Metta’s Opinion

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? (Who Shall Guard the Guardians?)

Originally posted on Tikkun Daily Blog on October 23, 2014.

Family members demand justice in Iguala, Guerrero. Credit: Creative Commons/The Yucatan Times Family members demand justice in Iguala, Guerrero. Credit: Creative Commons/The Yucatan Times

I’ve just come from a three-hour conversation with Pietro Ameglio Patella, prominent Mexican professor and nonviolent activist, and an old friend. He was in the country with his friend Carlos Moreno who has been searching for his son for three years without any cooperation from the official parties – indeed not only that, it has made him a target of death threats himself.

The situation in México is, without exaggeration, catastrophic. Anyone can be taken off at any time, and both drug lords and the government operate with complete impunity. Gangs come and measure your house or your business and charge you for “protection” by the yard, and recently a radio journalist was killed right in the middle of a broadcast by someone who entered the studio, fired four shots point blank and calmly walked out. As Patella told me, “our wives are in a constant panic; we don’t know from which direction the bullets could come.” No government agency offers help to the anguished parents seeking information about their lost children or other loved ones, not to mention doing anything to control the violence, because indeed they are part of it. Patella and Moreno reject the definition of “failed state” for Mexico today. Rather, they told me, it’s a criminal state.

But now, it seems, the criminal state may have gone too far. On September 26, police fired upon forty-three students, who had come to the town of Iguala in Guerrero for teacher training,as they sat in buses. The students were raising funds for a trip to Mexico City to participate in a memorial of the Tlatelolco student massacre of October 2, 1968. Six students were killed and one remains in a coma; the others were taken off by the police and handed over to the local drug gang. They have not been found. Tenmass graves have been discovered during the search with human remains, none of which to date turns out to match the missing students. Even this town in a particularly violence-torn region of the country, and the country itself, is in shock.

The Iguala massacre, as it’s now called, came at a time when the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto had just been in the U.S. portraying his country as “peaceful Mexico” thanks to the legislative reforms he instituted since taking office two years ago – with loud support from, for example, Hillary Clinton. The blatant complicity of the police has surfaced what every Mexican knows (if he or she cares to), that, in the words of Javier Oliva, coordinator of the defense and national security program at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, Iguala has “a municipal authority at the repressive service of organized crime against society.” In this respect, Iguala is no different from most parts of the country, except, of course, for Zapatista-controlled Chiapas where, if anywhere, the future of Mexico is being nurtured in radical social experiments.

20141018_142040_opt Michael Nagler (center) with Carlos Moreno (far left) and Pietro Ameglio Patella (left) at the Joan B. Kroc Peace & Justice Institute at the University of San Diego on October 18. Credit: Patrick Hiller

Patella and Moreno had just come from Washington where they lobbied for a more appropriate response from the U.S. to the massacre, which is creating the worst political crisis in Mexico in forty years. A march on the Mexican Embassy in D.C. was planned for October 22nd; but we are all in agreement that there, as in the U.S. (I’ve just been discussing this point with author and environmentalist Bill McKibben), with a situation this dire marches are not enough. In terms of a model called the conflict escalation curve we developed at Metta some time ago, when you’ve marched and gone home without a substantial response you have passed phase one of the curve, and now it’s time for satyagraha: nonviolent resistance. In the U.S. I’ve proposed that we should a) lay out a timetable of concrete demands for the reversal of climate destruction, b) lay out an equally concrete set of alternatives that make such a drastic change thinkable (e.g. the conversion to clean energy sources in Germany), andc) a description of what the government or corporate entities we’re addressing will have to face in the form of massive civil disobedience if they do not comply.

What would a nonviolent response look like in Mexico? As it happens, Latin America is the cradle of one of the most successful forms of nonviolence that’s been developed since the days of Gandhi and King, called protective accompaniment. Trained nonviolent activists have been going into Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and elsewhere to accompany threatened human rights workers around the clock, with no small success. No protected person or any third-party intervener has actually been killed on the job, and in one case at least, an incredibly small number of people in Guatemala in the 1980s made it possible for a key organization to function and play a key role in the initiation of a peace process. That same organization, Peace Brigades International, is now operating on a small scale in Mexico. Patella urgently expressed that a lot more of this support could make a critical difference. Protecting key persons could allow some measure of accountability that could break the cycle of crime and impunity (look at the genocide conviction that was recently obtained against former Guatemalan President Ríos Montt).

