We do not have to accept terrorism as “the new normal.” Here’s how nonviolence can be applied to this tough issue:
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Terrorism. It’s in the news; it’s in our lives. The US military is fighting an endless, borderless war on terror, but bombs and drones are just, “making terrorists faster than we can kill them.”
Isn’t there a better way to deal with this? “You bet! It shows up the minute we drop the ‘old story’ of separateness, competition and violence and start over from a different, ‘New Story’ perspective.
The 9/11 attacks, the KKK’s lynching of African Americans, the Unabomber, and recent events at the hands of ISIS are all examples of terrorism. And, in every case, there’s one thing we have to understand:
Beneath the label of terrorist is a human being.
When we remove labels like terrorist, monster and evil, we step closer to understanding – and reaching – the human being behind the terrible actions.
Not long ago, a French woman, working with the United Nations in Afghanistan, was confronted with a suicide bomber.
She ran . . . then she returned, and met the bomber’s eyes with a smile. To her surprise, he left and no one was hurt. Dropping the masks and labels – connecting to the human being – saved hundreds of lives that day.
But we don’t have to wait for an emergency – there are many ways to stop terrorism.
Remember, we are dealing with human beings, and as Gandhi says, “No one throws his life away without a motive behind.” — take away the motive and you take away the violence.
So, why do people join groups like the KKK or ISIS?
Former Captain in the US Army, Paul K. Chappell, says, “Extremist groups … offer to feed our human craving for purpose, meaning, belonging, and self-worth.”
We can provide for these needs through peaceful, nonviolent organizations and social networks.
People who join extremist groups are often feeling outraged, humiliated, and powerless. They have a raging need to have their grievances addressed.
And, as JFK said, “Those who make nonviolent revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.”
This is why movement strategist George Lakey recommends spreading, ” . . . the nonviolent skills that support people waging conflict to give full voice to their grievances.”
In 1972, centuries-old gangs of armed bandits were terrorizing a region of India, through a strain of robbery and shootings. No amount of police raids, arrests, or executions stemmed the tide of violence.
In response, followers of Gandhi sent peace teams to meet with the bandits and address their issues.
A few months later, 450 bandits surrendered, having negotiated agricultural land for their families, protection from rivaling factions, and the end of police harassment.
Nonviolence worked. And it can work in all kinds of other situations. It’s all about applying the following steps:
- Drop the masks and labels. See human being behind them!
- Acknowledge just grievances and address concerns. Provide avenues for peaceful recourse.
- Help build stability and peace, and offer humanitarian aid.
- Create organizations and societies that offer belonging, purpose, meaning, and self-worth.
Terrorists are people who have resorted to violence against civilians to achieve their political purposes. Responding with violence inevitably leads to more violence.
Instead, by using nonviolent alternatives, we can take the first steps along the difficult and courageous path to a long-term solution.
Created by a Metta Team, including Michael Nagler, Rivera Sun, Maja Bengtson, and Frank and Jim Phoenix. Voice: Stephanie Van Hook. Animator: Anabella Meijer