Nonviolence is a philosophy, an existing theory and a practice, a lifestyle, and a means of social, political and economic struggle as old as history itself. From ancient times to the present times, people have renounced violence as a means of resolving disputes. They have opted instead for negotiation, mediation and reconciliation, thereby resisting violence with a militant and uncompromising nonviolence and respect for the integrity of all human beings, friends and enemies alike.
Nonviolence provides us with tools, the positive means to oppose and stop wars and preparations for war, to resist violence, to struggle against racial, sexual and economic oppression and discrimination and to seek social justice and genuine democracy for people throughout the world. In a very real sense, nonviolence is the leaven for the bread that is a new society freed from oppression and bloodshed, a world in which persons can fulfill their individual potentials to the fullest.
In the preceding chapters, we have sought to expose Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence. Some pertinent questions remain almost unanswered: Does Gandhi’s philosophy have any relevance in our contemporary world, in Africa and in the church? How can Gandhi’s nonviolence be applied? These questions will be tackled in this chapter and in the chapters that follow before the evaluations and conclusion.
Gandhi provided the world with his timeless philosophy. It was not meant for the independence of India only. Nonviolence is itself normative. It applies to any situation. Gandhi’s nonviolence remains an authentic source of normative personalism meaning that it aims first of all to re-instate the dignity of the human person. He was a fearless advocate of the dignity of the human person. This involves recognising the unique endowments of the human person-in-community and providing a foundation for Human Rights. He is therefore called the emancipator of the oppressed. He helped millions of the discriminated poor to discover meaning in life and live a life worthy of the true human calling. The clarity of the conviction of the transcendental goal of everyman led him to affirm the dignity of the human person at every level. He aimed at a Theo-anthropocentric society where the human person was at the centre of the social order. No doubt, Kesavulu sees Gandhian Trusteeship as an “Instrument of Human Dignity”.1
Though Gandhi is dead, his philosophy remains alive. No doubt Jones reminds us “Gandhi is not finished. He is a living power, more powerful in death than life”. 2 Gandhi presents to us through his principles, the means of fighting for civil rights. In the face of oppressor nations, Gandhi advises us to simply withdraw cooperation with the conqueror, and accept the consequences. Though some will be butchered, they remain martyrs in the movement. The jails would be overflowed and become ridiculous, for those jailed would be heroes of the new nation emerging. The jails would be the training ground, the classroom, for the new leadership. All the time, when the oppressor becomes oppressive, he would become weaker and all the time, the oppressed would resist the oppressor with the spirit of nonviolence, he would become stronger. It would be a losing battle for the oppressor and he would have to succumb, be converted or collapse. Gandhi’s greatest achievement lies in the fact that he used this philosophy to overcome the system the British had set up in India.
Through Gandhi, we now understand that the philosophy of nonviolence can be applied in economics, politics, religion, society etc. Gandhi’s Satyagraha has been applied to bring about useful changes. Many people all through the centuries have strove to follow Gandhi’s spirit through seminars, workshops, writing of books and articles, projects, and strikes. Gandhi’s spirit keeps on hovering in this world.
India’s turbulent and violent post-independence history has nevertheless included two trends of nonviolent action and resistance. In one of these, those influenced by Gandhi’s ideas on economics and simplicity conducted the “Sarvodaya” movement, which combined his ideas with a call for nonviolent revolution. More recently, social movements concerned with the natural environment and the effects of development and changes both on the environment and the livelihood of the people have turned to nonviolent protest and defiance of the state.
Many institutes have been founded to propagate Gandhi’s philosophy of Nonviolence. These have applied nonviolence in the prisons, in curing drug addicts, in understanding anger, in resolving conflicts, and in fighting for civil rights. Notable among these institutes are the M.K. Gandhi’s Institute for Nonviolence, Memphis, founded by Arun Gandhi, The Albert Einstein Institution founded by Gene Sharp, GandhiServe Foundation, Berlin, Germany, Sarvodaya Trust, and many other internet sources.
Among all the examples of the application of nonviolence in newspapers and magazines, one is most outstanding: The application of Gandhi’s Philosophy of Nonviolence in the Football field. E.S. Reddy relates it thus:
The Hindu carried a report from London on December 26th that a British company had produced a football T-shirt with Gandhi’s image on the chest. It is being sold for 20 pounds or about 30 dollars. The company …said it had chosen Gandhi as a means of promoting nonviolence on the football field – winning a tackle though nonviolent methodology.3
The British football fans that are notorious for rowdy behaviour do need some education in nonviolence. Gandhi was fond of football and was head of football clubs in Durban and Johannesburg in South Africa almost a hundred years ago.
Among individuals who have applied Gandhi’s nonviolence, many figures are outstanding. The first three that will be mentioned are not of African roots. Since the work focuses on Gandhi’s relevance especially for Africa, we shall move from general to particular. The next six will be personalities who are either totally Africans or African-Americans. Most of these quote Gandhi to justify their nonviolent action.
