Mairead Corrigan Maguire Reflects on Working Toward Peace
by Mairead Corrigan-McGuire
All of us need to take responsibility for the world’s violence and, like Gandhi, pledge our lives to the nonviolent transformation of the world in order to resolve these insane crises through the wisdom of nonviolence.
Gandhi taught that nonviolence does not mean passivity. No. It is the most daring, creative, and courageous way of living, and it is the only hope for our world. Nonviolence is an active way of life which always rejects violence and killing, and instead applies the force of love and truth as a means to transform conflict and the root causes of conflict. Nonviolence demands creativity. It pursues dialogue, seeks reconciliation, listens to the truth in our opponents, rejects militarism, and allows God’s spirit to transform us socially and politically.
Getting to the root cause of the conflict continues to be the greatest challenge facing people in Northern Ireland. We need now to build a culture of genuine nonviolence and real democracy. This can only happen through consensus politics built by the people, and courageous political leadership by the government on human rights issues.
Thirty years ago, if the Northern Ireland government had implemented civil rights instead of responding to conflict with ever increasing oppression, emergency legislation, and outright militarization, the savage violence we have known would never have erupted. Today, while we are thankful that the peace process has begun, we are deeply conscious that many of the same problems that were there in 1968 still remain awaiting a solution in an atmosphere of mistrust deepened by thirty years of unnecessary violence. The only thing we have learned is that violence makes things worse. . . .
To enable consensus politics to develop we need to empower people where they live. This means devolving financial resources and political power down to the community level. One of the greatest blocks to movement is fear. This fear can only be removed when people feel their voices are being heard by government and when they have a say in their own lives and communities.
But Gandhi’s challenge of nonviolence is not only a necessity for ourselves and for Northern Ireland; it is a challenge placed before the whole of humanity. Fifty years after his death Gandhi challenges us to pursue a new millennium of nonviolence. This is not an impossible dream. . . .
I have come to believe, with Gandhi, that through our own personal conversion, our own inner peace, we are sensitized to care for God, for ourselves, for each other, for the poor, and for the earth, and then we can become true servants of peace in our world. Herein lies the power of nonviolence.
As our hearts are disarmed by God of our inner violence, they become God’s instruments for the disarmament of the world. Without this inner conversion we run the risk of becoming embittered, disillusioned, despairing, or simply burnt out, especially when our work for peace and justice appears to produce little or no result, or seems trifling in comparison with the injustice we see around us. With this conversion we learn to let go of all desires, including our destructive desire to see results.
For many people this ancient wisdom of the heart, this wisdom of nonviolence, may seem too religious and too idealistic in today’s hard-headed world of politics and science. But I believe, with Gandhi, that we need to take an imaginative leap forward toward fresh and generous idealism for the sake of all humanity-that we need to renew this ancient wisdom of nonviolence, to strive for a disarmed world, and to create a culture of nonviolence.
As we enter the third millennium we need to apply this ancient wisdom of nonviolence to politics, economics, and science. For many, particularly in the West, increased materialism and unprecedented consumerism have not led to inner peace and happiness. Although technology has given us many benefits, it has not helped us to distinguish between what enhances life and humanity, and what destroys life and humanity. The time has come to return to the ancient wisdom of nonviolence.
Mrs. Corrigan-McGuire’s book ‘The Vision of Peace: Faith and Hope in Northern Ireland’ has been published in Urdu and is now used in some Pakistani Universities on Peace Studies. ‘The Vision of Peace’ (edited by John Dear) is available from www.wipfandstock.com
Published with the author’s permission.