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 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and
other civil rights leaders?
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
(1.) Prayerfully enter into a process by conducting research and gathering
information to get the facts straight;
(2.) Continuing in prayer, conduct education and awareness campaigns to
inform adversaries and the public about the facts of the dispute;
(3.) Prayerfully commit yourself to live and manifest a nonviolent attitude
(4.) Prayerfully mediate and negotiate with adversary in a spirit of
goodwill to correct injustice;
(5.) 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;
(6.) 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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)
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 purchases a small amount of
stock so they can have 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.
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.
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:
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."
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."
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 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."
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
Source: "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" by Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr.; Boston: Beacon Press, 1967.