This, along with other ongoing measures, could open the space to address the deeper issues. There is a huge section of youth in Mexico called “ni-nis,” with ni trabajo, ni educación (neither work nor education) leaving them ripe for recruitment into the gangs. And of course, there is the northern neighbor who buys the drugs and furnishes the weapons to keep them flowing, over the bodies of the poorest Mexicans. There is the culture of corruption there (and not so far off here). These are deep, deep problems, but we might just have a chance now to get some traction on them if we can use the shock created by the Iguala massacre to support Pietro Ameglio Patella and his colleagues who are struggling heroically to raise the banner of nonviolence in a desperate world.

The Great Debaters

By: Mercedes Mack


“Who is the judge?”

“The judge is God.”

“Why is He God?”

“Because He decides who wins or loses. Not my opponent.”

“Who is your opponent?”

“He does not exist.”

“Why does he not exist?”

“Because he is a mere dissenting voice of the truth I speak!”


c. 2007, Directed by Denzel Washington. A biopic based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson (Denzel Washington), a professor at Wiley College, Texas. Set against the backdrop of Jim Crow Texas, the film depicts the journey of the Wiley College debate team, created and coached by Tolson into a nearly undefeated season that included the first debate between white and African American students in the U.S. But that’s not why this movie is awesome.

This movie is awesome because at first glance, the film is a classic underdog tale of Wiley College debate team set in the backdrop of the Jim Crow South with caliber acting and very resilient characters. Looking closer, there is an obvious undercurrent of nonviolent resistance and the tough recurring question of what do we have to do versus what we can or want to do.

There are multiple scenes in the film that address these questions- the secret meetings led by Professor Tolson, when Dr. James Farmer hits a white farmer’s pig, and other segregation-violence topics addressed in various debates. In the film, these questions are constantly contemplated as characters navigated the Jim Crowe system and each grappled with how they could change it.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the final debate between Wiley College and Harvard. Their debate topic is- Civil disobedience is a moral weapon in the fight for justice. A relevant topic in 1930 as dialogues, such those shown in the debates, were the beginnings of what would evolve into the battle cry of the Civil Rights Movement about 20 years later. The prompt was given to students as a last minute change, and in preparation, they decide whether or not to include Gandhi’s method of satyagraha-

l think we should get into Gandhi’s concept of Satyagraha.  
l don’t agree.  
l don’t think people are gonna understand what–  
what– Sadagara?
Sactchmaget? Sactchma–

Satyagraha. From the Sanskrit. Meaning truth and fairness.

It is very true that many people don’t. As a student of nonviolence myself, I still sometimes grapple with understanding the deep implications of satyagraha. Michael Nagler describes satyagraha as, “A positive and spiritually based form of resistance that starts in the heart of the resistor and inevitably produces creative action.”. It’s true that everyone’s truth differs-my truth may not necessarily align with someone else’s opinion of truth. Truth always finds its root in justice and integrity. A good litmus test to whether or not your truth aligns with the “truth” promoted in satyagraha is asking yourself if it’s concerned with upholding human dignity.

Satyagraha’s truth ties into another main theme of the film- the morality and justice of the law. St. Augustine was referenced several times in the film, most notably for his famous observation, “an unjust law is no law at all”. In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. clarifies his inner truths drawn from Gandhi’s teachings of satyagraha and and contextualizes it using the classic political and spiritual philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas.

A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

The debate scene between Harvard and Wiley address the “radical” implications the misconception of nonviolence carries. Nonviolence is sometimes misunderstood to be inherently anarchistic because civil disobedience involves picking and choosing which laws to obey and thus cannot be moral.

In rebuttal of the anarchistic argument, Wiley argued:

Gandhi believes one must always act with love and respect for one’s opponents,even if they are Harvard debaters. [laughter] Gandhi also believes that lawbreakers must accept the legal consequences for their actions. Does that sound like anarchy?

This examination is on point and simply put. Gandhi himself accepted jail-time many times as a part of participating in India’s independence movement. Laws are broken, not randomly, but with specific intent-chosen because they are inherently unjust and must be changed for the benefit all people. From this, participating in nonviolence is the greatest act of love and democratic participation for humankind that is possible.


Wiley_College_debate_team_19301930 Wiley College Debate Team

Students from the debate team went on to actively participate in the Civil Rights Movement. James Farmer Jr. went on to found the Congress of Racial Equality and become a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

Film critics claimed I would, “Stand up and cheer!”. And I did.


If you would like to learn more about the Wiley College Debate team, I suggest Brad Osbourne’s documentary The Real Great Debaters.

A Family Effort in the Empire Zinc Corporation Miner’s Strike.

By: Mercedes Mack

tw-saltA scene from Salt of the Earth.

