The Six Principles of Non-Violence
21st Century life in America is filled with conflict and controversy. While we are making technological advances by leaps and bounds, we might do well to remember lessons from our predecessors in the 20th century, and beyond. What might we learn from the examples of the Prophet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his father Rev. Martin Luther king, Sr. his brother Rev. Alfred Daniel Williams King, and other civil rights leaders of the 20th Century?
SIX STEPS AND PRINCIPLES FOR NONVIOLENT SOCIAL CHANGE – A sequential journey to victory:
- Principle 1: Nonviolence is not passive, but requires courage.
- Principle 2: Nonviolence seeks reconciliation, not defeat of an adversary.
- Principle 3: Nonviolent action is directed at eliminating evil, not destroying an evildoer.
- Principle 4: A willingness to accept suffering for the cause, if necessary, but never to inflict it.
- Principle 5: A rejection of hatred, animosity or violence of the spirit, as well as refusal to commit physical violence.
- Principle 6: Faith that justice will prevail.
Understanding this, we apply the six steps of nonviolent conflict resolution:
- Prayerfully enter into a process by conducting research and gathering information to get the facts straight;
- Continuing in prayer, conduct education and awareness campaigns to inform adversaries and the public about the facts of the dispute;
- Prayerfully commit yourself to live and manifest a nonviolent attitude and actions;
- Prayerfully mediate and negotiate with adversary in a spirit of goodwill to correct injustice;
- Prayerfully apply nonviolent direct action, such as prayer vigils, marches, boycotts, mass demonstrations, picketing, sit-ins etc., to help persuade or compel adversary to work toward dispute-resolution;
- Prayerfully anticipate reconciliation among adversaries in a win-win outcome in establishing a sense of community which should now be achievable.
Glossary of Nonviolence
AGAPE – Overflowing unconditional love for all, including adversaries, needed for nonviolent conflict-resolution. Dr. King called it “love in action…love seeking to preserve and create community…love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative.”
AHIMSA – The Hindi word for non-injury, or nonviolence made popular by Gandhi as the central value of his beliefs and leadership.
ARBITRATION – Hearing of a dispute and determining its outcome by a mutually-agreed-upon third party. Can be binding or non-binding.
BELOVED COMMUNITY – Term coined by philosopher Josiah Royce to denote an ideal community, used frequently by Dr. King to describe a society of justice, peace and harmony which can be achieved through nonviolence. In his sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, on April 2, 1957, Dr. King said, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community.”
BOYCOTT – A campaign of withdrawal of support from a company, government or institution which is committing an injustice, such as racial discrimination. As Dr. King said, “There is nothing quite so effective as the refusal to cooperate with the forces and institutions which perpetuate evil in our communities.”
CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE – The act of openly disobeying an unjust, immoral or unconstitutional law as a matter of conscience, and accepting the consequences, including submitting to imprisonment if necessary, to protest an injustice.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION – Ending of conflict, disputes or disagreements by nonviolent means with intent to achieve a “win-win” outcome for all parties.
CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION – A refusal to participate in military service because of moral beliefs.
CREATIVE TENSION – In his Letter from A Birmingham Jail, Dr. King said, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue…I must confess that I am not afraid of the word, tension. I have earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive tension that is necessary for growth… the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.”
DEMONSTRATIONS – Gatherings and protest activities organized to build support for peace, justice or social reform.
DIRECT ACTION – Nonviolent resistance to injustice. More than 250 forms of nonviolent direct action have been identified, including marches, boycotts, picketing, sit-ins and prayer vigils, to name a few. See Six steps of nonviolence.
FASTING – Refusing to eat as a method of self-purification to be spiritually strengthened for nonviolent action, or as a protest.
GANDHI, MOHANDAS K. – (1869—1948) Leader of India’s nonviolent independence movement, who forced the British to quit India. Dr. King studied Gandhi’s successful campaigns and adapted some of Gandhi’s strategies in the American Civil Rights Movement. As Dr. King said of the role of Gandhi’s teachings in the Civil Rights Movement, “Christ furnished the spirit and motivation, while Gandhi furnished the method.” Dr. King said “Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique for nonviolent social change.”
LAWS, JUST VS. UNJUST – A distinction made in deciding to engage in civil disobedience. A just law is created by both a majority and minority, and is binding on both. An unjust law is created by a majority that is binding on the minority, when the minority has no voice in creating the law. Dr. King said, “A just law is a man-made code that squares with moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with moral law…One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly and with a willingness to accept the penalty.”
MASS MARCH – A large number of people walk in a group to a place of symbolic significance to protest an injustice.
MEDIATION – intervention in a dispute by a neutral third party with expertise on a particular issue for the purpose of securing a compromise, an agreement or reconciliation. A mediator can not impose a binding agreement.
