Nonviolent Direct Action

With the growing instances of violence around the world, and the
underlying conflicts expanding from political dimensions to
social-economic battles, the need for peace is becoming a world priority
(Rolf 18). Such conflicts are based on the violent regimes or oppressive
political leadership which leads to resistance which mostly takes
violent dimensions. However, prominence is building along the use of
nonviolent direct action approaches that can be the most appropriate
solutions to ensure permanent conflict settlement. This paper will
discuss these options with reference to concepts of nonviolence struggle
for equality by Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi.
The discussion and illustrations as well as references of conflicts in
this paper will demonstrate that, nonviolent direct action is a viable
option in solving violent conflict. It is an alternative to violence
whether in big or a small conflict as the ideology advocated by the
option is founded on tolerance, equality and love. This is what Gandhi
puts in his statement that, love is a tool of influence in line with
nonviolent options. This discussion will take a close reference to the
Libyan and Egyptian resistance and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well
as Syrian civil war.
Nonviolent direct action is still an option according to Martin Luther
King and Mahatma Gandhi despite description of violence as the natural
human being condition.
The argument by Gandhi in his statement is an evident truth in the
priority given by countries in arming themselves in anticipation of any
violent attack of conflict. This build up of military forces and
measures is consistent with ideologies of using force to solve conflicts
which cannot bring the ultimate peace as the most appropriate response
to such conflict is nonviolent direct action through love. The
application of simple Nonviolent direct action alternatives lead to
enormous civil resistance, which leads to successful change of regime
and achievement of the desired political and social-economic goals
(Khanna 1).
Nonviolent direct action is described as the set of strategies and
activities that are designed to achieve political and social change
without using the option of violence. The use of nonviolent direct
action includes examples such as sit-ins, social movements, collective
organizing, protests, vigils and rising consciousness among other
options that involve nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience
(Schirch 16). Those in favor of nonviolent direct action understand the
necessity for active struggle in order to cultivate social and political
change. This understanding is founded on the need for social and
political change through change of regime on optimum application of
civil resistance.
Because of this understanding and conviction on the importance of peace
as the struggle for order is ongoing, they advocate the use of
nonviolent approaches as the alternatives to passive approval of
inequality and oppression in confronting or responding to the oppressive
situation at hand. These options are also the options to the use of
violent confrontation in the struggle to achieve the desired political
and social goals (Liam & Luis, 12). The world has had good examples of
nonviolent direct action in the activities of Mohandas K. Gandhi as well
as those of Martin Luther King, Jr. which provide good examples of the
peace seeking options to violent circumstances (Epstein 29).
The powerful words of Gandhi describe the power of influencing people
with love as the most powerful law of governing people that is in line
with human nature. It is through such conviction that Khanna (1)
describes the solution for the Arab spring revolution that has been
experienced in the past and is evident in the current Arab governance.
It is the same conviction that Mustafa (1) illustrates in his quest for
the application of Martin Luther’s ideology in solving the same Arab
world conflict. The use of nonviolent direct action is the common issue
that is addressed by the two as they describe the option as the most
appropriate in the growing conflict as evidenced in Egypt, Libya and
currently Syria.
“Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
In the letter, the author illustrates the application of nonviolent
direct action and nonviolent demonstrations in the struggle for equality
and fight against segregation. In this description, the author
demonstrates the four basic steps of any nonviolent direct action
campaign. The first step is establishment of the injustice status by
collection of facts, followed by the second step of self negotiation.
The third step purification and the final step is direct action.
According to King (1), all these steps were gone through in the
nonviolent alternatives taken in Birmingham as discussed in the letter.
Negotiations to abolish racial segregation and promote equality as
described in the letter shows a new turn in the struggle against
oppressive political and social systems.
