Prophets of Non-Violence

The recent events in North Africa and elsewhere that has  seen the triumph of nonviolent protest against oppressive regimes would have gladdened the heart of the late Fr Niall O’Brien ssc. Niall devoted his life to spreading the message of collective non-violent action to oppose forces of oppression. He was particularly concerned in all his writings to point out that such an approach was not only obviously morally correct, but that possibly less obviously, it was, when properly understood and carried out, bound to be more effective.

In all his writings Niall paid special attention to the work of an American academic Gene Sharp. In “Island of Tears, Island of Hope” he wrote:

“Gene Sharp has spent a lifetime examining the practicality, the effectiveness (as distinct from the rightness) of active non-violence. He has attempted to document the successes and failures of active nonviolence since the beginning of recorded history. A look through the headings of some of the eight hundred sections of Sharp's three volumes showed me just how little I really knew of active nonviolence. Sharp's argument is that given the proper preparation, with all that that implies, and other things being equal, active nonviolence beats violence hands down on effectiveness in the long run. However, active non-violence, he insists, doesn't work without putting in the necessary mental energy, the study, the preparation, the training, the practice, the creative imagination and the sacrifice to at least the same extent as is necessary for successful armed struggle. Where would armed struggle be without its training, tactics and strategies?”

In one of his last published pieces written for the Furrow magazine in October 2003, -  “War – the moral issue”  - he ends by again recommending the work of Gene Sharp.

Niall then would have been delighted to see his mentor being singled out recently as the “The US scholar who inspires Middle East uprisings.

More about Gene Sharp from the BBC here.

A new documentary on the life and work of Gene Sharp will be released shortly.

You can view a trailer for it below.

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