On January 30, thousands of Americans begin a joyous two-month celebration of nonviolence.
Refuse to gossip. Look beyond stereotypes and prejudices. Drive with care and patience. These are just three of the ways you can participate in the Season for Nonviolence, a celebration established in 1998 to honor the lives and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Conceived by Gandhi's grandson Arun and organized by the Evanston, Illinois-based Association for Global New Thought, the Season for Nonviolence is an annual event beginning January 30, the date of Gandhi's assassination, and ending on April 4, the anniversary of King's murder. During those 64 days, participants work to spread the message of nonviolence through their own actions and by influencing the actions of others.
"Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King had a similar way of saying 'We must be the change,'" says Sydney Salt, national task force coordinator for the Season of Nonviolence. "With this event, it is our purpose to create awareness of how a person can practice nonviolence in his or her own life. It's not just about honoring those who are working to make peace, but also about actually taking the action in your own hands and doing your part to live a nonviolent life."
The Season for Nonviolence began in 1998, with an opening ceremony at the United Nations and observances in 115 U.S. cities and 10 countries around the world. It has been steadily growing since then. Participating is simple, Salt says. Any person can get involved, and it doesn't have to cost anything. Organizers have developed the "64 Ways and Days" campaign--a list of how to observe a different aspect of nonviolence during each day of the season--plus a version geared toward families, as well as a family pledge for nonviolence.
Among the ways the Season of Nonviolence was celebrated last year:
- PeaceQuest 2001. A two-day youth summit designed to introduce Denver teens to the principles of nonviolence.
- Peace Tables. In Napa, California, a community potluck honoring people who are working for peace as part of their daily lives.
- A Peaceful Community for Every Living Thing. A Clarence, New York, elementary school program established to guide children through the Season, highlighting daily nonviolent actions.
Perhaps because the world is now tangled in war, interest in this year's events is running especially high. "We weren't positive that it would work out this way, but now more than ever, people are committed to developing creative ways to educate the public about what nonviolence is," says Eiesha Mason, director of community outreach ministry for Agape Church, a Los Angeles church led by one of the founders of the Association for Global New Thought, the Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith.
During this turbulent time, Beckwith says, visionary leaders are needed to step forward and help point the world toward nonviolent solutions to complicated problems. "Though what is currently going on in the world appears to be very negative and destructive, something else is also being born: A new vision of peace and nonviolence, a new vision of society. We have to describe for the world what this new society will look like. What we currently have in the United States is a president saying, 'We are going to root out terrorism and keep shopping.' That is not a vision to me. We need truly visionary leaders who can help direct the inner strength of the people."
"People are desperate for a change," Eisha Mason adds. "We are literate in the culture of violence in this society, but we are illiterate in the culture of nonviolence. In this day and age, it takes incredible courage to practice nonviolence--much more courage than it takes to shoot a gun or explode a bomb."
For more information on the Season for Nonviolence, visit their Web site at Season for Nonviolence