CONTACT: Martha Waggoner | [email protected] | 919-295-0802
We are watching a war unfold with Russia’s attack on Ukraine that has huge ramifications for the entire world, especially the poor. As always is the case with war and violence, poor and low-income people lose the most. In a war over geopolitics and oil, poor people become pawns as autocrats play dangerous and deadly games. This act of war is in part the result of a Christian nationalist project developed by Vladimir Putin and supported by the likes of Donald Trump and his followers.
With the invoking of nuclear weapons, this reckless attack could lead to global disaster. There is, however, a possible alternative to such disaster that comes out of the Gandhian nonviolent tradition. Autocrats fear one thing and that is a sustained nonviolent mobilization of people. That is why they work so hard to go to war quickly. They don’t want to allow such mobilizations to grow and use every means to divide and squash them.
We stand with the people of Russia who immediately took to the streets at great personal risk to nonviolently protest this war. We stand with the people of Ukraine who have been resisting the drive to war and nuclear annihilation. We must pose the question: what if those of us who stand for peace around the world refuse to cooperate with evil? Millions of people – fathers, mothers, grandparents, children – could nonviolently lock arms, like thousands are doing in the public squares of Russia even now, and build a nonviolent movement for peace, justice and democracy.
Could it be that Ukraine is the Edmund Pettus Bridge of today, where everyone could come together in the open and defeat the autocracy’s power with their bodies and their courage to build a worldwide moral stance? The movement for Indian independence and national liberation broke the back of the British empire by doing that. Other movements have done the same throughout world history. We call forward that spirit again today. Indeed, the entire world must stand against this war and the danger that it poses to escalate into nuclear violence and the annihilation of existence.
As Dr. King said, our choice in the face of nuclear war is not between violence and nonviolence, but rather between nonviolence and nonexistence. We must choose peace, love, justice and life!
Bishop Barber also is president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and Rev. Dr. Theoharis is director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice.