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Terrorism and Nonviolence - by Arun Gandhi
From www.gandhiinstitute.org/ - 9 Nov '01

"When in despair I remember
that all through history
the way of truth and love has always won;
there have been tyrants and murderers,
and for a time they can seem invincible,
but in the end they always fall."

- M.K. Gandhi


the tragedy
in New York and Washington DC on September 11 many have written or called the office to find out what would be an appropriate nonviolent response to such an unbelievably inhuman act of violence.


we must
that nonviolence is not a strategy that we can use in times of peace and discard in a moment of crisis.

Nonviolence is about personal attitudes, about becoming the change we wish to see in the world.

Because, a nation's collective attitude is based on the attitude of the individual.

Nonviolence is about building positive relationships with all human beings relationships that are based on love, compassion, respect, understanding and appreciation.


is also
not judging people as we perceive them to be that is, a murderer is not born a murderer; a terrorist is not born a terrorist.

People become murderers, robbers and terrorists because of circumstances and experiences in life.

Killing or confining murders, robbers, terrorists, or the like is not going to rid this world of them.

For every one we kill or confine we create another hundred to take their place.

What we need to do is dispassionately analyze both the circumstances that create such monsters and how we can help eliminate those circumstances.

Focusing our efforts on the monsters, rather than what creates the monsters, will not solve the problems of violence.

Justice should mean reformation and not revenge.


We saw
in Iraq and Palestine and I dare say many other countries rejoicing over the tragedies at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

It horrified us, as it should.

But let us not forget that we do the same thing.

When Israel bombs the Palestinians we either rejoice or show no compassion.

Our attitude is that they deserve what they get.

When the Palestinians bomb the Israelis we are indignant and condemn them as vermin who need to be eliminated.


We reacted
when we bombed the cities of Iraq.

I was among the millions in the United States who sat glued to the television and watched the drama as though it was a made for television film.

Thousands of innocent men, women and children were being blown to bits and, instead of feeling sorry for them, we marveled at the efficiency of our military.

For more than ten years we have continued to wreak havoc in Iraq an estimated 50,000 children die every year because of sanctions that we have imposed and it hasn't moved us to compassion.

All this is done, we are told, because we want to get rid of the Satan called Sadam Hussein.


we are
getting ready
to do this all over again to get rid of another Satan called Osama bin Laden.

We will bomb the cities of Afghanistan because they harbor the Satan and in the process we will help create a thousand other bin Ladens.


"We don't care what the world thinks of us as long as they respect our strength.

"After all we have the means to blow this world to pieces since we are the only surviving super-power."

I question whether we want other countries to respect us the way school children respect a bully.

Is that our role in the world?

If a bully is what we want to be then we must be prepared to face the same consequences that a school-yard bully faces.

On the other hand we cannot tell the world "leave us alone."

Isolationism is not what this world is built for.


All of this
brings us back
to the question:
How do we respond nonviolently to terrorism?


The consequences
of a military
are not very rosy.

Many thousands of innocent people will die both here and in the country or countries we attack.

Militancy will increase exponentially and, ultimately, we will be faced with other more pertinent moral questions:

- What will we gain by destroying half the world?

- Will we be able to live with a clear conscience?


We must
our role
in helping to create monsters in the world, find ways to contain these monsters without hurting more innocent people, and then redefine our role in the world.

I think we must move from seeking to be respected for our military strength to being respected for our moral strength.


We need
to appreciate
that we are
in a position to play a powerful role in helping the "other half" of the world attain a better standard of life not by throwing a few crumbs but by significantly involving ourselves in constructive economic programs.


too long
our foreign policy
has been based on "what is good for the United States."

It smacks of selfishness.

Our foreign policy should now be based on what is good for the world and how can we do the right thing to help the world become more peaceful.


To those
who have lost
loved ones
in this and other terrorist acts I say I share your grief.

I am sorry that you have become victims of senseless violence.

But let this sad episode not make you vengeful because no amount of violence is going to bring you inner peace.

Anger and hate never do.

The memory of those victims who have died in this and other violent incidents around the world will be better preserved and more meaningfully commemorated if we all learn to forgive.

Let us dedicate our lives to creating a peaceful, respectful and understanding world.

- Arun Gandhi


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The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence www.gandhiinstitute.org/

The Mission
of the Gandhi Institute
is to promote and apply
the principles of nonviolence locally, nationally, and globally, to prevent violence and resolve personal and public conflicts through research, education, and programming.

The Institute,
founded by Arun Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi's grandson)
and his wife Sunanda, was established to promote and teach the philosophy and practice of nonviolence to help reduce the violence that consumes our hearts, our homes, and our societies.


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Mahatma Ghandi said:
"I am willing to die for the independence of India,
but there is no cause for which I am willing to kill."

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contact & e-mail details - top of page

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