On October 17, 1950, in Hanover, New Mexico, workers at the Empire Zinc mine finished their shifts, formed a picket line, and began a fifteen-month strike after attempts at union negotiation with the company reached an impasse. Miner demands included: equal pay to their White counterparts, paid holidays and equal housing. As a larger objective, the Local 890 Chapter of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers was to end the racial discrimination they suffered as a product of the institutions created by the Empire Zinc company in their town. For example, Mexican-American workers were subject to separate pay lines, unequal access to sanitation, electricity and paved streets as a result of discrimination by company sponsored housing, segregated movie theaters, etc. But for now, Union members of the 890 chapter voted to go on strike until Empire Zinc addressed their immediate workplace demands.

By June 1951, the strike had stopped production for eight months. Empire Zinc obtained an injunction against any further picketing. Wary of the mass jailing and fines that would result from violating the court order, yet not wanting to give up their strike, mine workers needed to change their tactic. Female activists in Mine-Mill Ladies Auxiliary 209, came up with the idea that they would continue the strike in place of what was an all-male striking labor force. Since they were not legally striking workers the members of the Ladies Auxiliary, the wives of strikers, as well as women and children in the community, would take over the picket line. For the next seven months, the women held the line in the face of violence from strikebreakers, mass arrests by the sheriff, and opposition from many of their own husbands, who were suddenly faced with the responsibilities of caring for children, washing clothes, and doing the dishes.


The women’s picket was carefully organized, militant, and successful. Not only did wives of Empire strikers, such as Henrietta Williams and Virginia Chacón, walk the line; many women from other towns in Grant County also participated. When County Sheriff Leslie Goforth ordered 53 women arrested on June 16, another 300 women took their places! The women and their children were jailed, their protests behind bars drew national attention, and they were soon released. While Judge Marshall did issue a subsequent ruling that the women were also covered by the injunction, months went by before the sheriff tried again to enforce the order. While the union was politically isolated from the CIO leadership and many AFL unions, the strike had broad support among Mexican Americans in New Mexico. This helped stay the hand of Governor Mechem who refrained, for several months, from using state police to reopen the mine.(Silver City Sun News)

The effect of including women  was vital to the success of the movement as a whole. It brought media attention to the struggle because it was unusual for women to be involved in a mining protest. The presence of women evoked empathy from law enforcement, and also garnered support from Mexican American women in nearby towns.

This tactic is clever for several reasons:

It broadened participation- with the inclusion of women and children, now essentially the whole mining community became involved in the movement. This increases the participatory size of the movement (ie the amount of people visibly striking) and involves a group of people who were equally affected by injustice at the larger objective level to contribute to a cause that also would benefit them.

It circumvented a repressive law- while one option would have been for the mine workers to continue picketing and consciously break the law and receive the consequences, devising a tactic that circumvented this law was a move that felt right to movement leaders. It is important to remember that all participants involved in a movement must be willing to break a law collectively for it to be impactful and if that is not the case, another strategy must be employed to the collective satisfaction of participants. This showed solidarity within the movement, as well as flexibility. It also had the unintended effect of temporarily switching the traditional gender roles for participants. While women continued the strike, men assumed household duties and were not the center of the movement anymore.

In January 1952, the strikers returned to work with a new contract improving wages and benefits. Several weeks later, Empire Zinc also installed hot water plumbing in Mexican American workers’ houses–a major issue pushed by the women of these households.



For more information:

Check out the film, Salt of the Earth, a “based on a true story” film about the strike.

A Crime to Fit the Punishment-an article that addresses the strike and the film.

Their View: Film on Empire Zinc strike 60 years ago made history


Turning Fear into Power

This article was originally posted on on October 14, 2014.

unnamed-615x429Linda Sartor standing on a Soviet tank outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. (WNV / Peggy Gish)


Linda Sartor is not afraid to die. Dedicated to nonviolence, she spent 10 years after September 11, 2001 traveling to conflict zones throughout the world as an unarmed peacekeeper, with roles ranging from protective accompaniment to direct interpositioning between parties when tensions were running high. She documents her work across the world — in Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and most recently Bahrain — in her new book, Turning Fear into Power: One Woman’s Journey Confronting the War on Terror. Inwardly quiet and exceedingly humble (she chose to sleep outside for eight years of her adult life), her courage and conviction are not only refreshing, they’re infectious. I recently had the privilege of spending a day with her to discuss her travels and the ways in which they have changed her as an individual, as well as her relationship to nonviolent action.

Is there a nonviolent response to terrorism?

I think George W. Bush misused the word “terrorism” so much that it really has no meaning. When protesters in the Occupy movement are portrayed as terrorists, that really changes the meaning of democracy too. If there is such a thing as real terrorism, I think it is often a last resort cry for help by people who are being severely abused and mistreated and who don’t have any other way to be seen and heard by those who could bring justice to a situation. A nonviolent response to terrorism is anything that brings more justice into the world, including more equity in our global economic system so that all people have their needs met and no one can abuse anyone else for their own economic advantage.

