Chapter 4
 

Acknowledgements
Preface
Foreword
Introduction
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
References

Nonviolent Resolution

So many of our everyday stories, even the ones read by our children, explore themes related to violence and revenge. Gandhi and King introduced us to ways of solving problems peacefully without resorting to violent means.

Read children's stories:   Activity 5   Activity 6

The last century introduced many extraordinary peacemakers to a developing peace conscious world, and each in their own miraculous way, have created a new vision for peace. Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s powerful dreaming of a world in which everyone can be treated equally, Mother Teresa’s[1] courageous and enduring gift of compassion and Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy of nonviolence have inspired many others to move beyond the realities presented graphically on our television screens and in our newspapers and empowered them to bravely begin fashioning a new world, the one the peacemakers imagined. The dreaming has continued and today their memories inspire more outstanding peacemakers such as South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Myanmar's Lady of Courage Aung San Suu Kyi[2] with their peace-building efforts transforming old ways of thinking and reaching the energies of the higher levels of awareness that radiate a profound and enduring peace-building consciousness fostering truth, reconciliation and forgiveness.

Nonviolence in perspective

Dr Ralph Summy suggested the word nonviolence should not be hyphenated: it is not the opposite of violence. Its meaning involves more than abstention from violence, just as peace is understood as not being the opposite of war. Nonviolence is not necessarily a passive response, but is one that involves peaceful resistance (Summy 2004). It originated with a young Mohandas Gandhi in 1906 at the beginning of the South African campaign for Indian rights. Much later Gandhi utilised similar campaigns in the Indian struggle for independence from Britain. Gandhi refused to counter violence with more violence and he defined the terminology as clinging to truth or truth force that includes both the determination to speak one’s truth even if others don’t wish to listen, and openness to listening to other’s interpretation of the truth. He also believed nonviolence involves: the refusal to hurt others and the willingness to suffer for one's beliefs (Nanda, date unknown). 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (1987) expanded upon the concept and suggested nonviolence possessed six basic elements:

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is resistance to evil and oppression and is the human way to fight

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does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win friendship and understanding

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is an attack on the forces of evil rather than against persons doing the evil

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is the willingness to accept suffering without retaliation

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involves a nonviolent resister who avoids both external physical and internal spiritual violence and not only refuses to shoot, but also to hate an opponent

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involves the believer in nonviolence having a deep faith in the future and the forces in the universe that are seen to be on the side of justice                                                                          (King, 1987 pp83-88)

Introducing the concept of nonviolence

Perhaps to begin exploring the concept of nonviolence we can begin by sharing the following story with children.

“Herb the Vegetarian Dragon” by Jules Bass

(Barefoot Books NY 1999)

This is a captivating story that evokes similarly powerful messages in relation to nonviolent action. This delightful story for all ages to enjoy and share together contains many peace-building elements but basically it is a story exploring the issues of nonviolence but its ending especially is happy and involves win-win. Herb is a dragon, but unlike the other dragons in the forest of Nogard, and the dragons with which we are all familiar, the scary, fire breathing and extremely dangerous kinds, he is a pacifist, and grows vegetables. The other meat-eating dragons in the story have very little time for our Gandhi like hero. They intend to eat all the knights of Castle Dark and the knights intend to capture and behead all the dragons, including Herb.

A small girl, who lives in Castle Dark, does know the truth about Herb, though, and she comes to his rescue. The happy ending in this story does involve everyone winning. Herb is freed and allowed to continue growing his vegetables. Meathook and the other dragons agreed they would change their ways and not eat humans anymore, only the wild boar in the forest. They would no longer continue to burn, pillage and devour knights and princesses and feast on the people of Castle Dark. Some of the dragons even wanted to learn how to grow vegetables like Herb. The knights no longer had to hunt dragons and the villagers were also safe. Herb brought peace to the entire forest of Nogard and dragons, people, meat-eaters and vegetarians respected each other's rights and continued to live together in peace and harmony. In this story there is no detailed violence, killing or death. Herb, as Gandhi would have done, peacefully responds when he is captured. Each character's rights and needs are respected. A child's faith and courage save the day. Characters break traditional stereotypes. The lesson learned is that people can change for the better. There is no mention of revenge. This inspirational story does not only teach win-win, or more simply the importance of happy endings in which everyone wins, but reaffirms that a peace loving spirit dwells within each of us.

