On Wednesday, April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., I was privileged to participate in a Kingian nonviolence training session at the Jesse Lee United Methodist Church carriage house with about thirty Ridgefield residents and area clergy. The session was conducted by Vitoria Christagau, founder and executive director of the Connecticut Center for Nonvoilence (CTCN), Pastor James Lane, church and community organization founder and author, and Deacon Arthur Miller, a school mate of Emmett Till, 1963 Children’s March participant, and author, all of whom are Kingian Nonviolence educators and practitioners.
The instructors shared King’s “Six Principles of Nonviolence”. I can imagine no better contribution to public discourse than to publish King’s principles here.
Principle 1: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
It is a positive force confronting the forces of injustice and utilizes the righteous indignation and spiritual, emotional, and intellectual capabilities of people as the vital force for change and reconciliation.
Principle 2: The Beloved Community is the framework for the future.
The nonviolent concept is an overall effort to achieve a reconciled world by raising the level of relationships among people to a height where justice prevails and persons attain their full human potential.
Principle 3: Attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil.
The nonviolent approach helps one analyze the fundamental conditions, policies and practices of the conflict rather than reacting to one’s opponents or their personalities.
Principle 4: Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve a goal.
Self-chosen suffering is redemptive and helps the movement grow in a spiritual as well as a humanitarian dimension. The moral authority of voluntary suffering for a goal communicates the concern to one’s own friends and community as well as to the opponent.
Principle 5: Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence.
The nonviolent attitude permeates all aspects of the campaign. It provides a mirror type reflection of the reality of the condition to one’s opponent and the community at large. Specific activities must be designed to maintain a high level of spirit and morale during a nonviolent campaign.
Principle 6: The Universe is on the side of justice.
Truth is universal and human society and each human being is oriented to the just sense of order of the universe. The fundamental values in all of the world’s great religions include the concept that the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice. For the nonviolent practitioner, nonviolence introduces a new moral context in which nonviolence is both the means and the end.
I was profoundly moved and chastened by the session, impressed that nonviolence is not only a supremely effective method to advance justice, but also for reducing violence, be it physical, spiritual or verbal, without surrendering to injustice. A prescription for every era, especially our current moment.
Alex Harris is Chair of the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee, which provides this column.