Women & Nonviolence

French Nonviolent Resistance during World War II

by Magda Trocmé

Editor’s Preface: Magda Grilli (1901-1996) was born in Italy of an Italian mother and a Russian father. She married André Trocmé in 1926. They had 4 children. She has been much honored from her nonviolent resistance to the German occupation during WWII, and especially for her role in saving an estimated 3500 Jews, mostly children, by both housing them in her home and helping to smuggle them over the border into Switzerland.  The two were named Righteous Among the Nations, an honorific granted by Israel for those non-Jews who played a role in saving Jews from the Holocaust. Lesser known is her work in Morocco during the Algerian War for independence against France, during which she helped start, with the Mennonites, Eirene, a counseling center for conscientious objectors. JG

Trocmé family, c. 1939; courtesy womenheroesofwwii.blogspot.nl

Moral responsibility during the war was a terrible thing for the state officials. My youngest son came back from Italy August 27, 1951, many years after the war, and still a gendarme looking at his passport at the border said, “Trocmé? Are you the son of Pasteur Trocmé?”

“Yes,” said Daniel, very surprised.

“I was told during the war when I was at Le Chambon to go and arrest your father, but I managed not to do it because it was a dirty job.”

Yes, it was a dirty job, and that man managed not to do it; but how many others had to do dirty jobs because they were officials? Some of them believed that the government was right and that they had to obey even if the government was wrong, as a soldier obeys even when he feels that war is wrong. We had two interesting experiences of this kind with M. Bach, Prefect of the Haute Loire and with the captain of the gendarmerie in Le Puy. Both of them have been the executors of an unjust law and both of them asked for help later on when the situation had changed, when those who had been arrested had become powerful and free.

It was February 13th, 1943, around 7 o’clock in the evening when two gendarmes knocked at the door of the old presbytery in Chambon-sur-Lignon. They asked whether Pastor Trocmé were there. I answered that he had a meeting and would be back later, but that I could answer all their questions because I knew all about my husband’s work. They said that it was something very personal and they would prefer waiting. I took them to my husband’s office and forgot all about them; we had so much work to do and so little time to waste!

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Resistance or Christian Witness: CIMADE at Work under the Occupation

by Violette Mouchon

Editor’s Preface: This article is an unpublished English translation of an article Violette Muchon wrote for the French journal Réforme. The French original appeared in early 1945, that is, before the German surrender in April 1945. This translation was sent to WRI/London in 1951 for a proposed book on WWII nonviolent resistance, which was never published. Her translation retains the present tenses of the original French, and is a moving report from the field of extraordinary courage in appalling circumstances. We are honored to be able to post it. Further information about Violette Mouchon can be found in the Editor’s Note at the end. JG

A Cimade internment camp office; courtesy of lacimade.org

Occupied France… The crooked cross on our monuments… the hand of the occupier weighing heavily, invisible, on the Vichy government.

The system of concentration camps extended over the whole of France. The German authorities are interning in the Unoccupied Zone the political refugees from Spain and those who fled from Germany and Central Europe via Holland, Belgium, Northern France, and lastly Southern France. Jewish deportees also started to flow into these camps and by 1940 the camps in the Unoccupied Zone already held more than 70,000 internees.

Now, in October 1939, the Protestant Youth Movements: the Y.M.C.A. and the Y.W.C. A., the Scouts, and the Federation of Christian Student Associations, had founded an organisation of Christian witness and assistance, The Joint Committee for Evacuees, known by the abbreviation CIMADE, which was ready to work in the areas affected by the war.

