October 1 2007
Remarks on the First International Day of Non-violence, October 2, 2007, New York City
Following the announcement of the UN General Assembly calling on the world to observe the International Day of Nonviolence each year on October 2 - the birthday anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, New Humanists all over the world celebrated this day and declared the importance of Active Non-violence as the only way out of the spiraling violence that now threatens us all.
In New York, the occasion was marked by an event with inspiring talks from Dr. Uma Mysorekar, leader of the New York Hindu Temple; Cliff Frazier, NGO, Executive Director of the New York Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolence; and Peter A. Geffen, Founder of the Abraham Joshua Heschel School here in NYC. (Rabbi Heschel was Dr. King’s Jewish partner in the struggle for civil rights and in the movement against the War in Vietnam.) Mr. Geffen also served as civil rights worker in Dr. King’s SCLC organization in Orangeburg, SC in the summers of 1965 and 66.
Chris made the following remarks about Silo.
Thanks to the International Immigrants Foundation, representatives of the media, Dr. Mysorekar, Mr. Frazier, Mr. Geffen.
I have the great pleasure to speak to you today about Silo, to introduce to those of you who may not know of him, a writer, thinker, activist and for many people, including myself, a spiritual guide, who continues in a very active and vital way the legacy of non-violence launched by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Since the scope of Silo’s ideas, and the projects he has inspired, can only be hinted at within the span of a short talk, maybe the best thing is to tell a kind of story that will hopefully capture something of the flavor of this extraordinary man and the meaning of the movement he has inspired.
In May, 1969, high in the Andes (because under the Argentine military dictatorship it was forbidden to speak in the cities), Silo spoke publicly for the first time. In that remote outpost, surrounded by soldiers with machine guns as well as hundreds of friends, he spoke about the Healing of Suffering - about the need to overcome not just physical violence – but also economic, racial and religious violence, exploitation and exclusion, the violence done when one way of life is imposed on others. He also spoke about overcoming the suffering which is rooted in the violence within our own consciousness – a type of suffering that retreats before faith, before joy in life, before love.
From that time, Silo launched a project to humanize the world, which has evolved through various forms, finally taking shape in the Humanist Movement. Despite repression, despite distortions of his message, and a conspicuous silence about the work of a man who has been honored by the Russian National Academy of Sciences for his contributions to thought – despite all of this — the movement has reached more than 100 countries. It has found expression in neighborhood and cultural groups, volunteer health clinics and schools, campaigns for disarmament and Humanist political parties.
At the same time, Silo places great emphasis on the concrete human relationships that make up the core of our lives - relationships between friends, family and neighbors. And he has defended the right of all human beings to ask themselves about the meaning of their lives, about death, about friendship and love, values which have been so degraded in these cruel and materialist times.
In 2003, as the movement continued to develop, Silo launched a new project – Silo’s Message. The Message synthesizes an internal and spiritual vision that has informed the social activism of the movement from its beginnings. It is based explicitly on freedom of thought and belief (or non-belief), so that everyone is free to interpret and develop the Message as they wish.
Several times since those first days, Silo has returned to that spot in the Andes, called Punta de Vacas. In May of this year, together with thousands of friends, we met there for three days of spiritual inspiration, and to inaugurate our sacred Park of Silo’s Message. This park and others like it are our gift to the world, open to all, as lighthouses of a new spirit.
On that day, Silo spoke of Reconciliation as a profound spiritual experience. Reconciliation with ourselves and with those that have harmed us.
For myself, I heard in Silo’s words a deceptively simple but potent truth that lies at the heart of Non-violence. How else but through Reconciliation will we overcome the historical wounds and enmities that afflict us all? How else will we advance spiritually? How else but through this difficult but valid work will we open the future for ourselves, our loved ones and the great human family?
The path of vengeance and violence is a dead end, leading only to more and greater destruction.
Violence is spreading like wild-fire across the planet. We’re at the brink of a nuclear confrontation, and millions of innocent people have already been killed, wounded, and displaced by invasions and conflicts which are not generated by the majority, but imposed by a small minority with a monopoly of economic, political and military power, who resort to violence to defend their interests.
At the same time, a deep longing for peace is growing in the hearts of people, which must increasingly find social expression and gain the necessary strength to change the course of events.
This is the urgent work of today - this is the task of non-violence for these times.
I would like to end by quoting Silo:
We are at the end of a dark period in history and nothing will ever be the same as before. Little by little, the dawning of a new day will come. Cultures will begin to understand one another; the peoples will experience a growing yearning for progress for all, understanding that progress for the few ends up being progress for no one. Yes, there will be peace, and out of necessity it will be understood that the outline of a universal human nation is taking shape.
In the meantime we, the unheard, will work from today on, all over the world, to put pressure on the decision makers, to disseminate the ideals of peace based on the methodology of non-violence so as to prepare the way for the new times.
The Spirit of New Humanism