Critical questions to explore with children

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How did Herb respond when he was captured by the knights?

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Did Herb behave like all the other dragons? What things did he do differently?

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Why were the people of Castle Dark so fearful of the dragons?

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Did Herb deserve to be treated badly by the knights after he was captured?

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Who was brave enough to speak the truth?

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What did all the dragons have to change?

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How did Herb bring peace to the Forest of Nogard?

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Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

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Do you think Herb was wise being a vegetarian?

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Should Meathook have tried to rescue Herb?

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Was the king a wise person?

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Do you think Herb was brave?

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Do you think it would be easy for dragons to become herbivores?

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Was Meathook a good leader?

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Do you think the little girl became friends with Herb?

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How else could the story have ended with win-win?

After enjoying the exploits of Herb it may be valuable to progress onto studying the life of Mahatma Gandhi or the other peacemakers. The children will quickly associate the character of Herb with Gandhi. Gandhi’s ways of nonviolently solving problems can be linked to ways problems can be resolved in the playground or classroom, solving them the Gandhi way. After isolating problems, possible solutions can be listed then together examined for the ones which involved speaking truthfully, acting nonviolently and that valued the rights and needs of everyone involved. The catch phrase could become:

“Did you solve your problem the Gandhi way?”

These words could easily become ingrained in the everyday peace-building language of the children.
Further exploration into peacemakers’ lives will assist children connect the everyday stories of hope and peace with the imaginary worlds conjured in the peace-building stories. Transforming plots from being essentially violent to nonviolent can be challenging. Children’s thinking can become distorted by television, film and animated game images, and therefore they may believe violence is acceptable and a natural way of living.

In the following story Nic (aged 11 years) wrote for his peer support partner (aged 4 years), who was in the Early Learning Centre and beginning to venture into independent reading, he expressed his desire to co-create an image of a world dominated by aggression and anger, of a person struggling to manage their own behaviours, similar to the world he viewed on the television. Reconstructing his original version involved discussing personally with Nic the impact his story would have upon a four year old child’s thinking. What would the story be teaching her? A compromise was finally reached. Nic still chose to retain the part about the aggressive behaviour of the motorist in his plot, but together we reconstructed the ending, and revealed the transformative possibilities of resolving conflict nonviolently in order that peace and calm, let alone safety prevail.

read Nick's story

Kelsey recognised there is always a reason for negative behaviours yet punishment was not explored by him as an option to aid in the resolution of the issue he presented. Kelsey has created a powerful teaching story.

read Kelsey's story

Activity 6- Context: Studies of Society and Environment year 6: Refugees

Task: in pairs to retell a story of the life of a child in Africa affected by conflict revealing the knowledge and understandings gained after hearing Dr Hossaini’s stories of his work with refugees. The plot needed to be recognisable and be as authentic as possible. The ending had to become a happy one with everyone winning. (This particular group had previously explored the notions of win-win and happy endings.)

The children:

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in pairs discussed which story they would retell

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together planned their story

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shared their plans with Dr Hossaini to check for authenticity

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together typed the first draft story

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shared their story and discussed with other students possible plot and name changes

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edited their own story making recommended changes to complete the task

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asked their parents to be included in the editing process if they wanted to be and their peers edited each other stories, made positive suggestions

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Dr Hossaini read final drafts and made final recommendations

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formatted and edited final copies and published work with their parents shared their favourite rewritten stories from the class

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created webpages together to share stories via school website
 

Scott and Simon obviously carefully listened to Dr Hossaini and understood all the issues involved with creating a happy ending for Sonja.

read Scott's and Simon's story

Laura and Emily also conveyed their understanding of the impact violence can have upon families and the consequences involved, despite the uncertainties, when decisions are made to leave and begin new lives in other countries.

read Laura and Emily's story

Olivia and Caitlyn certainly have demonstrated their appreciation for the complexities involved especially that happy endings may take years to unfold.

read Olivia's and Caitlyn's story

Exploring more stories of nonviolence

The following stories are excellent examples to use with children when exploring the concept of nonviolence.