What does activism mean to you?

I think the word activism most often means protesting against something, but I am more excited about Gandhi’s idea of constructive program. I prefer the focus on creating models of what we want as opposed to protesting against what we don’t want because I believe that when we put energy against something it actually gives that something more power.

You worked for an organization doing constructive program, which is at the forefront of international unarmed peacekeeping, the Gandhian dream of the Shanti Sena, or Peace Army. Can you tell a story illustrating that kind of nonviolence at work?

The day after a massacre in a Christian Tamil village on an island in Sri Lanka, we Nonviolent Peaceforce unarmed civilian peacekeepers were greeted by the priest who took us to see the bodies. The people of the village were all excited to tell us what they had experienced the night before when the 11 people were killed. Each story confirmed that the killers were of the Sri Lankan Navy. The way it worked in Sri Lanka was that the bodies had to stay in place until the judge looked at them. When the judge arrived walking down the street, she was accompanied by Navy and police. So as soon as the villagers saw the group coming, the women and children all quickly went inside the churchyard and the men clumped closer to each other on the side of the street across from the church. The tension was palpable.

I positioned myself on the side of the clump of men, so the Navy, police and judge walked past me first and then past the village men. As they passed, I smiled and waved and that proved to be totally disarming of the tensions. At that moment, I felt a bodily knowledge that I was safer because I was unarmed than I would have been armed. No one had any reason to be afraid of me, so I was not in personal danger. From that morning on, until the villagers decided to move from their village into a refugee camp, we were able to provide a protective presence to the people and they felt a sense of security that the Navy, which was supposedly responsible for their security, could not provide.

You are one person. What makes you hopeful that you can make a difference?

After 9/11, I couldn’t sit still. I felt a longing to get into some sort of action to take a stronger stand than I had ever taken before. In the 10 years of my life that I portray in my book, I don’t know concretely how much of a difference my actions made in the bigger picture. Like the Afghan Peace Volunteers I spent time with in Afghanistan, I don’t necessarily expect to see the changes I am committed to working toward come about in my lifetime. But I believe that I have to work toward those changes anyway. It is like the line in the song “The Impossible Dream” that says, “And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest, that my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest; and the world will be better for this.

On another level, if I see something out there in the world that is not okay with me, I believe that if I look inside myself and ask something like, “Where is that violence in me?” then I have a place within myself that I can work to heal. Maybe that is the only place where I really have the power to make a difference. I do believe that that little bit of healing does contribute to the healing that’s needed in the world.

I have been inspired by the words of the poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes, when she says, “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely … We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small determined group who will not give up.”

Your book is about transforming fear into nonviolent power. Fearlessness was one of Gandhi’s key characteristics of the nonviolent soul, or satyagrahi. In his 1928 work, “Satyagraha in South Africa,” he said, “A satyagrahi bids goodbye to fear.” What role do you think fear plays in perpetuating violence in our world?

I see that the powers of domination that seem to be in control of the world today thrive on creating and perpetuating a culture of fear. Fear is contagious and easily blown out of proportion by our imaginations. I see that especially when it is at a distance. For example, people who don’t live in California are afraid of earthquakes and since I have never been in a tornado I fear that. I realized when I was preparing for my first trip — which was to Israel/Palestine — that for everyone back home it would seem like I would be in danger all the time. But in reality, there were only a few moments that were quite scary, and the rest of the time was not.

We can learn to let fears be our teachers and when we accept, or even embrace, a fear and let ourselves learn what we have to learn from it, it has less control over us. It’s not that we ever get rid of fear, it is just that we can be with fear in a different way. The more I am able to be with my fears, the more freedom I have to do what my heart is calling me to do, and the more alive I feel in the end.

Do you recommend that everyone travel to conflict zones as you have?

I encourage people to recognize that they don’t have to do what I did, but that their own hearts have unique callings that are right for them. I trust that if each of us does that, it can lead to solutions that we can’t find when we only think about the problems from our heads and from the perspective of what we’ve done before.

Revolution on Granite

By: Mercedes Mack

In 1989, students in Kiev, Ukraine, had had enough of Soviet occupation and politics. Two student groups, the Student Brotherhood (March 1989) and later the Ukrainian Students Union (December 1989) formed a coalition against Soviet influence. Initially, student groups staged protests and strikes in response to concerns regarding higher education-abolish compulsory courses in Marxism-Leninism, ban on campus operations of KGB and CPSU, protect students from persecution for political activities, etc.  Demonstrations by students and Ukrainians included- taking an oath of allegiance to an independent Ukraine, and demonstrations outside KGB headquarters. Responding to a call from opposition parties on Sept 30, 1990, 100,000 students gathered in Kiev in solidarity against a proposed Union Treaty (a proposition by the Kremlin to strengthen ties among republics of the Soviet Union).

