The Spiritual activism is based on universal spiritual values and uses the non-violence and civil disobedience as methods of action.
In modern times, theoretically founded by George Fox, Immanuel Kant, Η. D. Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy, while Mahatma Gandhi was the first who applied it, as a method of political struggle, in Africa and India.
The English preacher George Fox (1624-1691) founded the Quakers, a Christian doctrine that «strongly denies all wars, conflicts and disputes by any means, for any purpose and in any guise.”
Ι.Kant (1724-1804) Prussian philosopher and scientist, claimed to be immediate task of mankind to solve the problem of violence and adopt a universal ideal for a community of all peoples, governed by the rule of law.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American philosopher, naturalist, writer and poet from Concord, Massachusetts, has been an active proponent of civil liberties, as shown in his great essay “Civil Disobedience» (1849) (Resistance to Civil Government or Civil Disobedience), an argument for disobedience to an unjust state . “Every man has the moral obligation to refuse to cooperate with an unjust social system.”
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) Russian novelist, reformer, pacifist and moral thinker is known for his ideas on the nonviolent resistance. He recognized that he was influenced by the Quaker movement and the movement against slavery in US.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) was a Hindu politician, thinker and spiritual activist. He was the central figure of the national movement for Indian independence and initiator of passive resistance method, without the use of violence against the oppressors. His teachings influenced the international movement for peace and this coupled with the ascetic life contributes to make him a universal symbol and landmark of philosophical and socio-political intellectuality of the 20th century. During the twenty year stay in South. Africa was imprisoned several times for his fights against racial segregation, apartheid. There, he first started teaching the tactics of passive resistance, a method with clear references to the thought of the Great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. His refusal to use violence against the oppressors has been affected, as he said, from the teaching of Jesus Christ and from the American writer Henry Thoreau.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), an important British mathematician, philosopher and logic scientist, was an example for all grass-roots fighters of peace. He was dismissed from Trinity College and imprisoned for five months, because of his anti-war protests. His planned appointment at City College of New York was canceled, as a result of his involvement in demonstrations. He was fired from the Barnes Foundation in Pennsylvania and founded the Pugwashgia Conference on Science and Global Issues (Nobel Prize, 1995). He, also founded and became president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and was imprisoned (for the last time) at the age of 89 years, for a week, for taking part in anti-nuclear demonstrations.
«I have lived in the pursuit of a vision, both personal and social. Personal: to care for what is noble, for what is beautiful, for what is gentle; to allow moments of insight to give wisdom at more mundane times. Social: to see in imagination the society that is to be created, where individuals grow freely, and where hate and greed and envy die because there is nothing to nourish them. This vision, I believe, has kept me unwavering despite the horrors of today’s world».
German-American Rev. Abraham Johannes «AJ» Muste, (1885-1967) was one of the leading non-violent social activists of his time. He started as a priest in the Dutch Reformed Church, became an activist in the workers union and was activated in a wide range of movements: on behalf of peace and civil rights, and against the war. He is remembered as a man who made a remarkable effort to show that pacifism is not at all passivity and that there could be a non-violent social revolution.
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Pakistan (1890-1988) was a major political and spiritual leader and nonviolent Islam hero. Deeply devout Muslim, but also indulgent and liberal, was an active member of Congress and supporter of M. Gandhi in his entire life. He was opposed to the division of India – Pakistan. Bantsach Kahn, as he was also known, was a model of non-violence, in a society where violence prevailed. His unwavering faith and his obvious bravery helped him to gain wide acceptance and respect. Because of his principles, Bantsach Khan had been repeatedly imprisoned by both the British and the Pakistani government. He spent 33 years in prison. “I’ll give you a weapon that the police and the army cannot cope. This weapon is patience and righteousness. No power in the world can beat it. ”
Aldo Capitini (1899-1968) was an Italian philosopher, political activist, anti-fascist, poet and educator. During the period of Mussolini, he was very active in the anti-fascist struggle developed between the young people in central Italy. Although he did not belong to a political party, his life became model for Italian antifascists. In Italy, he was among the first ones who embraced the philosophy of non-violence, to the point that he was called “Italian Gandhi.” Capitini organized an international congress and founded the first center for non-violence. In 1962 (the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis) launched a peace march from Perugia to Assisi (28 km). The course, for the first time managed to join the supporters of peace from all over Italy, although coming from very different ideologies.
His famous phrase, when he was released from prison by the fascist regime because he was religious: “What a terrible accusation against religion, if the power is more afraid of revolutionaries than believers.” Capitini describes himself as “religious folk.” He managed to bring together religiosity and morality, as morality determines reality, encouraging positive changes. He refused to join any party as he believed that “we need something more than politics and the current crisis is the result of the absoluteness of economy and politics.” For this reason, he supported both moral and political renewal.
