By Sam Tomlin
‘The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it…’
‘I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say: ”We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”’ – Rev Dr. Martin Luther King
The history of non-violent resistance to oppression and injustice is a long one. As a Christian, the greatest expression of this, in my opinion, was of course Jesus himself, living under a brutal Roman occupation and speaking clearly of love for one’s enemy and the turning of the other cheek (which, as we will see, is not simply a passive resignation to oppression). There are surely many further examples long before Jesus’ time.
In recent times, Dr King, in the American civil rights movement, is perhaps the highest profile exponent of this philosophy or attitude, but there are almost endless examples of contemporary activists who peacefully risk their lives for justice and peace. His life and the quotes above, illustrate that there is a viable alternative, which not only exposes the myth of redemptive violence, but also seeks to win the oppressor back into relationship as a part of the justice for the wrong done. Read More