On Oct 1, 1990, on the first day of the Soviet Supreme’s second session, 20,000 people protested in the streets and workers organized a one day warning strike. Taking note of the political climate and wave of support, the student coalition regrouped and formed an achievable list of demands, inclusive to that of the grievances of Ukrainians.

*Resignation of Soviet Premier and establishment of multi-party elections.

*Abolition of the proposed Union Treaty.

*A law ensuring Ukrainian military conscripts only delivered military service within Ukraine.

*Nationalization of Communist Party property.

On Oct 2, 1990 a group of 200 coalition students launched civil disobedience in support of their demands. The students occupied what they renamed Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Freedom Square), official name Lenin Square, in Kiev, initially erecting about 50 tents. This is the same square that would be later occupied by the Orange Revolution some fourteen years later. A core group of 200 students participated directly in the hunger strike, while many others joined to participate in the general strike over the next several days, increasing support to thousands of people. Opposition members of Parliament also joined, and solidarity swelled to about 15,000. Students were inspired by the student demonstrations in Tienanmen Square, and adopted similar tactics, namely nonviolent techniques of hunger strike and occupation. Having witnessed the severe crackdown of the People’s Republic of China, organizers were resolved in their nonviolent methods.


Student hunger strike, ‘Independence Square’, Kyiv, October 1990


“We went in with cold minds, prepared for any kind of conflict, but with the conviction that the only real path open to the government was peaceful.”

The movement continued to gain support at an alarming rate. Workers from the Arsenal factory (a pro-communist establishment) in Kiev declared support for the students. Students all over Ukraine had either joined the strike in Kiev, or staged sit-ins in solidarity at their local universities.By mid October, universities had become paralyzed due to lack of student attendance.

On Oct 15, movement demands were read aloud outside of parliament by one of the student organizers, Olis Doniy and nationally broadcast. Government acquiesced within two weeks of 15 days of the initiation of the hunger strike. On October 17, 1990, Parliament agreed to restrict the Soviet military within Ukraine (volunteers excepted), dropped consideration of the proposed Union Treaty, and several months later, Prime Minister Vitaliy Masol resigned and the Supreme Soviet agreed to allow multi-party electio ns.

Although successful in getting most of their demands specifically met, the government did not keep their promises long term. Youth were shut out from participating in politics in any official capacity. Government imposed age limits on candidates and leaders that were able to participate faced great difficulty entering a majoritarian political system.

Olis Doniy reflects,  “At that time young political leaders had the possibility to realize their ideas, just as there was also the possibility for the state to incorporate them. Unfortunately, the state squandered the opportunity… in fact, ideas about the complex social and political reforms in Ukraine were to be found exclusively within the young political elite, in the student organizations.” I would add one more thing to Doniy’s reflection- that the students were also partner to the post revolution events. An option for the Granite Revolution could have been to go back to civil resistance when government acted in ways that went back on their promises. Gandhi used this strategy many times during his movement for Indian Independence. He would stop satyagraha when the British cooperated and was always open to constructive dialogue, but when the British went back on their word, or were not willing to cooperate, he would resume satyagraha. This is reflective of the fluid nature of civil disobedience-there are many victories and many setbacks, but the movement should never hesitate to re-initiate satyagraha when it becomes apparent that the adversary is no longer keeping their promise.

For more reading:Youth As An Agent For Change: The Next Generation In Ukraine


Peace Profile: Malala, a Heroine Resurrected

by: Pallavi Vishwanath



Video: Malala Day video tells the #StrongerThan story through children’s voices 

Many people in history have been met by violence due to their courage.  Not many, though, are 15. And only one received the Nobel Prize for Peace two years later!  Malala Yousafazai is not your typical teenage girl.

She hails from the Swat Valley region of Pakistan. Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, the largest faction of the Pakistani Taliban, had seized control of the capital, Mingora, in 2007. They governed Malala’s hometown relying on extremist references to the Quran, Islamic history and Shariah, Islamic law. The offense that struck Malala to the core was their ban on young girls attending school in 2008. BBC decided to take advantage of our technological age in order to cover the effects of the Taliban among the civilians of the Valley. Taking pages from AnneFranks’ diary, BBC thought finding a schoolgirl to blog anonymously would be revolutionary in giving the common victims of violence a voice. The dangers that accompanied such a noble task kept many families from allowing their children to take the responsibility. Then, 11 year old Malala stepped up to the challenge, beginning by discussing bans on self expression such as television and music along with forbidding girls’ education and women from going outdoors unnecessarily.