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Gandhi’s Constructive Program: A New Society in the Shell of the Old

Earth Charter logo courtesy earthcharterinaction.org

by Joanne Sheehan

Gandhi called for complete independence by truthful and nonviolent means. He counseled that social change requires building the new society in the shell of the old, which he termed the constructive program. The nonviolence movement in the West has not emphasized this goal for the most part. In the United States, we mostly focus on political action, in particular on protest and civil disobedience. We do little organizing around what Gandhi thought was one of the most powerful political actions: non-cooperation with power, “not against men but against measures.” As Robert Burrowes explains in The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach (Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 1995), “Nonviolence for Gandhi was more than just a technique of struggle or a strategy for resisting military aggression. It was intimately related to the wider struggle for social justice, economic self-reliance, and ecological harmony as well as the quest for self-realization.”

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Telling the Truth about War: The Street Spirit Interview with Kathy Kelly

by Terry Messman

Kelly with Afghan peace volunteers; photographer unknown; courtesy thestreetspirit.org

The people that threaten us are in the corporations and the well-appointed salons,
and they really threaten us. They make alcohol, firearms and tobacco,
and arms for the military.They steal from us, and they rob us. And who goes to jail?
A woman who can’t get an economic stake in her community
.” Kathy Kelly

 Street Spirit: You just returned from Afghanistan last month where you were living with the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Many people, even in activist circles, are no longer focusing on that war-torn nation. Why does Afghanistan remain such a critical focus of your work?

Kathy Kelly: I have a friend, Milan Rai, who had coordinated Voices in the Wilderness in the U.K. and is now the editor of Peace News. Mil once said, “One of the ways to stop the next war is to continue to tell the truth about this war.”

So how do we tell the truth about our wars? I think if the U.S. public understood the choices that are being made in their name — and if the public understood those choices outside the filter of the forces that are marketing those wars — eventually there might be a hope of non-cooperation with wars.

So Afghanistan is still very, very important in terms of the choices confronting the people of the United States. But also, just on the purely ethical matter of not turning away from people who are dying, we owe reparations to the people of Afghanistan for the suffering that has been caused.

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Kathy Kelly: Seeking Peace in a World of Imprisoned Beauty

by Terry Messman

Kelly with Afghan children; photographer unknown; courtesy thestreetspirit.org

Kathy Kelly’s vision of a world of imprisoned beauty reveals the countless lives caged behind bars, cast off into refugee camps, banished in homeless shelters, or left to die on remote battlefields.

While serving nine months in federal prison after her arrest for an anti-nuclear protest where she planted corn on top of a nuclear missile silo in Missouri, peace activist Kathy Kelly had a vivid awakening that she was living in “a world of imprisoned beauty.”

In prison, Kelly met women who were captives in this world of imprisoned beauty, women who could just as easily have been her sisters-in-law or her next-door neighbors. To this day, she cites the courage of the women she met in prison as a guiding light in her work for peace and justice.

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Declaration on Seed Freedom

By Vandana Shiva

“Seed must be in the hands of the farmers”; photographer unknown; courtesy of seedfreedom.in

At a time when mega corporations want to control our food, it is imperative that we stand together to protect our food, the planet and each other.

In this earth
in this earth
in this immaculate field
we shall not plant any seeds
except for compassion
except for love. — Rumi

The Declaration on Seed Freedom

Seed is the source of life; it is the self-urge of life to express itself, to renew itself, to multiply, to evolve in perpetuity, in freedom.

Seed is the embodiment of bio-cultural diversity. It contains millions of years of biological and cultural evolution of the past, and the potential of millennia of a future unfolding.

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The Mahila Shanti Sena: A Women’s Nonviolence Peace Movement in India

by Anne Pearson

Are Gandhian ideals dead in India? Some people have thought so as India’s political leadership since India’s achievement of independence in 1947 has largely ignored Mahatma Gandhi’s prescriptions for economic, political and social development. Even so, apart from such notable figures as Vinoba Bhave and Jayaprakash Narayan, both of whom led mass movements for social change respectively in the 1960s and ’70s, there have been some stalwart Gandhians who have continued to attempt to put the Mahatma’s ideals into practice. One of these figures is 91-year-old Acharya Ramamurti, a man who in his twilight years has recently inaugurated a new social movement aimed at integrating village and district level democracy with nonviolence and the rights of women. His nonpartisan movement has been meeting with spectacular success. Tens of thousands of women have now been trained in a women’s peace corps and their collective efforts are beginning to change the social and political climate in parts of northern India.

