by Marie Dennis, Pax Christi International
in National Catholic Reporter
Slowly emerging from the heartbreak of death, destruction and massive displacement caused by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine are the inspiring demonstration of diverse nonviolent strategies that are upending the logic of war, and the recognition that if we are to avoid World War III, de-escalation, diplomacy and peace-building are the only route forward.
Agreement is widespread that the stories of creative, active nonviolence in Ukraine and Russia must be told. They are stories about dogged diplomacy, civil resistance, elements of civilian-based defense, symbolic action, non-cooperation, winning over enemy combatants, solidarity and accompaniment, music and art, acts of kindness and welcome, the use of digital tools to document war crimes and more.
They are about nonviolence — a way of life and a spectrum of realistic, effective strategies for preventing or interrupting violence, for protecting human life and the planet, for promoting a more just and peaceful world.
This is what nonviolence researcher Maria Stephan calls “a moment of profound moral clarity.” The war in Ukraine is not more important than the other wars destroying human lives and the Earth, but, as the British Catholic magazine The Tablet editorialized on March 19, it is “history-making, game-changing, paradigm-shifting.”
The perennial debate on just war criteria continues, but given the ongoing carnage and potentially catastrophic consequences, Pope Francis’ assertion that “there is no such thing as a just war” rings true.
The question is not whether to defend against a brutal military invasion, but how. The nonviolent strategies being used by Ukrainians in many different locations are vitally important and illustrate powerful and effective ways to defend their communities and to break the cycles of violence. Their courageous actions point to a future when nonviolence will be the universal ethic that humans, for the sake of survival, have finally embraced…