Those who defied the militant’s strict codes of Islam were publicly punished and corpses decorated Mingora’s main square, which became known as Bloody Square. Battles in the Swat raged, and fewer girls were showing up to school. Malala continued with her secret blog, criticizing the violent lifestyle of the militants and the resulting boredom from the lack of books (see: Diary of a Pakistani schoolgirl). The blog opened many other doors for Malala including documentaries, radio station interviews, and appearances on Aaj Daily, AVT Khyber, and Capital Talk. After the documentary, Malala became even more emboldened as she hosted foreign diplomats, held news conferences on peace and education, and won a variety of peace awards, all along with her continued attendance at school. These opportunities were all constantly revealing her identity as an advocate for women’s education and peace. Prominent community leaders, including Malala’s activist father, symbolized the unyielding resistance to the Taliban and were constant targets of death. As Malala became more recognized publicly, death threats were slipped under her door, sent to her on Facebook, announced on ‘Radio Mullah”, and were published in local newspapers.

Over the summer of 2012, the Taliban leaders unanimously agreed to put an end to the young freedom fighter. Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, stated, “It’s a clear command of Shariah that any female that by any means plays a role in war against mujahideen (holy warriors) should be killed. Malala Yousafzai was playing a vital role in bucking up the emotions of Murtad (apostate) army and Government of Pakistan, and was inviting Muslims to hate mujahideen. If anyone thinks…that Malala is targeted because of education, that’s absolutely wrong, and propaganda of the Media. Malala is targeted because of her pioneer role in preaching secularism and so called enlightened moderation.” Various other references from the Quran were cited as obligatory actions, to kill children and women if they were engaged in rebellion against Islamic law.

Malala envisioned the confrontation with the Taliban and stated, “Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” Through the threats, she planned on creating the Malala Yousafzai Education Foundation in Swat –and it received its first grant in 2013.

One October morning, after successfully taking her exams, Malala rode the bus home like any other day. A masked gunman got onboard and shouted, “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up otherwise I will shoot you all.” “I didn’t get a chance to answer their question or I would have explained to them why they should let us girls go to school as well as their own sisters and daughters.” The bullet entered through Malala’s head, zipped through her neck, and came to a rest in her shoulder beside her spinal cord. As the world responded to the tragic and cowardly idea that a force of bullets can silence the fight for peace, Malala continued to fight through her coma and reconstructive surgeries. (See also: LETTER FROM THE TALIBAN TO MALALA). Pakistan’s most powerful official issued a statement at Malala’s bedside, the final words emphasized in capital letters, “WE REFUSE TO BOW BEFORE TERROR. WE WILL FIGHT, REGARDLESS OF THE COST, WE WILL PREVAIL INSHA ALLAH (God willing). What was the silent majority now openly wear “I am Malala” headbands and tshirts, defying Taliban threats and identifying with Malala’s call for integrity.

Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global education, visited Malala at the hospital in 2012 and launched a petition with the slogan “I am Malala”. It demands Pakistan to agree to a plan to deliver education for every child, all countries to outlaw discrimination against girls, and for international organizations to ensure the world’s 61 million out of school children are in an institute of education by the end of 2015. A new civil rights struggle is certainly underway, led by the potentials of social media and the youth. Online information from other countries shows that education is now insisted as a universal right and obstacles such as child labor, marriage, trafficking, and discrimination against girls must be overcome.

Malala unified world leaders, celebrities, reporters, as well as “ordinary” people over the world by showing us the true obscenities and injustices that accompany the brutal force of violence, by becoming a victim to it herself, and continuing to prevail and work against it afterwards. The Pakistan military moved into the swat region to “drive out” the Taliban. There have been plans for three permanent military bases in the Swat. Although these endeavors may have began with the right intention of driving out the Taliban, it has created a new pool of Swat victims in its rain of violence to combat violence. There is a surge of orphans who need support. Their exposure to so much violence will continue the vicious cycle of militant endeavors if their trauma isn’t properly treated. These events have caused the people of Swat to divide in their feelings towards the raging militants, Taliban or army. Some want the army to leave while others fear Taliban resurgence. Although some progress has been made since 2009 the violence has smothered the revival of the local economy and fear still reigns.

Malala isn’t your average teenager, because she speaks with such power and passion as one of the millions of women and girls who are denied education by being subjected to violence ( See: THE WORLDS’ OTHER MALALAS). She boldly reveals, “Education is the power for women and that’s why the terrorists are afraid of education. They do not want women to get education because then women would become more powerful.” Malala is the symbol of freedom that oppressive powers should fear. Her birthday, July 12 is now known as Malala Day. On her site,, she states that, “It is a day when we come together to raise our voices, so that those without a voice can be heard.” The 17 year old continues to travel the world and fight for equality, justice, and education for all girls and boys. Her bravery is a greatness that has brought much needed strength for justice and peace movements against terrorism and bloodshed.

