Using Nonviolence to Resolve Conflicts

The concept of nonviolence is characterized by the absence of violence as antagonists pursue hotly contested interests. Nonviolence is designed in such a manner that it is devoid of conditions that would otherwise make a conflict escalate into what characterizes violence: bloodshed, strife, or unwarranted loss of life.

Mahatma Gandhi is renowned for his role in the freedom movement of India. He led India towards independence and at the same time helped evolve/popularize nonviolence as a method of confronting the antagonist to first, build a relationship, and then settle the outstanding stalemate or conflict.  Gandhi believed that violence, when used as a means towards justice, did not satisfy interests of either side. His formula of nonviolence brought about a method that allowed parties in a conflict to co-exist, live peacefully, and work together based on cooperation and harmony.

Gandhi’s definition of violence was not limited to the physical injury associated with violence. For Gandhi, violence encompasses ill will, anger, cruelty, torture of all life, harsh words intended to hurt, oppression, and humiliation of the weak and disadvantaged sections of the society. This does not in any way present Gandhi as being averse to the realities of violence; he worked to change the societal narrative that only ugly confrontations could yield peace or satisfaction of interests

The ideas of Gandhi on nonviolence were picked up and continued by Martin Luther King, Jr. King’s strong anti-violence stand was demonstrated by his opposition to the Vietnam war. In a speech titled ‘Beyond Vietnam,’ King is not amused, first of all, by the idea of sending young people to fight for justice in a different part of the world, when those same rights were alien in their own country. I postulate that those who seek nonviolence to a peaceful end, must perpetuate this idea far and beyond their comfort. By opposing the use of violence in Vietnam, King proved that his pursuit of civil rights in America, rooted in nonviolence, was not a matter of playing to the gallery.   

Nonviolence as a conflict resolution tool is restorative in nature and offers society an opportunity to discuss, mitigate, or resolve underlying symptoms of conflict, without denigrating, dehumanizing, or humiliating the opponent. In addition, nonviolence seeks to empower the other side with facts and logic about an existing conflict.

Nonviolence seeks to persuade the other side to approach a conflict with the solitary goal of avoiding any stalemate that could lead to anxiety among followers, who as the conflict escalates are prone to running out of patience, eventually turning to violent confrontation.  The ultimate goal of nonviolence is to seek a mutually beneficial resolution long-term.


Leave a Reply