Nonviolence has always been looked upon as idealist fantasy and it has been said that it just can’t work. But over and over again people have come out and shown the power of peaceful protests. The truth is that violence is not a necessity for revolution. Unity wins over every enemy no matter how powerful and violent it might be. Mahatma Gandhi has become the face of nonviolence but there have been other great men and women who have used peaceful means to protest against injustice and inequality. Here are 8 such great nonviolent leaders who chose nonviolence over violence.
8. Henry David Thoreau:
Henry David Thoreau was an American intellectual, philosopher, poet and author. He wrote the essay, “Civil Disobedience” in 1849 in which he stated that if the government is unjust and partial and doesn’t care about the people then the people have no reason to follow its laws. He advocated nonviolent civil disobedience and participated in once such protest by not paying his taxes which he thought were unjust. He went to jail for this disobedience.
7. Bob Marley:
Bob Marley was not just a great singer and songwriter but he also was a very spiritual and religious man who believed in nonviolence and peaceful protests. All his life he protested against the black man’s oppression by the other races. He was against apartheid and supported equality of all. He performed a show after having been shot the day before saying that when the people he sings against don’t take a break then how could he.
6. John Lennon:
John Lennon was another great musician who was all for peace and freedom and believed in nonviolent protests. When he married Yoko Ono, instead of going on a honeymoon they had a “Bed-In” in the presidential suite of Hilton hotel in Amsterdam to protest against the Vietnam War. John Lennon continued to protest peacefully against war till the day he died. He was shot by Mark David Chapman on 8 December 1980.
5. Cesar Chavez:
Cesar Chavez was an American of Mexican descent who protested for better rights for farm workers in America. He formed the National Farm Workers Association which was later changed to United Farm Workers Union of UFW. He believed in aggressive but nonviolent tactics which gave him a moral edge in his struggle. In 1970’s the farm owners of America were forced to recognize UFW as the union for farm workers.
4. Betty Williams:
Betty Williams is an Irish peace activist who came into public light when in 1976 she witnessed the death of three children when they were hit by a car driven by Danny Lennon who was a fugitive and member of the Irish Republican Army. In two days she obtained 6000 signatures on a petition for peace. She and Mairead Corrigan, the aunt of the dead children, organized a 10,000 strong march to the graves of the children. They were attacked by the IRA. The two women organized another march next week and were 35,000 strong. The two women shared the Novel Peace Prize of 1976.
3. Dalai Lama:
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the religious and spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and he’s been protesting against the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese for all his life now. He had to run away from Tibet when China invaded and had to seek asylum in Dharamsala, India. He’s traveled the world to raise awareness about Tibet and also to preach peace, happiness, compassion, love and nonviolence to the world.
2. Nelson Mandela:
Nelson Mandela is one of the notable nonviolent leaders that brought South Africa out of apartheid with peaceful nonviolent protests. He spent most of his life in jail and continued to protest against the oppression of blacks by the whites. He has suffered greatly and quietly for many years for the cause of equality and freedom. He later became the first black president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Mandela’s peaceful tactics were responsible not only to bring ANC into power but to unite the two races of the country during his rule as president.
1. Martin Luther King Jr.:
Martin Luther King Jr. is the most recognizable nonviolent leader along with Mandela and Gandhi. He used nonviolent civil disobedience to fight against the segregation policy of America against blacks. He proposed equality of both the races and used peaceful marches and speeches to raise awareness and build pressure on the government to change the way things were. His “I have a dream” speech has become iconic and inspired millions of people around the world, irrespective of their race and color.