Malala exemplifies nonviolent leadership, recognizing where the movement for justice needed to head and lead society accordingly. When this meant putting her life on the line without raising violence in protest, she abided. When asked if she could have used some force against her attacker, Malala replied, “If you hit a Talib … then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat another with that much cruelty and that much harshly. You must fight others, but through peace and through dialogue and through education. Then I’ll tell him how important education is and that I even want education for your children as well. And I’ll tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you. Now do what you want.’


Other Resources: 

My Daughter Malala TedTalk:


“At night when I used to sleep, I was thinking all the time that shall I put a knife under my pillow. The time was of fear, but some people can overcome fear and some people can fight fear.”

“I have the right of education,” she said in a 2011 interview with CNN. “I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.”

“God will ask you on the day of judgment, ‘Where were you when your people were asking you … when your school fellows were asking you and when your school was asking you …’Why I am being blown up?’”


O’Donnell: “Is it true that when you spoke with President Obama, that you talked about your concern that drone attacks are fueling terrorism?”

Yousafzai: “The first thing is that, it is true that when there’s a drone attack those — that the — the terrorists are killed, it’s true. But 500 and 5,000 more people rises against it and more terrorism occurs, and more — more bomb blasts occurs. … I think the best way to fight against terrorism is to do it through (a) peaceful way, not through war. Because I believe that a war can never be ended by a war.”

O’Donnell: “And you said that to President Obama?”

Yes, of course.


Her memoir is  I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban. All Pakistan Private Schools Federation banned it due to it disrespecting Islam and its potential “negative” influence.


In her address to the UN, Malala cited Badshah Khan as one of her nonviolent heroes.  Read his amazing life in Eknath Easwaran’s biography, Nonviolent Soldier of Islam (Nilgiri Press) or here on our site.







Not Just Umbrellas

The Umbrella Revolution

By Mercedes Mack

Some historical and strategic nonviolent context of what is now called the Umbrella Revolution-Hong Kong’s demand for democracy.

APTOPIX Hong Kong Democracy Protest


Outside government headquarters, a protestor raised a sign reading “Occupy Central”

Brief History of Democratization Demands in Hong Kong

Protests in Hong Kong have been occurring on and off since June 2003 when 500,000 protesters marched against Article 23, a proposed law affecting national security. Students objected because this law, aimed at enacting legislation restricting activities of “political organizations or bodies” against the Central People’s Government, but students felt this law was really aimed at preventing organized dissent and an attempt to prevent any anti-China opposition. Protests were successful and the law was not passed. In April of 2004, 15,000 people marched in protest against China’s declaration that there would be no direct election of Hong Kong’s head of government. After another protest in December of 2007, China promised a timeline for direct elections in Hong Kong-direct votes of Chief Executive in 2017, and all its lawmakers by 2020.

The Umbrella Revolution

Recent protests have been in response to China’s increasing authoritative measures on Hong Kong’s autonomy. In July, the People’s Republic of China released a “White Paper” to Hong Kong reaffirming its “power to run local affairs as authorized by central leadership” , i.e. the People’s Republic of China, by mandating that all candidates in Hong Kong’s election be vetted by a nomination committee set up by the People’s Republic of China.

In July of 2014, hundreds of thousands of people marched and then sat-in overnight demanding direct elections. On September 22, 2014, thousands of university students, part of the Scholarism movement, coordinated protests and massive sit-ins in key government and financial districts in the city.

Protests started again on Sunday Sept 28 as mostly student protestors blocked streets and rallied in front of government buildings. The protests have continued despite police response with tear gas and rubber bullets. Occupy Central with Love and Peace, the local Occupy, had scheduled a massive protest for Oct 1, a national holiday to celebrate the People’s Republic of China, but instead joined the student protests in solidarity.

Aspects of Strategic Nonviolence in the Umbrella Revolution

The Umbrella Revolution seems to be an organized nonviolent movement with much promise. Members are prepared and disciplined as well as diverse-different age groups, socio-economic  status, gender,and religion.  Movement organizers prepared for a police response with tear gas, and instructing protesters to wear goggles, and bring umbrellas (what has become iconic to the movement) to protect against the streams of tear gas. All reports indicate that protests have maintained nonviolence, even in the face of police resistance. There are sit- ins and sleep- ins in strategic financial and governmental locations in Hong Kong. There is also some constructive programming occurring within the student facet of the movement. Students have  created their own  lesson plans during the movement under the slogan “boycott classes and keep learning”. Organizers have created open and mobile classrooms, libraries and introduced public lectures by academics.

