What is Nonviolent Action?

What is Nonviolent Action?

“Without a direct action expression of it, nonviolence, to my mind, is meaningless.”

– M.K. Gandhi

Nonviolent Action arose in a public way out of diverse religious traditions and is a contemporary strategy for social change. Neither a passive acceptance of oppression, nor a violent opposition to it, nonviolent action is an active commitment to utilizing nonviolent means (e.g. acts of protest and persuasion, noncooperation, direct action, civil disobedience, boycotts, strikes, and education) to resist violent forces in order to bring about some change.

Types of Nonviolent Action

Gene Sharp outlines three Nonviolent Action methods that serve to undermine objectionable systems of power and prompt the creation of innovative and alternative solutions (Sharp, Politics of Nonviolent Action, 1973, pp. 109-445):

  • Nonviolent protest and persuasion are “symbolic acts of peaceful opposition” often used to denounce or show dissent toward a specific issue or policy. These methods are also used to gain publicity for a cause. Parades, vigils, picketing, posters, teach-ins and the other educational forums, mourning, and protest meetings are all considered acts of protest and persuasion.
  • Noncooperation involves intentionally removing oneself from cooperation or relations with a disagreeable activity or institution. Common methods are strikes, boycotts, divestment of funds, and acts of civil disobedience through peaceful violation of laws or regulations.
  • Nonviolent Intervention encompasses methods that disrupt or deconstruct established institutions, behaviours, or policies that are viewed as undesirable by the nonviolent actor. Nonviolent interventions may also strive to create new patterns and institutions to take their place. Methods of disruption might include nonviolent occupations, blockades, fasting, and seeking imprisonment, in order to over-fill facilities. Methods of creating new structures might include the construction of alternative schools, media, transport, markets, and other political, economic, and social institutions.

FOR Peace Presence’s Method of Nonviolence

FOR Peace Presence is a pacifist organization focused on understanding and dismantling the global ties that permit and facilitate modern day conflict and violence across the globe. We reveal and share with our supporters the links between U.S. international policy and its oftentimes-dire consequences overseas.

Our method of nonviolent action is namely one of protest and persuasion, but in a different way than one might imagine. Our protest is not a typical, outward act of protest but instead organizational, in opposition to illicit acts of direct violence upon nonviolent resisters in Colombia. When a party who has declared themselves neutral and nonviolent in Colombia’s armed conflict requests our presence, we support them. We support nonviolent resisters who additionally work in all three methods of nonviolence, whether they are activists attending protests, communities initiating negotiations with a multinational corporation, or The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, who has chosen noncooperation as a way of life by establishing their intentional community and declaring neutrality. We also seek to inform audiences about the problem at hand. We ask that they critically examine the entrenched, sometimes violent power structures under which they live, and perhaps consider taking up a form of nonviolent action themselves.

The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

In the war-torn villages of Colombia, farmers have very few options. They either displace, leaving their lands and livelihoods behind them, or become part of the conflict.

A third, alternative route was created with the founding of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in 1997. Grown out of the necessity to resist permanent displacement from lands, homes, and crops, it became a model of non-violent, civil resistance throughout the region. FOR USA’s commitment to support non-violent movements led to their connection to the community, and the Peace Presence project formed in Colombia in 2002.

Nonviolence as a Movement

The strength of any form of resistance lies in its ability to remain alive, to remain an active struggle; An ability to remain alive lies in establishing diversity through local and international links between peoples, struggles, and movements that form networks to exchange ideas, tactics, and create community.