FAST FACTS: What is active non-violence?

Michael Bueza
FAST FACTS: What is active non-violence?
(UPDATED) This form of peaceful protest has been employed in many countries, including the Philippines, in response to issues ranging from racism to oppression

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – In a huge Catholic procession on Saturday, February 18, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle called for “active non-violence” to protest proposed anti-life measures under the Duterte administration.

Ang non-violence, hindi ibig sabihin passive. Active. Subalit naniniwala tayo, hindi mapupuksa ang karahasan ng kapwa karahasan,” Tagle said. (Non-violence does not mean it is passive. Active. But we believe that we cannot stop violence also by violence.)

As the name implies, active non-violence involves the use of peaceful means in an “active” or persistent manner to push for, and bring about, political and social change.

Irish Columban missionary Father Niall O’Brien, who has worked for almost 4 decades in the Philippines, defined active non-violence as “a way of life, a life of assertive, pre-emptive, imaginative…systemic action…rooting up injustice and eventually bringing about reconciliation.”

Tagle’s call is reminiscent of the 1970s to the 1980s when Jesuit priest Fr Jose Blanco actively made living and preaching active non-violence the core of his ministry. It was a reaction to dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law which saw the eruption of violence in demonstrations and rallies.

Efforts culminated with the bloodless People Power revolution of 1986 that saw the religious and ordinary citizens alike standing up to soldiers and tanks with rosaries and garlands of flowers offering peace. The peaceful revolution eventually led to the ouster of Marcos. 

The CBCP had also previously written about what it referred to as the “politics of nonviolence“.

This form of protest has been employed in many countries, in response to issues ranging from racism to oppression in dictatorial and colonial regimes.

GANDHI AND MLK. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr espoused active, non-violent means of protest in their respective campaigns for freedom.

Many freedom icons made use of active non-violence, from Mahatma Gandhi in his satyagraha movement versus the British Indian Empire, to Rosa Parks in her protest against racism in a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, USA, in 1955. She refused to give up her seat in a bus back then to signal she was “tired of giving in” to segregation policies that gave the Whites more space.

Martin Luther King Jr drew inspiration from Gandhi and advanced non-violent means of protest during the US civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Among others, he pushed for resisting “evil” without resorting to violence itself, and opposing evil and not the people committing the evil acts.

Creative, peaceful movements also brought down oppressive regimes in Latin America in the 1980s, like in Chile where civil resistance and on-ground campaigns led to the end of President Augusto Pinochet’s 16-year military rule through a national plebiscite.

Author and peace activist Richard Deats wrote that some groups in Chile “carefully studied where the government tortured people and then, after prayer and reflection, found ways to expose the evil. For example, they would padlock themselves to iron railings near the targeted building; others would proceed to such a site during rush hour, then unfurl a banner saying, ‘Here they torture people.'” –

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Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.