The Race to End Violence Before We End Life
Robert J. Burrowes
Can we take meaningful action to prevent our own extinction without ending human violence first?
The scientific evidence that human extinction will now occur before 2050
continues to rapidly accumulate. (See, for example, ‘Global Extinction
within one Human Lifetime as a Result of a Spreading Atmospheric Arctic
Methane Heat Wave and Surface Firestorm’:
Of course, we can deny this scientific evidence because it frightens us,
we can delude ourselves that someone or something else (perhaps
governments) will fix it, or we can delude ourselves that a few painless
measures, primarily taken by others, will sort it all out. Another option
is to powerfully take responsibility for the problem and play a vital role
in addressing it ourselves. This is the choice for each of us.
On 11 November 2011 a movement to end violence in all of its forms was
launched around the world: ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent
World’. So far this movement has gained individual and organisational
participants in 47 countries and the movement expands every day. But this
is not a movement for the faint-hearted. This movement requires
individuals and organisations that are willing to contemplate and take
action on a range of deep and unpleasant truths about the state of our
world because the time for pretence and prevarication is over.
So what is unique about ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent
World’? The Nonviolence Charter is an attempt to put the focus on human
violence as the pre-eminent problem faced by our species, to truthfully
identify all of the major manifestations of this violence, and to identify
ways to tackle all of these manifestations of violence in a systematic and
strategic manner. It is an attempt to put the focus on the fundamental
cause – the violence we adults inflict on children – and to stress the
importance of dealing with that cause. (See ‘Why Violence?’
http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence) It is an attempt to focus on what you and
I – that is, ordinary people – can do to end human violence and the
Nonviolence Charter invites us to pledge to make that effort. And it is an
attempt to provide a focal point around which we can mobilise with a sense
of shared commitment with people from all over the world.
In essence then, one aim of the Nonviolence Charter is to give every
individual and organisation on planet Earth the chance to deeply consider
where they stand on the fundamental issue of human violence. Will you publicly declare your commitment to work to end human violence? Or are you going to leave it to others?
And what, precisely, do you want to do? And with whom? The Charter includes suggestions for action in a wide variety of areas; for example,
by inviting people to participate in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life
on Earth’ – http://tinyurl.com/flametree – which is a simple yet comprehensive strategy for individuals and organisations to deal with the
full range of environmental problems. The Charter also provides an
opportunity to identify and contact others, both locally and internationally, with whom we can work in locally relevant ways, whatever our preferred focus for action. In that sense, each participating individual and organisation becomes part of a worldwide community working to end human violence for all time.
So far, the movement has attracted some exceptional people long known for their work to create a world without violence. These people include renowned international peace activist and ‘living legend’ Ela Gandhi (granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi), Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire, pre-eminent public intellectual Professor Noam Chomsky, president of the Malaysian-based International Movement for a Just World Professor Chandra Muzaffar, Director of Aksyon para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan at the Pius XII Catholic Center in the Philippines Dr Tess Ramiro, the Deputy Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa Dr Braam Hanekom, prominent nonviolent activists (including Anita McKone, Anahata Giri, Tom Shea, Leonard Eiger, Tarak Kauff, Jill Gough, Jim Albertini, Lesley Docksey and Bruce Gagnon), the jurist Judge Mukete Tahle Itoe of Cameroon, author Anna Perera of the UK and the eminent human rights and communal harmony activist Professor Ram Puniyani in India. Apart from these and other prominent signatories, however, it is mostly ‘ordinary people’ who are making the pledge to work for a world without violence.
Many organisations are making the pledge too. These include Pax Christi
Australia, Nonviolence International in Canada, the Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament in Cymru (Wales), the Human Rights Center in Georgia, the
Gandhi Serve Foundation in Germany, Muslim Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, Women for Human Rights in Nepal, the Pan-African Reconciliation Centre in Nigeria, the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago in New Zealand, the Holy Land Trust in Palestine, Buddha Dharma in Slovenia, the Forum for Community Change and Development in South Sudan, Facilitate Global and Share the World’s Resources in the UK as well as Bay Area Women in Black, the Blauvelt Dominican Sisters Social Justice Committee, It’s Our Economy and Veterans for Peace in the USA. There are many others.
The Nonviolence Charter acknowledges our many differences, including the different issues on which we choose to work. But it also offers us a chance to see the unity of our overarching aim within this diversity. Hence, whatever our differences, we are given the chance to see that ending human violence is our compelling and unifying dream.
If you think it is time to end violence before we end life, you can join this movement. You can read and, if you wish, sign the pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ online at http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com/
Biodata: Robert has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach’, State University of New York Press, 1996. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his personal website is at