"Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Mike Yarrow Peace Fellowship Intensive Training was held from June 27 to July 3, 2018, on the University of Washington campus. The Mike Yarrow Peace Fellowship is a one-year long project by Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation in support of guiding and mentoring young activists to advocate for their passion on one particular social issue and to bring direct actions based on the principles of nonviolence.
I was elected to be a peace fellow this year. During the intensive training, I was deeply inspired and empowered by Dr. King’s profound wisdom and resilience. Dr. King wrote: “Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.” Nonviolence is not just a tool for us to fight against external injustice; as Dr.King wrote, this quote as the first principle of nonviolence, nonviolence should firstly be our way of mind, our way of heart, and our way of life.
Nonviolence, by definition, is a creative power for justice and the wellbeing of all that uses neither passivity or violence. Nonviolence is a profound tool to gain justice and peace for our beloved community with the intention of avoiding internal violence of the spirit and external physical violence. Nonviolence action is not passive as it appears to be, instead, it keeps alive an active mind and the spirit of self-chosen endurance on understanding.
In real life, one way this comes up for me is when someone attacks my identity. My default reaction is to get offended and start to defend myself by closing myself up. I might even start to attack the person back, out of anger. Instead of starting to get defensive and trying to fight back right away, Kingian Nonviolence suggests solving the conflict based on seeking mutual understanding and mindset of peaceful endurance. Following that, I might start to ask myself: “Why did that person attack me?” Maybe they had an unpleasant or horrible experience with people who share the same identity as me, or they have subconsciously learned from the collection of mass media, customs, and social practices that promote stereotypes and prejudices toward to the people who have that particular kind of identity. Then I would start to have a conversation by asking questions and try to understand that person’s experience. That might lead me to understand the reason behind their behavior and eventually bring the healing and truth that they need to hear. In the end, I could change someone’s prejudiced view on a certain identity of a group of people, and that is something tremendous.
I was also deeply touched by Dr. King’s writing about how to forgive and love the ones who oppress us from seeking mutual connection and common ground. By reflecting on my own personal journey, I have found that I have been carrying the weight of pain from my past experiences by general society and the ones who I love and have loved the most. After awhile of carrying the weight, I stopped recognizing this pain as baggage, as something extra, as something that does not belong to me. I have been trying hard to naturalize this pain by forgetting about it and keep going on with my life, but it only gives me more and more weight until my heart starts to lose authentic feelings toward to new pain. Since the training, meditating on Kingian Nonviolence has freed me from my baggage by forgiving pain instead of just trying to forget. It connected me with an unique perspective of humanity, which we, as humans, are all standing on the same ground at some point where we are vulnerable and hurting, so forth it allowed us to seek help and connection from others. It offered me profound peace and rejuvenation as I continue to learn how to live a life of nonviolence. Living in the nonviolence way of life takes great courage and strength, but the outcome is freeing and transformative.
Humbly, this is what I have learned from the week training of nonviolence.
Written by Kexin Cherie Zeng
WWU student, Sociology Department.
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