an embargo of arms transfers and sales to Iraq and all other nations of the Middle East. That would be a big step toward creating a region free of all weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, we should dismantle our own stockpile of nuclear weapons, something the end of the Cold War called for years ago. …

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