Title: Violence of the Pacifists
Written: September 15, 2007
I have finished reading an influential book written by frere Roger of Taize called Violence des pacifiques. This book calls for a search for a third path between passivity and destructive violence, one he calls violent pacifism. In my search for a personal understanding of pacifism as it relates to my life and my place in the world; I would like to share some reflections on this book.
I long for peace, and in this I am not unique, for all people want peace. What I also want is harmony and justice for all people. As I look around this country (Bangladesh) with talk of corruption and poverty, I realize that I must start to look for the third way; a violent pacifism. This term is seemingly contradictory, but I begin to reconcile the term in that people who willingly hurt and depricate the lives of others are violent and passivity does nothing but condone that violence. The pacifist looks not to use destructive violence but creative violence(1) to solve this dilemma. The goal of the pacifist must be one of cohesiveness and unity, not of divisiveness and hate. If the pacifist can find a mechanism of creative violence which is necessary to build an enriching and cohesive community, one which does not destroy or divide the people, but brings them together; then the use of that creative violence signifies a violent pacifist.
To clarify, this violence should, in my mind, never lead to murder or killing of another. This destructive violence cannot bring unity, it can only bring divisiveness, anger and revenge. Therefore, it must be the goal of the pacifist to actively engage society in search of constructive, creative solutions to problems otherwise solved with destructive violence. Pacifists must "love their neighbours"(2), in such a way that they seek mechanisms of destroying barriers of hate between neighbours and building, through preferably non-violent, but occasionally creatively violent mechanisms, a peaceful, welcoming environment for their neighbours everywhere.
I have intentionally avoided the use of specific solutions to the challenges of being a violent pacifist. I am by no means successful in this endeavor to bring people together in peace, often I am passive or destructive. In fact I struggle here daily in my attempt to understand what pacifism means in the face of such extreme poverty, structural violence and loss. But the exciting aspect of being a creative pacifist is that it is a lifelong challenge, each situation is a new opportunity to be creative and look for a new solution to bring people together.
As a pacifist, this is my challenge.
(1) f. Roger, Violence des pacifiques, Presses de Taize, 1968.
(2) Matthew 19:19, NIV Bible.