Through such steps, there was a change of the way demonstrations were
being done all because of the ideology and efforts of Martin Luther
King. The adoption of nonviolent demonstrations along with other
nonviolent marked a new direction in the struggle for equality and
against segregation at the time. The sentiments by the author
acknowledges that, true freedom is not given by the oppressor, but it
demanded by the oppressed party. This makes the application of the
nonviolent measures an assertive option and not a passive action in the
acceptance of the oppressors’ regime. The option of nonviolence means
that the uses of other methods are still alternatives to solving the
conflict, but priority is given to nonviolence by the oppressed people.
The argument of nonviolent alternatives takes shape when they are
founded on strong assertion of the demands of the oppressed to the
oppressor. According to King (1), the use of the nonviolent alternatives
is not the only option towards achievement of social and political
change, but also the deeper understanding of ones’ God given rights
and the constitutional rights that should be upheld. According to the
ideology of Martin Luther King, a more assertive form of communication
was devised and was made applicable to address the issues of equality
(King Encyclopedia 1). Leaders need to adopt all such measures to
address the issues of the minority who are not engaged in any dialogue
or even have a chance to sound their grievances (Mustafa, 1).
Arab Spring Revolution
Despite having violent revolution and crisis in Egypt and the larger
Arab world, the use of nonviolent options was the power behind the whole
revolution. From the revolution in Tunisia, the world evidenced a simple
reasoning and adoption of nonviolence civil resistance turn out to be a
successful resistance that led to the achievement of new order. The
adoption of nonviolent alternatives in the revolution was the main
source of the civic resistance especially in Tunisia which was different
from the warring cases in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The latter was filled
with complex interests of the international community which overshadowed
the prevalence of pure civil resistance as evidenced in the case of
fight for equality in the United States.
Other than the use of nonviolent options in the Arab uprising, Libyan
case involved violence, and wars that was also evident in Egypt which is
still evident in the current tensions in Egypt. The main cause of these
extensions of violence is the involvement of different fighting parties
in the resistance despite the use of nonviolent cases. The main
component of nonviolent alternatives is the pursuit of social justice
and struggle for equality. This does not mean that adoption of
nonviolent means does not attract violence. As Gandhi once stated,
violence is sometimes the most natural way for people and nations to
respond to certain issues and injustices. Violence is chosen when some
issues in the grievances of the minority or the oppressed party do not
get addressed under the normal nonviolence options. It is for this
reason that, there were military violence and rebel fighting in Libya,
Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nonviolent direct action is not only the most viable option for solving
conflicts, but also an amicable method of intervention in any conflict.
It is an alternative in many chaotic options of engaging with oppressive
regime as evidenced in the cases of violence around the world. After
analysis of the ideologies of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, it
is evident that, nonviolence has taken priority not in the current
world, but over a long period of time since the early struggle for
equality across the world. With a close look at the recent civil
resistance in the Arab world, there is no doubt that, nonviolent direct
action is the most viable option in the achievement political and social
Works Cited
Carriere, Rolf. The World needs `Another Peacekeeping`, in: Schweitzer,
Christine (Ed.):
Civilian Peacekeeping. A Barely Trapped Resource, Wahlenau 2010, p. 18
Epstein, Barbara. Political Protest and Cultural Revolution: Nonviolent
Direct Action in the 1970s and 1980s. University of California Press,
1993. Print.
Khanna Gopal. Arab Spring revolutionaries need Gandhi. Available at

King M.Luther. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]” Available at,

Accessed, 11
September 2013
King Encyclopedia. Nonviolent Resistance. Available at,
resist.html > Accessed, 11 September 2013
Liam Mahony, Luis Enrique. Unarmed Bodyguards: International
Accompaniment for the
Protection of Human Rights. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press 1997.
Mustafa Awad. “Martin Luther King and the Arab Spring.” Available at
-the-arab-spring> Accessed, 11 September 2013
Schirch, Lisa. Civilian Peacekeeping. Preventing Conflict, Making Space
for Democracy.
Uppsala 2006, p. 16

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