In 1944, he tried to create the first experiment of direct democracy and decentralization of power, establishing in Perugia the first Social Guidance Center (COS: Centro di Orientamento Sociale). A policy planning area, open to the free participation of citizens. Subsequently, the COS proliferated in various Italian cities: Ferrara, Firenze, Bologna, Lucca, Arezzo, Ancona, Assisi, Gubbio, Foligno, Teramo, Napoli and many others. This experiment of autonomy and direct democracy was not able to be imposed at national level because it met the indifference of the communist party and the hostility of the conservative Christian democracy.
At the same time, he founded the Religious Guidance Center (COR: Centro di Orientamento Religioso). The COR is an open research area, where the religiosity and spirituality of all persons, the movements and the groups that do not belong to organized religions, can reach full expression. The purpose of COR is to promote the knowledge of different religions and to contribute to a more open and more critical consideration of religious issues. The local church forbids the believers to visiting the COR and when Kapitini in 1955, publishes “Open religion”, the book immediately enters the list of banned. On September 12, 1952 organizes in Perugia, a conference on non-violence in the world of animals and plants, and together with Edmondo Marcucci, founds the “Italian Vegetarian Society.”
“The pacifism and the non-violence is not inert and passive acceptance of existing evils, but energetic struggle, with its own methods including non-cooperation, open complaints, solidarity, protests and marches’
Nelson Mandela, South Africa (1918-2013) Fighter of South Africa and then politician and the first colored President of South Africa (1994-1999). A large part of his campaign that led to the end of Apartheid, was based on non-violence and is an important example of successful nonviolent action: The international pressure, the civil disobedience and the refusal of Mandela himself to leave prison, which further increased the international pressure. He received the Nobel Peace Prize. “Education is the most powerful weapon that we can use to change the world”.
Patrice Lumumba, Congo (1925-1961) Leader of the struggle for the independence of the Congo and later Prime Minister. From his speech on Independence: “… We will put an end to the suppression of free thought and will ensure that all our citizens enjoy in full the fundamental liberties foreseen in the Declaration of Human Rights. We will remove any discrimination and we will guarantee to every person the dignity he deserves. We will not dominate through the peace of arms, but through the peace of the heart and of the will … “.
Martin Luther King (1929-1968) African-American leader. Martin Luther King Jr. came from a hardworking, honest and highly educated middle-class family. He studied the writings of Gandhi in his school years and realized that the methods of non-violent resistance were the right tools, for minorities to reclaim their civil rights. To those who accused him of creating disruption, King replied that people who accept oppression and abuse have no other choice, to win justice and peace, but the nonviolent protest, until their demands be heard.
The bus boycott in Montgomery in 1955-1956 gave to the Reverend King his first chance to try the non-violent resistance against unjust laws. Rosa Parks (1913-2005), a black seamstress and civil rights activist, refused to give her seat on the bus to a white passenger, which the law imposed at that time. Because of her act, she has been arrested and put on trial. The black citizens of Montgomery Alabama decided to boycott the buses for a day. After the success of the boycott, they decided to continue it. They refused to use the buses until it will be acknowledged for them, what the law deems the right of every citizen: Courteous treatment by the drivers of buses and an end to the division of seats in buses. Dr. King became leader of this boycott. During the 382 days that lasted, he managed to convince his people to walk, to use the bicycles or the horses, to share the cars, but never use the bus to work, or to school, etc. For this action Dr. King imprisoned, tortured and humiliated. His house was attacked, but he never reciprocated the violence. He taught his followers to use the peace, not the violence, to succeed in their struggles. The Supreme Court finally ruled that the purpose was fair.
King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, but was assassinated in 1968. Rosa Parks won the Congressional Gold Medal. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that»
Mario Rodriguez Cobos (Silo), Argentina (1938-2010)
Philosopher, writer, founder of the strand of thought of New Humanism and Humanistic Movement, a movement on the principles of non-violence and non-discrimination, as a response to the increasing violence of the military dictatorship in Argentina. His thinking was developed in the 1960s, and in 1969, at Punta de Vacas, in the Andes (as the regime did not allow talks in towns), he gave his first public talk entitled “The Healing of pain.” In this, he called everyone, and especially the young people, who risked being caught up in the violent movements of that period, “to bring peace first in themselves and then to others.” The humanistic movement has now been spread to over 100 countries, and develops actions at all levels of human activity.
