The Swan Island Peace Convergence adheres to the principles of nonviolent action.
What is nonviolent action?
Nonviolent action, put simply, is action which is not violent. It is therefore, by definition, not passive.
Nonviolent action applies not only to our physical actions, but to our speech as well. We therefore reject behaviour which discriminates on the basis of race, gender, class, age, or sexual preference.
Nonviolent action seeks to engage and change actions or systems which are unjust or oppressive, using means which do not perpetuate injustice, violence or oppression.
It means treating our opponents and others with the respect with which we would like to be treated, whether or not they return the favour.
As nonviolence theorist Gene Sharp has said, “Nonviolent action is a technique by which people who reject passivity and submission, and who see struggle as essential, can wage their conflict without violence. Nonviolent action is not an attempt to avoid or ignore conflict. It is one response to the problem of how to act effectively in politics, especially how to wield powers effectively.”
There are typically three types of nonviolent action:
This is a set of methods designed to pressure or persuade others to change their actions. These might include marches, vigils, pickets, postering, or street theatre.
This involves the deliberate withdrawal of cooperation from the system or behaviour to which a person objects. It can include such actions as strikes, boycotts, conscientious objection, tax resistance and more.
This is a set of methods which involve disruption to established behaviours, systems, or policies the activists are seeking to oppose. This may include such actions as blockades, occupations and sit-ins, or overloading prisons.
We encourage people to engage any or all of these types of nonviolent action as part of the Swan Island Peace Convergence. We also ask that you actively take responsibility for supporting, respecting, and looking after one another.
The Swan Island Peace Convergence does not assume that everyone participating will adhere to nonviolence for principled reasons but we do insist that nonviolent means be adopted as a condition of participation.
Why nonviolent action?*
- It is inclusive, because it allows people of all ages and stages to participate. Not everyone can take up arms, but everyone can nonviolently resist.
- It is less likely to alienate supporters and third parties than violent action.
- It breaks the cycle of violence and counter-violence.
- It leaves open the possibility of conversion of one or both sides of the conflict.
- It ensures that the media focus on the issue at hand rather than some tangential act of violence.
- It is the surest way of achieving public sympathy.
- It is more likely to produce a constructive rather than a destructive outcome.
- It is a method of conflict resolution that may aim to arrive at the truth of a given situation (rather than mere victory for one side).
- It is the only method of struggle that is consistent with the teachings of the major religions.
*With thanks to Thomas Weber and Robert J. Burrowes’ Nonviolence: An Introduction.