Nonviolent Lives – Review

Nonviolent Lives: People and Movements Changing the World Through the Power of Active Nonviolence, by Ken Butigan, November 2016. Pace e Bene Press, 214 pages, ISBN 978-0-9978337-0-6. £16.75 (paperback)

This book is an inspiring catalogue of contemporary compassion, courage and conciliation. It is largely USA centered, but it includes a few individuals with an international reputation, such as Wangari Maathai.  Among the 35 names celebrated are a few well known, such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Thomas Merton, Daniel Berrigan and Naryan Desai, Gandhi’s last living disciple. Gandhi’s methods and ideals have influenced most of the courage described in the text.

There are three sections: Part 1: Nonviolent Lives in Action, Part 2: Nonviolent lives Up Close and Part 3: Nonviolent Lives Working Together. This is not a history of nonviolence (such as can be found in Mark Kurlansky’s Non-Violence; A History of a Dangerous Idea, Cape, 2006) but a description of peace in action, the whys and wherefores of practical steps to counter injustice and promote peace. It includes tales of sit-ins, passive resistance and marches, all designed to resist injustice, violation of the environment and war.

Pace e Bene is a service to support those who need to resist nonviolently. It is concerned with green issues and human rights. It offers an antidote to despair and a place for hope, whether it is on a demonstration in Seattle at the World Trade Organisation or by an individual advocating human rights.  If offers training and support for those who seek to end injustice, from Guantanamo to the anti-drone movement.

My one regret is that there is no index. The text could be useful as a basis for discussion, sermons or correspondence; an index would have been particularly useful. However, the short chapters help to find information relatively quickly.

Pace e Bene encourages the growth of grassroots, bottom up, people power to counter war, poverty, racism, intolerance, climate change and violence against the Earth. To act in a nonviolent way causes difficulties for those who espouse and use violence. We need a just society in so many different ways, and reading this book is a way to begin such adventures for the common good, meeting that need with our own courage.

John Smith

Posted in Book Reviews

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