More people want peace, but few know how to make it happen

Paul Bueno de Mesquita, PhD, is a Professor in Psychology, and Director of the Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island

Paul Bueno de Mesquita, PhD, is a Professor in Psychology, and Director of the Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island (URI) in the US. Also a trainer of Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation, Paul has conducted international nonviolence trainings in Nepal, Jammu-Kashmir, India and Ghana, West Africa. He has been visiting Nepal every year for past four years to conduct Kingian nonviolence trainings to university students, peace workers and other professionals. Nepalireporter.com caught up with him during this year’s trip to talk about the purpose of training, Kingian nonviolence perspectives and importance of nonviolence education. Excerpts:

Why do you visit Nepal each year with a group of your university students?

The purpose of our visit is to continue building a strong partnership for global peace building through nonviolence training and education, particularly in regions of the world where societies are struggling for non violence solution to internal and political conflict. We are here on a mission to train and educate peoples here in the philosophy, principles and methodologies of nonviolence based on the perspectives of American civil rights leader and Nobel peace laureate Dr Martin Luther King Junior.

You are the professor of psychology, how do you get involved in the nonviolence education?

Much of my works in psychology was focused on youth and adolescents and children, their developments and their problems. Many of these problems were related to violence, aggressive behaviors and psychological deviation. In my career, I learned that once the glass was broken, it would be very difficult to piece it together again. This changed my viewpoint to be a positive psychologist, not to treat violence but to prevent it. My work shifted from studying problems to a positive psychologist. We have seen that nonviolent approach can transform even a violent criminal into a positive peaceful process.

Can you explain about the Kingian nonviolence concept and how it evolved?

This perspective is drawn from various movements including the civil rights movement of the US led by Dr Martin Luther King. Kingian nonviolence is an active way of life practiced on daily life, requiring courage to stand up to be tolerant against the injustices. According to Kingian nonviolence principle, a person not only shuns the external violence, but also avoids internal violence of the spirit. This type of nonviolence is long-lasting because it addresses the root causes condition violence in the society. Kingian nonviolence philosophy is less concerned about who committed violence than what caused him/her to commit violence. King was also influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s principles-Ahimsa and Satyagraha. More people want peace, but very few are educated on how to make it happen. Kingian Nonviolence is a wills and ways toward peaceful and just society.

But we see some justifying violence as a last resort to bring the desired result.

Violence is sometime used to impose peace or to make a change through an external outside force. We know that thorough out the human history that the violence leads to more violence. So sooner or later in this condition where peace is imposed through the means of violence, it is bound to reemerge later.  Forceful peace is a temporary solution.

There are also movements which begin peacefully but end up in violence.

Those uprising that fails are those starting peacefully, but get run into violence or when the government, military, dictators overwhelm them through violent forces. This happened in Syria where people did not have much more leaders trained on the nonviolence. The leadership must understand and internalize the nonviolence social change process. Nonviolence is not only about people going to the street for demonstration, but components consisting information gathering, education, direct action, negotiation and reconciliation. Without these things, a movement begins to stumble and fail and fall into violence.

But do you think that people need the education on nonviolence?

Not everybody knows exactly how to get to the nonviolence. The challenge is that many people are not educated on what is conflict, how to respond and resolve it, how can we use the methods and principles together when we are in the situation of conflict. Even realizing when there is the conflict, many people do not know that they are in a conflict. They feel it, but they do not understand it. These are the things people need to be educated, not the value of the nonviolence or peace, but the way to reach there.