FROM VIOLENCE TO WHOLENESS : A REVIEW
Over ten weeks a group of fifteen people gathered for two hours each week to explore the journey from fear to freedom, from despair to hope, from violence to wholeness. "From Violence to Wholeness" was an inaugural transformative course (spanning a total of 20 hours) run by the Christian Centre for Social Action in Perth, Western Australia, from September to November 1995.
The agenda contained the following - the traits of non-violent people (both generally speaking and referring to specific people) the nature and dynamics of violence, gospel non-violence, non-violence as lived and taught by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior, Saint Francis, Saint Clare and other non-violent social justice activists, non-violent social movements for social transformation, and active non-violence in daily living.
This power packed course was instructed through weekly readings, tuition by the trainers, and tuition from course participants who responded to the invitation to contribute, and through small group discussions and plenary sessions. I believe that the whole group found the reading material and course guidelines to be highly valuable and constructive.
The practical component of the course covered the optional keeping of a non-violence log and an invitation to participate in a particular non-violent movement offered by any of the group participants. The log idea meant recording our reflections on various aspects of each session topic. This was due to be completed before the next session. After the opening prayer and centering it provided the first topic for discussion for each subsequent session. Part of the truth which I gained during the course was to realise that action, no matter what its content and form, always changes us somehow.
I was transformed by the course into feeling much more peaceful and loving toward myself, and into being more non-judgmental toward others. The point was raised during the course that individual personal transformation contributes to social transformation because each person is one of every person inter-connected in the world.
The course impressed upon me our one-ness or interdependence, despite our differences. Each one of us is a unique being and we are all at different stages in our personal paths from wounded-ness to health. "From Violence to Wholeness" provides an opportunity to search for and discover the personal steps of redemption from the violence instilled in society since the dawn of civilization to non-violence, and then to wholeness.
It was clear at our final session that the course had provided new and profound personal meanings to every one of the participants. Examples follow. One is the facing of potential violence within oneself or recognising that oneself is capable of violence toward others. Another is knowing that non-violent daily living means having an understanding, loving, forgiving and open attitude every moment of one's life, rather than following a prescribed set of techniques. However, techniques are tools which can be used to good effect, only with this attitude.
The theme that was continually reinforced throughout the programme was that we should view every human being as sacred and capable of doing both good and bad. We do this by understanding how violence has become part of our culture, by seeing what truth there is in everything, thus honouring the truth, and by experiencing other people's viewpoints. Our world is steeped in violence, reinforced from the days of Babylon (1900 to 1600 BC) when the myth of a violent world creation shored up a spirituality of violence that persists today.
This does not mean that violence is an inevitable feature of human life. Violence is a way of life which has steeped our human world for nearly 4000 years. The pathways which we tread in life should not be confused with our physiological and psychological human needs, such as our need for food. While we do not have a choice whether we should eat or not, we do have the free-will to choose whether or not to be violent, however subtle the form may be. "From Violence to Wholeness" allows people to reach into their souls and discover a deep level at which they can connect to those people who carry out evil in the human world. These people are on the wrong path to meeting their needs or wants, and are spiritually in need of understanding and forgiveness (i.e. compassion), in tandem with informed and prayerful direct action (no matter how small the action) aimed at setting them on the right path.
In some sense, perhaps it can be regarded/considered that compassion (understanding and forgiveness) is the spiritual action which we should take, and direct action, however small or insignificant the step may seem, is the earthly or human action which we must take. These two things are inextricably linked together - compassion and direct action. We must show compassion with direct action (or show compassion by direct means).
The transformative power of this course was clearly evident. An example is that one of the participants who did not like the concept "confrontation" labelled as such, because her perception of "confrontation" was that it meant being aggressive, changed her name or label for it to "harmonious resolution". Eventually, this participant’s difficulty with grasping the concept, which most non-violent practitioners call "confrontation", was resolved, so that it was unanimous with other people’s understanding. Choosing her own vocabulary for the concept was a strong personal affirmation for this woman.
"From Violence to Wholeness" is a course that deeply touches and transforms people. I am sure that everyone left this programme feeling healed in some way. The sharing of thoughts, feelings and experiences was 'food' for the soul, in forms appropriate to each person's stage in the journey from fear to freedom, from despair to hope, from violence to wholeness.
On a personal note, ‘From Violence to Wholeness' has brought to me the realization that any lack of love, understanding and respect is, in a way, an act of violence. As a corollary (or opposite) the course has impressed upon me that to genuinely or actively care for others is non-violent. I have made a personal connection between love and non-violence, which has affected me individually. I realize now that I must stop being non-loving or violent toward my own self. The way to do this is to hold myself in esteem and to look after my needs, and thus, I will be spiritually fit enough to love others. For myself personally, "From Violence to Wholeness" was a transformative course which made me feel more peaceful and much more loving toward myself, which, I think, is an excellent move toward changing the world from violence to wholeness.
In the United States of America, the Pace E Bene (pronounced pah-chay bay-nay) Franciscan Nonviolence Centre, based in Las Vegas, Nevada, offers 'From Violence to Wholeness' programmes in Las Vegas, Olympia, California and Montreal. See their web site: www.paceebene.org.
While the Christian Centre for Social Action in Perth, Western Australia, is no longer running From Violence to Wholeness, the programme and other study programmes are being held or run by Pace e Bene Australia, at scheduled dates, in the suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. See the Australian website below for information about the programmes in Australia.
© Lai Chew Yarn
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