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Beyond Violence – Illegitimate Western Imperialism or Global Humanist Activism?


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Beyond Violence as a platform for non-violent conflict transformation is certainly pursuing an admirable cause. But what is the legitimacy of this self-assigned mission? The organisation is based in the UK and the idea was born on a university campus in Southern England along with a whole lot of idealism about how we could impact conflicts around the world for the better. Who am I to try to impact these conflicts who has never travelled to a war zone?  Who am I to get involved when all my knowledge is gained from the news and books (albeit a lot of them!)? Some would argue that this is just a new form of Western arrogance and modern-day imperialism. Any organisation must deal with these questions – so is it?

Here I can only reply with an emphatic “No!” – Beyond Violence may be based in the UK, but the team which has built it up and the people interacting on the web platform are from all over the world. We have people from conflict areas within the organisation who are passionate about seeing peace come to their homes.

Furthermore, Beyond Violence’s mission is not to take a stance in conflicts, but to pressure stakeholders from all side to pursue non-violent means to resolve the conflict. Non-violent methods are not a Western concept, but find their roots in ideas pervasive in philosophy and practice around the globe. From Buddha to Martin Luther King, from Gandhi to Mandela. Non-violence allows for the protection of civilians, for livelihoods to be re-built and normality to be regained. This is a desire that most people in these societies have, even before Beyond Violence has got involved.

Beyond Violence provides the platform for this universal idea of constructive non-violence to be pursued and advocated for. It is a global movement which seeks to give people in societies around the world a platform in which they can enter into dialogue with people on the other side of a conflict line, or with others around the world. Together these people then have the chance to collectively push for change through petitions targeting key conflict actors, to uphold the idea of non-violent conflict transformation in unison. Beyond Violence as a web platform thus upholds the ideas of individual and collective freedom of expression, of the belief in the potential of mass movements and most importantly empowers people to not just have these ideas but to actually come together to make a difference.

The Beyond Violence team does not pretend to have all the answers, and we never will do. But we do think that every violent conflict around the world is one that should and can be transformed into a peaceful conflict – a conflict mediated through dialogue and negotiation, rather than weapons and aggression. While the old colonial mantra was to divide and conquer, Beyond Violence wants to unite and to empower. Beyond Violence is about creating an active community of men and women around the world, who are passionate about peace, about enabling their desire for non-violent conflict transformation in their home countries. Our campaigns all originate from people in these conflict zones and are targeted at stakeholders on all sides in an attempt to end violence.

Written by Tim Williams and published on 05-November-2012




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