A report by Robert J. Burrowes
(Editor’s note: You can read 'The People's Charter to Create a Nonviolent World' and, if it feels right to you, sign the pledge at http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com)
On 11 November 2011, the 93rd anniversary of the armistice of World War 1,a new movement to end human violence was launched around the world. 'The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World' was launched simultaneously in Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines and the United States and has already gained signatories in twenty-two countries.
The aim of the Nonviolence Charter is to create a worldwide movement to end violence in all of its forms. According to Anahata Giri, the Charter gives voice to the millions of ordinary people around the world who want an end to war, domestic violence, oppression, economic exploitation, environmental destruction, and violence of all other kinds. The Charter is also designed to support and unite the courageous nonviolent struggles of ordinary people all over the world.
People who wish to join the movement are invited to sign a pledge to take personal action to progressively eliminate the violence they inflict on themselves, others and the Earth, and to engage in acts of nonviolent resistance and/or creation to bring about a nonviolent future.
A report from a launch organizer in the United States, Tom Shea, included photos taken by fellow organizer Leonard Eiger. The launch, which took place in Seattle, involved several groups: the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, the Puget Sound Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Declaration, Seattle Veterans For Peace Chapter 92, Collective Voices for Peace USA, Collective Voces Ecologiacas Panama, and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship Seattle Chapter. Tom reported that it was a great gathering.
After a moment of silence at Seattle’s Wall of Remembrance (which lists the names of Washington State military killed in major US Wars), Tom reported, 'we began our spoken presence'. Even amid a cold rain, over twenty people representing a broad variety of peace people assembled. These included four from Occupy Seattle (two of whom were dressed in military garb), the Colgans – who’ve been holding a vigil in front of the Seattle Federal Building every Tuesday since 2004, in honor of their son killed in Iraq – a woman in a wheelchair and the Buddhist chair of the Seattle Peace Team (a group that does training and is active as peacekeepers in places of conflict in town). 'We spoke briefly about The Charter, how individuals can participate ... and shared information about six of the groups present.'
The launch in Malaysia was organized by the International Movement for A Just World (JUST International) and was held as part of the Inter-civilizational Youth Engagement Program (IYEP) 5 held at the Shah’s Village Hotel in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. It was organized by Professor Chandra Muzaffar, Helen Ng and Nurul Haida Dzulkifli.
On arrival, guests were welcomed, shown the video 'Do unto others' and given hand-made poppies. This was followed by dance performances of the Indonesian 'Thousand Hands Dance' and the Korean 'Sorry Sorry', the music video 'Wonderful World', and the poem 'I Want to See What I Saw Again'. Guests then heard a talk by Dato Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi on 'The Violence of Capital Punishment', a guitar performance of 'That’s Why I Love You', a drama performance of '500 Days of Violence', a talk and video by Mr.Khampi on the Zomi Education Centre for Myanmar Refugees, before the song 'We Are The World'. Finally, 'The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World' was read out, with the dramatization of selective clauses, the pledge was taken, the Charter was signed and poppies were placed on a 'field' on their Charter banner.
In the Philippines, the launch took place in ten barangay (village) halls in Quezon province and involved the praying of the rosary and lighting of eleven candles. It was organized by Dr. Tess Ramiro who is Director of the main nonviolence organization in the Philippines, Aksyon para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan (Action for Peace and Justice) – Center for Active Nonviolence, at the Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. In her report, Tess indicated that, according to the base groups, the activity was very successful. One base group alone reported an attendance of 100 persons and the event was supported by the parish priest.
The launch in Melbourne, Australia, was organized by Anahata Giri, Anita McKone and myself. Eight ordinary people spoke about why they are going to work to end human violence and what they are going to be doing differently from now on.
The speakers included a diverse range of people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds including Samah Sabawi, a Palestinian born in Gaza; Kijana Majok Piel, a Sudanese Muslim who spent 17 years living in a refugee camp in Kenya; Karen Thompson-Anderson, who teaches nonviolent communication; Frank Ruanjie, a Chinese pro-democracy activist now exiled in Australia; Tenzin Lobsang, a Tibetan Buddhist who fled Tibet as a child; John McKenna who relies on a wheelchair for his mobility and works
with intellectually disabled people; Isabelle Skaburskis, a Canadian woman who did rehabilitation work (yoga therapy) with women and children who had been sexually trafficked in Cambodia; and Annie Whitlocke, a woman of Jewish heritage who has suffered much violence throughout her childhood
and married life.
The launch also featured Samah Sabawi reading her evocative poems 'The Liberation Anthem' and 'A Confession' (which was accompanied by sound effects, including a recording of the Israeli bombing of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, managed by her nephew Omer Elsaafin). Tenzing Yeshi sang his powerful song 'Cho Sum Mirik' about the life of His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. Anita and Anahata sang 'Freedom for Palestine/Everyone', and 'We Sing Nonviolence' written by Anita specifically for the Charter launch.
My own talk, explaining the purpose of the Nonviolence Charter, included the following words:
'So what is unique about "The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World"? The People’s Charter is an attempt to put the focus on human violence as the pre-eminent problem faced by our species, to identify all of the major manifestations of this violence, and to identify ways to tackle all of these manifestations of violence in a systematic and strategic manner. It is an attempt to put the focus on the fundamental cause – the violence we adults inflict on children – and to stress the importance of dealing with that cause. (See 'Why Violence?' http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence) It is an attempt to focus on what you and I - that is, ordinary people - can do to end human violence and "The People’s Charter" invites us to pledge to make that effort. It is an attempt, as Anahata said to me the other day, to combine the deeply personal with the deeply global: to listen to our deep inner selves to restore humanity. And it is an attempt to provide a focal point around which we can mobilize with a sense of shared commitment with people from all over the world. In short, as of tonight, it is a new, worldwide movement and its specific focus is ending human violence....
'So, together with people in Malaysia, the Philippines and the United States, tonight many of us will choose to pledge ourselves to a new, concerted and worldwide effort to end human violence, in all of its
manifestations, for all time.
'This is undoubtedly a monumental endeavor. Perhaps, it is the greatest endeavor in human history. I feel privileged to share it with you all. And I love you all for making that endeavor....
'We are committed to leave here tonight to struggle to end human violence. In my view, there can be no greater calling than this. Whatever our differences, ending human violence is our compelling and unifying dream.'
Robert J. Burrowes firstname.lastname@example.org