“The Nine Dragons” by George Herman

(Tuttle Publishing Boston Massachusetts 2003)

This is an amazing Asian folk tale that draws upon the power of dragon imagery to magically transform our understandings of our world and the possibility of peace. The incredibly beautiful and detailed drawings presented of the dragons capture their unique personalities and purposes in the unfolding story. This tale is for older readers but remains suitable for all ages to enjoy if shared together. It contains many peace-building elements.
Two tribes, who are initially willing to go to war over limited resources, are drawn into the mountains. The mountains that had separated the two tribes for centuries, were home to nine, once feared, ferocious fire-breathing dragons. But like all humankind, there are dragons which are peace-loving and there are those which seek to solve problems in war.
The story begins with the words:
"The wind is a teller of tales. Late at night, when the darkness settles upon your world like a warm comforting blanket, the wind may come to tell you a story."
Immediately we are enticed to read on by the promise of another magical and mystical transformative story. The dragons are swayed towards peace by the wisest and oldest of them and he convinces the others to try and stop the fight between the tribes before it begins.
In a world tainted with terrorism this beautiful story can help us appreciate the importance of trust and co-operation and invite confidence in our abilities to create peace together and overcome our fears. This is another story that ends happily, of course, with everyone winning. There are many other essential peace-building elements inherent in this beautifully presented story. There is no violence, killing or death. The two tribes are inspired to resolve their conflict peacefully. Peace is always possible. Dragons become known as being wise, clever and peace makers.

Critical questions to explore with children

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What was the reason behind the two tribes coming into conflict with each other?

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Did all the dragons believe the same things? What things were different about them?

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What kind of dragon would you be portrayed as?

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How did the dragons persuade the tribes to be peaceful?

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Who was the bravest of the dragons?

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What did all the dragons have to change?

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Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

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Do you think dragons are dangerous?

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Do you think that dragons once existed or exist today?

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Which dragon would you be most like?

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Should the dragons have let the tribes sort out their own problems?

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Which group of animals are dragons most like?

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Why did the dragons live in the mountains?

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How else could the story have ended with win-win?

“The Seed” by Isabel Pin

(North-South Books Zurich Switzerland 2001)

This is another delightful story for all ages to enjoy and share together contains many peace-building elements and explores our understandings about difference and how we can solve problems peacefully and nonviolently.

The Scarabs and the Chafers were two tribes that never ever crossed each other's borders. But on one particular day something that fell out of the sky landed right in the middle of the border that divided their regions. The two tribes' ability to remain peaceful began being tested. Unfortunately they prepared for war as each tribe wanted to own the thing.
In the meantime, though, this strange thing that fell out of the sky, transformed into a beautiful cherry tree and its branches spread over both their lands. Both tribes realised they could SHARE its beauty and its fruit forever. The happy ending in this story certainly does involve everyone winning. War was avoided. The two tribes learned to share. Everyone lived in peace and harmony.

Critical questions to explore with children

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What were the Scarabs’ and Chafers’ first reaction to the seed?

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What did each community plan to do? What things did they do differently?

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Why did both communities want to possess the seed?

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Did both communities really want to solve the problem with war?

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What was happening to the seed while they were preparing for war?

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How was the war cancelled?

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Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

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What kind of plant do you think the seed grew into?

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Who do you think gave them the seed?

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Why do you think the Scarabs and Chafers prepared to go to war?

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How else could the story have ended with win-win?

Reflecting

Just as seeking win-win is vital to any peace-building process so is nonviolence and children need to understand the significance of these two fundamental elements and how they operate together and become the vital first steps involved in peace-building.



Endnotes

[1] Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910 – 1997) was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. She was an Albanian Roman Catholic nun with Indian citizenship who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata (Calcutta), India in 1950. Retrieved November 28, 2008 from http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1979/teresa-bio.html

[2] Aung San Suu Kyi (1945 - ) was born in Rangoon Myanmar. She is a pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, and a noted prisoner of conscience and advocate of nonviolent resistance. Retrieved November 28, 2008 from http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1991/kyi-bio.html
 

 

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