Beyond Violence 

What is non-violence?

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What is non-violence?

Non-violence as we understand it is an action just as much as it is an idea. Believing that non-violence is better than a violent approach is great, but it is not enough. It’s about putting your belief into action. And this is what we do at Beyond Violence.

As the word non-violence itself reveals, no action carried out under its name can involve physical force. However, when a non-violent approach is chosen to bring about change, in particular in a conflict context, it usually involves a form of attack. This attack is directed towards the power of the opponent and avoids harming the physical well-being or life of anybody (University for Peace, 2006). By choosing such an approach, one can uphold the belief in rejecting violence as a means, while actively and authoritatively pushing for change.

Non-violence draws its strength from the fact that it is so radically different and contagious. When people in situations of fierce conflict - where violence is expected and seems the obvious choice– become disillusioned with the use of force and violence, this changes everything. Suddenly, those who promote and use violence are questioned and asked to justify their actions. As an alternative to violent conflict, non-violence offers an escape from pain, death, and destruction.

Non-violence goes further than just confronting and stopping. The idea is to actively open up conflicts which seem intractable and positions which seem irreconcilable by communicating the willingness to interact with an adversary on a different, non-violent and constructive level through practical means such as a dialogue.

However, it is crucial to understand that non-violence only works and can only defy powerful violent actors as long as the commitment to veto violence lasts. If this is reneged on, any argument, credibility, and moral shield against being a target of violence is instantly lost.

One advocate for non-violence as such a radically different approach to conflict is easily overheard or silenced. But when non-violence becomes a movement the game changes again – people are empowered to demand non-violence of those waging war.

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