Written by Harold Fray Jr
January - February 2002
In times of international conflict the issues of nonviolence are always present. Unfortunately, nonviolence is often presented as a universal principle for all conflict resolutions, rather than a strategy for particular situations. I wish to challenge that position. Nonviolence, as a universal principle, can be immoral.
When I marched with Martin Luther King Jr., I accepted nonviolence. When I stood with Quakers on the Boston Common to protest the war in Vietnam, I accepted nonviolence. When I went to Mississippi in 1964 to support voting rights for African Americans, I drew a deep breath, and accepted nonviolence under all provocations.
Those who stood with Gandhi to liberate India and those who stood with African Americans to demand their civil rights were willing to bear the consequences of their behavior. However, to advocate nonviolence when others must bear the consequences is na?e and immoral.
On April 13, 1945, I walked into Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Before my eyes were the results of evil unleashed and unchecked. When confronted with monstrous deeds of human depravity, advocating a nonviolent response can be equated with indifference.
One has only to read the writings of Elie Wiesel, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, to grasp the pain that resulted when Christian nations refused to respond forcefully to the vicious aggression of anti-Semitism. We must confess with shame that anti-Semitism has been too much a part of our Christian heritage.
The crime against humanity in the Balkans under the leadership of Slobodan Milosovic would have been extended if NATO and the United States did not take aggressive, violent action. Those who advocate nonviolence as a universal principle seek to speak from high moral ground, but in doing so, would force those in the valley of evil to bear unspeakable horror. Ours is a world that mixes good and evil, light and darkness. I choose to push toward the light, but I accept the demonic that exists in all of us. I accept violence, only as a strategy of the moment, under dire circumstances. But let it be said, violence, when employed as the only solution in confronting international conflicts, produces results more horrible than nonviolent inaction.
Our current military response in fighting terrorism can only be a first step or our efforts will go for naught. The breeding ground that gives birth to terrorism is an environment where mothers cradle their children and watch them die and fathers are impotent to make a difference and lose hope. Terrorism is born in a culture of ideological education, extreme poverty, and repression, especially of women. The norm is desperation and hopelessness.
We, who live with abundance, must identify with our brothers and sisters who suffer in ways we can hardly imagine. Will we be moved by love and compassion to demand the changes that must be made in the world order?
The future for many, including us, will be determined by our answer.
The Rev. Harold R. Fray Jr., author of "Conflict and Change in the Church," resides in Green Valley, Ariz.