Many people around the world believe that violence and disorder on a large scale is absolutely necessary to bring about a social change. They do not see non-violence as a feasible method to attain change. Indeed these apprehensions are not without reasons too. History has several instances of armed conflict when military force subdued armed adversaries, and brought in peace and freedom. However it should be realized here that non-violent movements through disruptive tactics like strikes and boycotts are equally powerful to bring in social change.
The non-violent movements have fewer risks and more scope compared to use of terror and war. When Saddam Hussein was pulled down in 2003, many strategists claimed that civil disorder always followed changes to democracy, pointing out to the fall of Eastern European rulers in 1989. But then it needs to be pointed here that no chaos or disorder reigned when civilian based movements pulled down their unconcerned governments in Warsaw and Berlin. Similarly nothing happened in Manila when dictatorship was overthrown.
There is no better proof of the effective role of non-violence in bringing a social change that what happened during Mozambique war. The poverty ridden country almost collapsed during the civil war, with over 16 million people dead and 5 million displaced. But the coordination of over 16 ethnical groupings and Christian churches ensured peace. The insurgents, Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) and the government signed a peace agreement in October 1992. Local Christian leaders brokered initial contacts between rebels and government, which was followed by 17 months of talks in Rome, facilitated by a Catholic organization.
When talks were going on, local leaders and traditional healers who held high social positions, prepared the people for transition to peace. The effectiveness of peace in Mozambique lies in seeing the entire war and calamity in a different perspective. Community leaders emphasized that revenge or post war punishments serve no goal and that the horrible acts committed are outcomes of any war. The atrocities committed during the war were considered as characteristics of war; which was radically against popular Western beliefs that perpetrators of war crimes need to be prosecuted post-war.
The indigenous leaders of Mozambique showed the world, a stronger and more effective non-violent way to achieving peace and stability. People who believe that only violence can deliver social changes are in fact venturing into a transaction mode. Their logic is that unless they offer a threat, the opponents wont budge. If threat doesn’t deliver, then inflicting violence should end that resistance. Here the promoters of violence realize and are also prepared to pay the costs for ending resistance.
However with civilian non-violent movements; they unify for the cause of liberation, putting aside their cultural and ethnic differences. They then reduce civilian fear by initiating non-violent tactics like non-payment of taxes, strikes and commercial boycotts. The movement’s base is broadened with induction of more people into non-violent acts. Ultimately it would become hard for the oppressors to maintain control and authority. The oppressors would be finally cornered and realize that only regime change can bring back normality.
The preferred behavior of non-violence can be effective only when it is backed by a strategy to take power. This is evident in Mohandas Gandhi’s attempt to peacefully overthrow the British in India. Gandhi wanted to force the British out of India and did not want to make peace with them. History has several instances where non-violence brought in social change and peace without paying for it in terms of lives and destruction. The world today exists in a climate of increasing differences and suspicion and the need for non-violent strategies is more important today than ever before.
Love, respect and tolerance needs to be incorporated when seeking social and political changes; because it is these that ensure success in the long run.
REFERENCES Cobban H (2003) Healing lessons from another war-torn society – Mozambique. The Christian Science Monitor. [Electronic Version] Downloaded on 24th March 2009 from http://www. csmonitor. com/2003/0508/p11s01-coop. html DuVall J (2003) Liberation without war. Sojourners Magazine. [Electronic Version] Downloaded on 24th March 2009 from http://www. sojo. net/index. cfm? action=magazine. article&issue=soj0402&article=040221