From the Fellowship Archives by Hildegard Goss-Mayr – If it is certain that the twentieth century will be remembered in human history as one of bloodshed and oppression, it has also brought to humanity the gift of nonviolent liberation through “people power.” In many parts of the world – from the India of Gandhi to the Philippines, Latin America, and Eastern Europe – nations have experienced that dictatorial regimes can be overcome through the solidarity of nonviolent action, the arm of the poor. This is an important factor upon which one can build in the century to come.
However, out of these encouraging experiences, new challenges are arising. I shall mention only one. We have been strong in overcoming dictatorships nonviolently, but we are weak in preparing and building the alternatives, the new societies. Wars and dictatorships leave nations materially and morally battered. In most cases a new, just, humane, democratic society is not ready and waiting to arise. Divisions remain deep, hatred and revenge fill hearts and minds. Extreme poverty leads to criminal actions, with Mafiosi groups profiting from the dissolution of the old order. From the Philippines to South Africa and Madagascar, from the region of the Great Lakes in Africa to Latin America and Eastern Europe, there is one big task before us: to help build new societies on the basis of justice, truth, respect for human rights, and the participation of all, particularly the poor and minorities.
Though we know that we have to learn a great deal about peace-building among persons, peace-builders are already at work in society. For the most part they combine the inner healing with the social and political dimension, knowing that their small contribution can only be effective as part of an integrated, persevering campaign. In Madagascar, for example, there is an effort now underway to help landless, outcast people to build rural communities. Others are teaching nonviolence in schools and towns, sometimes making use of local radio. In Burundi, there are initiatives all over the country to bring Hutus and Tutsis together in small groups to begin the long, hard road toward reciprocal forgiveness and reconciliation. These groups help to create the climate necessary for a cease-fire and a political solution based upon power-sharing. In Rwanda, more and more young Christians are searching for a new way of life in their parishes and communities after the traumatizing experience of genocide. In nonviolence they discover the vision and strength for a new beginning. They have developed a video, a manual, and a magazine that links the nonviolent groups in the region of the Great Lakes. Similar work for inner healing, reintegration, and reconciliation is going on in Croatia and Bosnia; in Serbia and Kosovo it has to be rebuilt.
We have to prove to the world that the way to reconciliation, while long and very demanding – passing as it does through the stages of speaking the truth, standing up for justice, and practicing the gift of forgiveness – is the only real and sound basis for a new life in peace. Only reconciliation heals the wounds of individuals and makes new politics possible.
All over the world young people are searching for peaceful ways of dealing with violence and fear. When the war in Kosovo and Serbia started, there was tension in many Austrian schools. We have many immigrants and refugees from the Balkans, and children from Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Rumania, and elsewhere all sit next to each other in class. In order to avoid the war’s projection into the classroom, a number of teachers helped their pupils to look at the history of the Balkans and observe that there was good and evil on all sides and that they all had common bonds. While some friendships were broken, many of these young people would say, “Let the old generation wage war: we want to live – and to live together!” And some of them began to collect money for both sides: for Kosovar refugees and for Serbian bombing victims alike. (Read ‘From the Fellowship Archives‘, September/October 1999).