Hong Kong Democracy Protest

Protestors in Hong Kong during a rainstorm on Tuesday, Sept 30, 2014

Deliberately or not, the movement seems decentralized, lacking a single charismatic leader. The Umbrella Revolution is largely associated with Occupy Central with Love and Peace, a  local Occupy movement started by Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong in January 2013 with a specific directive instructing protesters to block roads and paralyze Hong Kong’s financial district to demand democracy in Hong Kong. Tai Yiu-ting and several other co-leaders in the movement have created a nonviolent directive for Occupy based on the activism of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Another prominent group associated with the Umbrella Revolution is the student group Scholarism led by Joshua Wong Chi-fung.

In a recent NYTimes video titled Scenes of Chaos in Hong Kong, a protester commented in reaction to police destruction of tents, “They tried to remove this tent, we think this is our last place to go. If this place falls, we all fall”. In this sense, the act of occupying downtown Hong Kong, ie the tents, have become a symbol of the movement. To believe that the movement will fail if it is driven out of the downtown is not only wrong, but dangerous to the survival of the movement. Michael Nagler comments on the danger of clinging to symbols and draws a comparison to the Tienanmen Square demonstrations in 1989. In essence once the movement was driven out of the square, it ended. Nonviolent movements are much more than an occupation or demonstration. To channel the movement’s energy outside occupation of the downtown area and maintain pressure on government, the movement must diversify its tactics. This could include the implementation of constructive programs, education of the public, and lightening protests.

The Umbrella Revolution has put caught  The People’s Republic of China by what’s called a dilemma action-—they can either  brutally squash the protests and risk de-legitimizing their government or acquiesce to protestors’ demands and potentially open the doors for protest within the People’s Republic of China; which is exactly where Hong Kong wants them to be.


For more information about the various groups associated with the Umbrella Revolution see: Who Guides Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Revolution” pro democracy movement?

For a map of the Areas of Protest, see the NY Times website.

For a great synopsis of the Umbrella Revolution, check out: Everything You Need To Know About Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution.

See NYTimes Images of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution.


Our new look, from Metta’s Director.

Dearly Beloved Community,

Welcome to our updated website. Since this site truly serves as our window to the wider world community who come to us for resources and materials on the “greatest power at the disposal of humankind,” we wanted to make sure it was at its best.

It will now be much simpler to find the materials you need to study and get involved in our work. We also hope that the site will serve as a basic primer in nonviolence education itself — when you leave for the day (planning to come back to further your studies of course), you have a better idea what Satyagraha means, how constructive program works, and have  picked up some key ideas around nonviolence strategy, for starters.

You will notice a phrase at the top of the site: nonviolence begins with you. It is a reminder that we practice nonviolence because it will take every single one of us to dismantle the violence in our world, and the time to start is now. We are not waiting for others (remember MLK: “we will take direct action against injustice without waiting for other agencies to act”), we will bring them along with us. This requires a constructive commitment to practice nonviolence not only in our social actions but in our daily lives, and we all know that this is long-term work. It asks for the true spirit of practice and a faith that the effect of our actions will ripple outward, even if we cannot see the results or connect the dots. When we use nonviolence effectively, it is felt by those involved in the interaction, even if the results aren’t visible — but they usually are!Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 4.53.36 PM

 The work of the Metta Center is to fulfill this great vision: to work with you and to strengthen and support your own “experiments with truth,” as Gandhi called his ever and on-going nonviolence practice.

Please take a few minutes and navigate around the site to appreciate its clarity. If you feel inspired, we would love to know what you think.

Interested in getting involved? Send us your articles! We are currently seeking interested persons to blog in some of our categories listed on the homepage, including film reviews, nonviolence for daily living, nonviolence in the news, news from around the movement, gender eyes, and inspiration. If you would like to support Metta in this way, we would love to talk with you.

How do we do it? The work of the Metta Center is undoubtably a labor of love by all those involved in the day to day workings of the organization. It is also supported by the individuals who find value and inspiration–and, we even hear, nourishment, from the work that we do every day here to make nonviolence resources available. The website update was an expense we were happy to undertake because it benefits so many people around the world who are doing such wonderful work, like yourself. If you’re in a position to do so, please consider making a one-time or monthly contribution to Metta’s work in celebration and appreciation of our efforts to facilitate the spread of nonviolence worldwide.

Finally, we are immensely grateful to Ryan McCoy of Jammin Web Designs for his creativity, patience and loving work. We recommend that if you are looking for web and design work to contact him. We send him our heartfelt thanks,  blessings and deep appreciation for his participation in our shared vision for a gentler, healthier and more nonviolent world.

In heart unity, Stephanie Van Hook, Executive Director