Non violent heroes
11 April, 2011
Richard Burge, Chief Executive, writes:
I have met two people whose lives reflect the demands and rewards of non-violence in civil resistance. To maintain such a position in the face of physical threats, torture and imminent death demands a rare sort of courage. I do not feel that it is possible to apply this to every unjust situation in the world; sadly force has to be used within the law at times. It is, to put it simply, a commitment not to respond with violence when oppressed by the state. Our latest podcast discusses the role of non-violence in civil resistance, its history, the way in which it has affected the politics of the globe, and the potential role it will play in the future. But the extraordinary privilege for me was to have supper with two people whose whole lives have been shaped by a non-violent approach to civil resistance, and who believe that their cause has benefited from it.
Dr James Lawson was Martin Luther King’s right hand man; he was the major strategist for the campaigns in the deep south of the USA, and personally led the Nashville demonstration which horrified a nation as its guardians of law and order fired on its own citizens. He has Dr King’s powerful presence; but he is also very humble, anxious to extol the virtues of others in the same situation. The other was Saad Ibrahim who for over four decades has been a major thorn in the side of Egyptian authoritarianism, and has spent much of the past thirty years in prison, the victim of not inconsiderable abuse. He shares Dr Lawson’s humility.
What I learned from them – and from the podcasts – is that non-violent civil resistance to government oppression makes it easier for others to support a cause, but more importantly, its brave proponents set a standard that should be at the heart of a reborn nation.