MORAL SUASION – Appealing to the moral beliefs of an adversary or the public to convince the adversary to change behavior or attitudes.
NEGOTIATION – Process of discussing, compromising and bargaining with adversaries in good faith to secure a resolution to a conflict and reconciliation of adversaries. (See six steps of nonviolence above)
NONCOOPERATION – Refusal to participate in activities of or cooperate with individuals, governments, institutions, policies or laws that result in violence or injustice.
PACIFISM – A philosophy based on an absolute refusal to engage in violence because it is morally wrong.
PASSIVE RESISTANCE – Challenging an injustice by refusing to support or cooperate with an unjust law, action or policy. The term “passive” is misleading because passive resistance includes pro-active nonviolence, such as marches, boycotts and other forms of active protest.
PERSONAL COMMITMENT – The spiritual and psychological decision to participate in nonviolent action to eliminate an injustice. Prayer, meditation and sometimes fasting are used to deepen one’s spiritual understanding.
PETITION CAMPAIGNS – Gathering of massive numbers of signatures in support of or opposed to a policy, proposal or law.
PICKETING – A group of individuals walk with signs bearing protest messages in front of a site where an injustice has been committed.
POVERTY – materialism, unemployment, homelessness, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality, slums…
“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it. The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty … The well off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.”
PURIFICATION – The cleansing of anger, selfishness and violent attitudes from the heart and soul in preparation for a nonviolent struggle. (See six steps of nonviolence above)
RACISM – prejudice, apartheid, anti-Semitism, sexism, colonialism, homophobia, ageism, discrimination against differently abled, stereotypes…
“Racism is a philosophy based on a contempt for life. It is the arrogant assertion that one race is the center of value and object of devotion, before which other races must kneel in submission. It is the absurd dogma that one race is responsible for all the progress of history and alone can assure the progress of the future. Racism is total estrangement. It separates not only bodies, but minds and spirits. Inevitably it descends to inflicting spiritual and physical homicide upon the out-group.”
RECONCILIATION – The end goal of nonviolence. Bringing together of adversaries in a spirit of community after a conflict has been resolved. (See six steps of nonviolence above)
REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING – A willingness to accept suffering without seeking revenge or retribution. When an individual or group experiences injustice and abuse for a good cause, it will help produce a greater good.
SATYAGRAHA – Hindi for “soul force,” a term coined by Gandhi to emphasize the power of unadorned truth and love in a social struggle
SAVING FACE – Offering an adversary an alternative course of action which spares him or her embarrassment.
SELECTIVE PATRONAGE – The flip side of a boycott. Making a point of purchasing a product or service from a company that supports justice.
SIT-INS – Tactic of nonviolence in which protesters sit down at the site of an injustice and refuse to move for a specified period of time or until goals are achieved. Examples include Flint (Mich.) sit-down strike of 1936-37 in which auto workers sat down on job for 44 days in protest for union recognition and the student sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters in Greensboro, N.C. in 1960.
SIX PRINCIPLES OF NONVIOLENCE – Above
SIX STEPS OF NONVIOLENT SOCIAL CHANGE – Above
STOCKHOLDER’S CAMPAIGN – Individuals or groups purchase a small amount of stock so they can introduce resolutions at stockholder meetings, vote as stockholders and lobby corporations to correct an injustice.
STRIKES – Organized withholding of labor to correct injustice.
TEACH-INS – An organized event or series of events, including public hearings, lectures, panel discussions, theatrical presentations, showing of films, role-playing and scenario exercises and other educational techniques, to inform public about a particular issue.
TRADE SANCTIONS – A nation levies import taxes on products from another nation, or bans importation of a nation’s products altogether.
TRIPLE EVILS – The Triple Evils of POVERTY, RACISM and WAR are forms of violence that exist in a vicious cycle. They are interrelated, all-inclusive, and stand as barriers to our living in the Beloved Community. When we work to remedy one evil, we affect all evils. The issues change in accordance with the political and social climate of our nation and world. Some contemporary manifestations are below:
To work against the Triple Evils, you need to: develop a nonviolent frame of mind as described in the “Six Principles of Nonviolence” and use the Kingian model for social action outlined in the “Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change.”
UNEARNED SUFFERING – See REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING.
UNCONDITIONAL LOVE – See “AGAPE.”
VIGILS – A form of protest in which individuals and groups stand, sit, walk, or pray at a site linked to an injustice or symbolically associated with principles of freedom, justice or peace.
WAR – militarism, imperialism, domestic violence, rape, terrorism, media violence, drugs, child abuse…
“A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war- ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This way of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Source: “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Boston: Beacon Press, 1967.