The philosophy of New Humanism may be considered under the principles that he described: A) Man as the central value B) Equality of all people C) Recognition of personal and cultural diversity and condemnation of all forms of discrimination D) Development of consciousness beyond the bounds that impose prejudices, absolute truths or pundits E) Free movement of ideas and beliefs Z) Rejection of all forms of violence
The last years of his life, Silo dealt with the “Message”, a series of texts, experiences and thoughts on how we can get out of the impasse generated by the modern society
Gene Sharp (1928 -) retired professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts. He is the founder of the Institute Albert Einstein, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of the study of non-violent resistance strategies against repressive regimes. He is known for his extensive writings on methods of non-violence, which affected many anti-government resistance movements around the world. He has been proposed four times, for the Nobel Prize for Peace (2009, 2012, 2013, 2015)! Sharp, as he admits, has been inspired by the deep study of the writings of Mohandas K. Gandhi, AJ Muste and Henry David Thoreau. Sharp‘s central idea, is that the power is not invincible and monolithic. Its strength does not come from any particular ability of those in powers, but from the passive obedience of citizens to their orders. If the people do not cooperate with the regime, the authorities have not even the slightest force. The regimes have complicated control systems, in order to keep people docile. The classical behavioral method of punishment (marginalization, prison, banishment, torture) and reward (money, ranks, titles) are basically used. The system of repression includes not only the centralized control of competent institutions (police, army, justice, education, religion) but also the intervened media and the dependent cultural institutions.
Aung San Suu Ki, Myanmar (formerly Burma) (1945 -) Source of inspiration was Gandhi for whom he learned at the time when her mother was ambassador in India- and her father, Aung San, the leader of the struggle for the liberation of Burma. She was only 2 years old when her father was murdered, but she studied persistently his life. From Gandhi derive her commitment to non-violence, and from her father the understanding that leadership is a duty and the leader must lead with modesty and with the trust and the respect of his people. Aung San represented what was called “deep simplicity”. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But as she was still detained by the military dictatorship of Myanmar, she was represented by her two sons, her husband and her photo in front of the audience. Then was founded the National Union for the Republic and Suu And became general secretary. The Union has promoted a policy of non-violence and civil disobedience. Suu Ki made speeches in front of large crowds throughout the country, despite the ban.
He continued his campaign despite the harassments, the arrests and the murders of the members of the movement, by the army. Deprivation of civil rights has been imposed on her. There was a famous incident in the Irrawaddy delta, when Suu Ki moved ahead courageously to the soldiers who had a gun on her. Home detention has been imposed on her, without charge or trial. Despite of being under house arrest , her party won the national elections with 82%. However the military junta, refused to recognize the results. In 1990 she was awarded the prize Rafto of Human Rights and in 1991 the Nobel Peace Prize. Suu Ki remained under house arrest till 2010. From her famous speech, “Freedom from Fear”: “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. ”
Shirin Ebadi, Iran (1947 -) lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist. She has spoken with sincerity, courage and determination, both in Iran, and far beyond it. She has never shared the threats against her safety. The main fight is only about basic human rights: “No society deserves to be called civilized if he has no respect for the rights of women and children.”At a time of violence, she has consistently supported the non-violence. “It is fundamental in every society, the political power is resting on democratic elections. Education and dialogue are the best means for changing attitudes and resolving conflicts». (From her speech at the award of the Nobel Peace Prize 2003).
Betty Williams (22 Maiou 1943 -) & Mairead Corrigan (1944 -), North Ireland . The two women drove the protests for peace and non-violence, in which participated Protestants and Catholics together. Williams heads the International Organization for Children (Global Children’s Foundation) and she is also president of the Foundation for Support of Children of the World (World Centers of Compassion for Children International). In 1976 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Williams and Corrigan have shown us what ordinary people are able to do in order to promote peace. They had the courage to take the first step. They did it in the name of humanity and of love for the other. Someone had to start forgiving … The love of neighbor is one of the cornerstone of humanism on which Western civilization has been based. It is vital to shine when hatred and revenge threaten to dominate. Their act, courageous and selfless was a source of inspiration for thousands of people, lit a light in the darkness… ”
They founded the Community of People for Peace, which continue to work for the end of violence in Ireland.
The first declaration of People of Peace:
• We have a simple message for the world from this movement for Peace.
• We want to live, to love and build a just and peaceful society. • We want for our children, and for ourselves, our life at home, at work and at play to be a life of joy and peace. • We recognize that to build such a society requires dedication, hard work and courage.
• We recognize that every bullet fired and every exploding bomb make that task harder.
• We reject the use of bomb and bullet and the technicians of violence.
• We will devote ourselves to the collaboration with our neighbors, near and far, on a daily basis, in order to build a peaceful society in which the tragedies we have known, will be a bad memory and a continuing warning.
Rigoberta Menchu, Guatemala (1959 -) The Mayan Indian from Guatemala awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 in recognition of her work for social justice and cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples. He became an active member of the Committee of United Indians and poor farmers in Latin America and then helped to set up the organization Revolutionary Christians. Menchu explained: «We realize the revolution with the meaning of transformation.. If I had chosen the armed struggle, I would be now in the mountains. ”