Gandhi’s Call to Women

Mahila Shanti Sena conference, Bihar 2001; courtesy of McMaster University

Gandhi had long believed that women had special capacities for sacrifice and for leadership in peace building. He thought that the world had been too long dominated by “masculine” aggressive qualities and that it was time that the “feminine” qualities came to the fore. He wrote: “Nonviolence is woman’s inborn virtue. For ages man has been trained in violence. To become nonviolent they will have to generate womanly qualities. Since I have adopted nonviolence, I am myself becoming womanly day by day. Women are accustomed to making sacrifices for the family. They will now have to learn to make an offering for the country. I am inviting all women… to get enlisted in my nonviolent army.”

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On Christian Nonviolence: Becoming the New Creature

by Eileen Egan

Photo collage with CW masthead; artist unknown; courtesy of the CW

Nonviolence has a negative, passive ring to it that its adherents have been attempting to erase by prefixing to it the adjective “militant.” Regrettably, it is the only current term in general usage in English. It corresponds to the Gandhian ahimsa, or non-injury, and carries the necessary message of unwillingness to injure or kill other creatures. For Western adherents of ahimsa or nonviolence who are not vegetarians, the unwillingness applies only to humans. The nonviolent person is not supine before an insane attack. The defense of a third party often involves the interposing of the body of the nonviolent person, with no intent of inflicting harm. Gandhi coined the term satyagraha, or truth-force, to describe a nonviolent campaign for human rights and freedom. As “God is Truth and Truth is God” in Gandhi’s thinking, the inference was that only godly or moral force would be employed by satyagrahi, participants in the nonviolent movement. Martin Luther King’s term, “soul-force” is a satisfactory one for most adherents of nonviolence.

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On Islamic Nonviolence

by Rabia Terri Harris

“Peace”; logo of Muslim Peace Fellowship; courtesy of MPF

Nonviolence is one of the most misunderstood words in the English language, and one of the most misunderstood ideas in the world. This confusion is not surprising, since the word means two things at the same time. And the one idea behind both meanings, though very simple, is not easy. It goes against the way many people think.

Here are the two different meanings of nonviolence.

Nonviolence is the life decision to live in harmony with the order of creation by giving up the domination of other people or the planet. Today, when put into community practice, this life decision is called culture of peace or peace-building.

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We Are Un-American, We Are Catholics: Against the Draft

by Dorothy Day

Editor’s Preface: Dorothy, of course, wrote innumerable anti-war articles for The Catholic Worker. So why choose this one to accompany the Gandhi Center in Berlin’s “Manifesto against Conscription and the Military System”, also posted today? Of all of Dorothy’s pacifist articles, reportage, statements of principle, this article is filled with a certain righteous anger that she did not often allow to seethe through her other CW writings, a righteous indignation that intensifies the moral purpose and message. JG

Is it Soviet Russia who is the threat to the world? Is it indeed? Then may we quote from Scott Nearing’s The Way of the Transgressor? (1) “What nation today has a navy bigger than all other navies combined? The USA. What nation today is steadily adding to the only known stockpile of atom bombs? The USA. What nation today is tops in the development of buzz bombs, jet planes, bacterial poisons and death rays? The USA. What nation today is spending the largest sums on military preparations? The USA. What nation today is permitting representatives of the armed forces to take over the direction of domestic and foreign policy? The USA. What nation today is arming its neighbors (in Latin America), intervening in the internal affairs of Europe and Asia, threatening the world peace and security and rapidly surrounding itself with a black curtain of anxiety, suspicion and hatred? The USA.”

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“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi