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Belfast BT6 0DA,
Northern Ireland.
Tel: 028 9064 7106
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A conversation on nonviolence

Open Space Conference of INNATE,
19th January 2008

If you’re not at a once-off event it is usually difficult to give the feeling of what it was like being there. This is even more the case when it is ‘open space’ with a multiplicity of conversations going on. Nevertheless, we decided to publish an edited version of the conference report which everyone received at the end of the day. Some accounts are tantalisingly brief (even when we know there was a voluble and varied discussion), some a bit fuller, but we provide them as a kind of record of the day. Reports were written by the ‘facilitator’ – the person who suggested the topic.

The topics were suggested by participants, and participants voted with their feet which conversations they attended and for how long. Our thanks go again to Frederick Street Friends Meeting, Belfast, for the use of their Meeting House – which has provided a venue for many INNATE events including the very first INNATE conference in 1988. We have pointed out to them how frequently their distinctive wallpaper appeared in photographs shown of INNATE’s history!

Here’s the record of the conversations –

1. Why does violence break out and when does the education and awareness starts for nonviolence, i.e. children, family, location?

ISSUES DISCUSSED:
- Spanking children
- Lack of skills – parents/teachers
- Time to explain why?
- How to deal with suppressed anger?
- No room in education system to promote these things
- Associating action, thinking, reaction
- Promotion of violent toys is seen as fun thing
- Huge gap between communication between parents and children
- Technological effects – video games, verbal abuse, power
- Respect is not respected

ACTION POINTS:
- Government accountable for education system to bring non-violence communication and awareness
- Education for parents
- Community base – accountability
- Lack of awareness of rights
- Lack comparison

2. Networking in the Republic

ISSUES DISCUSSED:
- Past networks – Irish Peace Council, N.I. Peace Forum, need for strong common interest
- Role of INNATE/Nonviolent News in keeping people informed

ACTION POINTS:
- Individuals will talk to contacts and mention they can be added to the e-mail list
- The coordinator will spend a couple of days in Dublin possibly in the summer to build links.
- INNATE already has some plans to build some relationships

3. Finding a positive way to refer to nonviolence

ISSUES DISCUSSED:
- The media has given the name of nonviolence to protestors and we have accepted it
- It’s about exercising peace in daily life
- It’s about expressing who you are more than who you are not, and not to do only as a principle
- To be positive we have to keep the dream alive, use its strategy to get there
- Respect each person in its dignity
- It’s about seeing you how you keep people on board
- It’s about empowerment that enabling you to act and produce a product

ACTION POINTS:
- Treating people with respect
- Try to stop actions that produce anger in me that splashes out onto others
- Think and reflect personally on the positive tools that nonviolence gives us, instead of reflecting on what you are against
- If you make a mistake don’t punish yourself, do reflect and act in what you do so that it doesn’t happen again
- Concentrate daily more on what we are than what we are not
- Incorporate in your daily life non-violence
- Nonviolence is reactive, try to focus on peace as a proactive personal exercise, and make on a daily basis a conscious effort to pursue peace as best that one can

4. Is the time now right for a Ministry for Peace in Northern Ireland?

ISSUES DISCUSSED:
- Would it be financially backed by Government?
- A Ministry dealing with national and international issues e.g. war
- Challenging armies and weapons as a way to resolve conflict
- Looking at roots of violence and alternative ways of dealing will unveil complaints

ACTION POINTS:
- Appoint a Commissioner for peace and nonviolence
- Joining up with another Ministry – Minister for Children?
- Links up with Eames-Bradley Commission
- Ministry of Peace in United Nations

5. Nonviolent response to the deportation of asylum seekers

ISSUES DISCUSSED:
- What organisation are working in NI on this issues? – Embrace?
- Explored the idea of Sanctuary and churches sheltering protected people in threat of deportation
- Protest – at Stormont
      - centres in London, Glasgow?
- Campaigning airlines
- Campaigning Governments re: quotas
- Examples in Sri Lanka
- Examples in Chile

ACTION POINTS:
- Have conversation with churches re: idea of sanctuary
- Expanded view of particular campaigning to network with countries and organisations to get people to safety

6. Did NI Civil Rights Association exhaust all nonviolence possibilities?

ISSUES DISCUSSED:
- Compare NICRM with CR movements in the Southern states of USA
- Charismatic leaders – M.L. King, Paisley – although he was opposed to CRM
- Events which led to NICRM being sidelined by the paramilitary response - internment, Falls curfew, Bloody SundayACTION POINTS:
- Read Bob Purdy’s book re: comparison between NICRM and USA CRM

7. The future of nonviolence training in Ireland

ISSUES DISCUSSED:
- Problems and opportunities of being an ‘outsider’ effecting something
- Need for conflict education and skills in schools
- Education and awareness in political/life balance and when can/cannot makes a difference
- Over-reactions can cause problems in furthering the cause
- Need to play the big game
- Involvements in schools, e.g. Jerry Tyrrell and peer mediation

ACTION POINTS:
- Revamp INNATE training with possibility of personalising it for individual groups
- Addressing the difficult issue of ‘getting into schools’ even through citizenship education – seeing what can be done with our limited resources and time

8. Is the European Union the best example of nonviolence at work?

ISSUES DISCUSSED:
- EU is seen by some people as a positive force in many ways. But also leaves a lot to be desired.

ACTION POINTS:
- Hopefully it will develop into nonviolence and move away from militarism

9. Can nonviolent forces succeed in large scale conflicts?

ISSUES DISCUSSED:
- Nonviolent force can work well in specific problem areas. But people involved in non-violence are very small in numbers. It is hard to keep campaigns going.

ACTION POINTS:
- World Council of Churches are working towards concluding their Decade of Nonviolence by 2011
- Education and awareness

10. Small is beautiful – True of INNATE?

ISSUES DISCUSSED:
- Compared INNATE with Nonviolent Peaceforce
- Benefits of smallness
- Doesn’t get big-headed
- Principles are less likely to be diluted
- Easier to model what we believe in
- Human scale
- But:
- Limited impact
- Limited resources
- Disregarded
Dangers of growth:
- Over stretched/unable to support core activities
- Medium/organisation becomes the message
- ‘Success’ more important than process
- Bureaucracy
- Dependent on funders
- Competing with other groups

ACTION POINTS:
- Value smallness

11. Are ‘spikey’ nonviolent actions actually nonviolent?

ISSUES DISCUSSED:
- Is damage to property during a nonviolent action nonviolent?
- Does the ‘spikey’ action further the aims/objectives?
- Ethical issue – moral imperative to do something
- Nonviolent activists to make the call

ACTION POINTS:
- Be open to the possibility of property damage to further a particular issue

Copyright INNATE 2014