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Posts Tagged ‘nonviolence’

The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence is an outstanding Providence nonprofit that takes a holistic approach to ending violence in poor communities.

On Thursday, I went to an open house and barbecue organized by the students in the Institute’s work program, and was mightily impressed. I shook hands with Mayor Jorge Elorza and chatted at some length with Chief of Police Hugh Clements and the Institute’s executive director, Teny Gross. Not to mention the retired priest who was a founding member, the youth themselves, and the dedicated staff. I heard some pretty inspiring stories!

The young organizers provided a tour of their headquarters, a lovely converted convent on Oxford St.

It was a great event. But here is something sad. In the five years since I visited the Institute’s old quarters, the vagaries of funding sources have forced cutbacks. They no longer have 17 streetworkers turning youth from violence toward work and better lives. They can afford only four. It seems a shame when the need is still significant.

The Institute is advertising for a development director, and they sure need a way to get more support. A big endowment to protect the work from shifts in the winds would be ideal. Read more here.

By the way, Teny Gross has been called to teach nonviolence techniques around the nation and world. He has received many acknowledgments for his success. An unusual honor this month gave him one of his proudest moments. It relates to a George Washington letter about religious tolerance.

“225 years ago, George Washington wrote a letter ‘To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport,’ which is now known as the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. To mark the historic importance of the letter, the congregation and the Touro Synagogue Foundation conduct an annual ‘Letter Reading,’ around the time that the letter was sent. The setting is the beautifully restored Touro Synagogue, built in 1763.

“The letter was only four paragraphs long, but they were four powerful and significant paragraphs and they are regarded as critical in the history of the Jewish people in the Colonial United States.  The letter reading evolved into today’s two hour event filled with greetings from dignitaries, announcements of scholarships and an award to Teny Gross, leader in the Institute for the Study of the Practice of Nonviolence.”

Goes to show that teaching nonviolence can spread out in many unexpected ripples.

Read the details here.

Photo: Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence

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Gene Sharp (founder of the Albert Einstein Institution and the go-to guy on nonviolent revolution) is proof that one and one and 50 make a million. Sharp is one man, but his writings have had a powerful influence on many of the players in the 2011 Arab Spring and democracy movements elsewhere.

Today I went with Jane’s family to see a movie about Sharp at the Boston Film Festival. (Jane’s cousin, Ruaridh Arrow, directed it.) It’s a remarkable film. There were interviews with organizers of nonviolent change in Serbia, Ukraine, Egypt, Syria, and beyond. The documentary was interspersed with news footage and video from recent uprisings around the world. A key message is that change takes strategic planning (you can’t wing it) and is a kind of armed resistance, only people are armed with ideas for undermining the pillars that support an oppressive regime. In addition to conducting research on the subject of nonviolence, Sharp has offered a list of 198 techniques that effect change.

After a standing ovation, a frail Gene Sharp, 83, his assistant, Jamila Raqib, and nonviolent-change trainer Col. Robert Helvey, retired, came up on the stage with the director and took audience questions. Raqib was asked about the funding for the Albert Einstein Institution, which operates out of a small space in East Boston. She said that likely funders back off because the ideas do relate to overthrowing a government. The institution is struggling.

I wish you could have been there to hear a young woman stand up and say that she is Egyptian and took  part in the January uprising. She said the overthrow of the government was easy but the rebuilding is hard. She wanted to know if any studies had been done comparing the transitions to democracy of other uprisings. When Sharp said that studies had yet to be done, I couldn’t help thinking what a good use of new funding such research might be. The film itself was funded by large and small donations from around the world through Kickstarter, which I blogged about here. Perhaps it can kickstart nonviolent change elsewhere.

Update: Gene Sharp died at his home in East Boston on January 28, 2018. He was 90.

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