César Chávez was born on March 31, 1927, near his family’s farm in Yuma, Arizona. At age 10, his family became migrant farm workers after losing their farm in the Great Depression. Throughout his youth and into his adulthood, César migrated across the southwest labouring in the fields and vineyards, where he was exposed to the hardships and injustices of farm worker life. For more than three decades he led the first successful farm workers union in American history, achieving dignity, respect, fair wages, medical coverage, pension benefits, and humane living conditions, as well as countless other rights and protections for hundreds of thousands of farm workers. César used peaceful tactics such as fasts, boycotts, strikes, and pilgrimages to bring about justice for farm workers. In 1968 César fasted for 25 days to affirm his personal commitment and that of the farm labour movement to nonviolence.4 The story of César Estrada Chávez also ends near Yuma, Arizona. He passed away peacefully on April 23, 1993, in San Luis, a small village nearby.
He read much about St. Francis of Assisi and Mohandas K. Gandhi and was influenced by both of these men, as well as the Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr. he realized great men were those who set a good example, and he adopted the philosophy of nonviolence. He is known as a great prophet of nonviolence. His nonviolence rested in a deep faithfulness to God who can bring about transformation. He was clear that nonviolence is the way of God. His life and work always reflected that he was first a farm worker who spoke from the plight of a much oppressed working group in this affluent country. Few have been known to so take on the plight of the poor.
From his lifestyle, we can affirm without mincing words that César responded to Gandhi’s assertion that “nonviolence is not passivity in any shape or form. Nonviolence is the most active force in the world.” For him, we must respect all human life. Nonviolence is the only weapon that is compassionate and recognizes each person’s value. César went further to describe nonviolence for his movement as “aggressive nonviolence.” In effect he held that Militant nonviolence is our means for social revolution and to achieve justice for our people.
Perhaps most notable in his pursuit of nonviolence was his call to fasting. Like Gandhi, he came to know for himself the special purification of fasting, particularly in overcoming violence. He fasted for 21 days in 1968 and at the end he said, “I am not completely nonviolent yet, and I know it. That is why I fasted; I felt it was a very personal form of self-testing and of prayer. Anyone could be nonviolent in a monastery. What’s difficult is to be nonviolent in the cause, in the battle for social justice.” With his acceptance of self suffering through fasting, he inscribed himself into the Satyagraha doctrine of Gandhi. His nonviolence rested in a deep faithfulness to God who can bring about transformation. César was clear that nonviolence is the way of God. This way included for him a deep respect for all living beings, including animals, and was manifest in his staunch vegetarianism.5
Some of César E. Chávez core values and quotations can be outlined below6:
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on 6 July 1935, to a farming family, in Taktser, Amdo, Northeastern Tibet. At the age of two the child, who was named Lhamo Dhondup at that time, was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.7 He began his monastic education at the age of six.8
In 1950 he was called upon to assume full political power after Chinas invasion of Tibet in 1949. In 1954, he went to Beijing for peace talks with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Chou Enlai. But finally, in 1959, with the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, he was forced to escape into exile. Since then he has been living in Dharamsala, northern India, the seat of the Tibetan political administration in exile.
He took many Peace Initiatives worth mentioning here. In September 1987 he proposed the Five Point Peace Plan for Tibet as the first step towards a peaceful solution to the worsening situation in Tibet. He envisaged that Tibet would become a sanctuary; a zone of peace at the heart of Asia, where all sentient beings can exist in harmony and the delicate environment can be preserved. China has so far failed to respond positively to the various peace proposals he put forward.
Gandhi played an important role in the life of The Dalai Lama. During the campaign led by the Dalai Lama for the independence of Tibet from China he has famously insisted that Tibet will be free when China is free and that his people should not take up arms against, or hate, the Chinese people. When he spoke on November 4 2005 at Memorial Church Stanford, the Dalai Lama said nonviolence is the only way progress can be made with China.9
Tibetan Buddhism is very much in harmony with Gandhian nonviolence. In fact, the Dalai Lama said this of Gandhi:
I have the greatest admiration and respect for Mahatma Gandhi. He was a great human being with a deep understanding of human nature. He made every effort to encourage the full development of the positive aspects of the human potential and to reduce or restrain the negative. His life has inspired me ever since I was a small boy. Ahimsa or nonviolence is the powerful idea that Mahatma Gandhi made familiar throughout the world. But nonviolence does not mean the mere absence of violence. It is something more positive, more meaningful than that, for it depends wholly on the power of truth. The true expression of nonviolence is compassion. Some people seem to think that compassion is just a passive emotional response instead of a rational stimulus to action. To experience genuine compassion is to develop a feeling of closeness to others combined with a sense of responsibility for their welfare. This develops when we accept that other people are just like ourselves in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering. What is the relevance of nonviolence and compassion to the future of humanity? As Mahatma Gandhi showed by his own example, nonviolence can be implemented not only in politics but also in day-to-day life. That was his great achievement. He showed that nonviolence should be active in helping others. Nonviolence means that if you can help and serve others, you should do so. If you cannot, you must at least restrain yourself from harming others. I believe that it is very important that we find positive ways in which children and adults can be educated in the path of compassion, kindness and nonviolence. If we can actively do this, I believe we will be fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy to us. It is my prayer that, as we enter this new century, nonviolence and dialogue will increasingly come to govern all human relations.10
In effect, the Dalai Lama thinks and insists that in terms of basic human feeling, violence is not good. For him nonviolence as preached by Gandhi is the only way.
From so many of his other quotes, one can see the influence of Gandhi on him and especially his way of applying Gandhi’s doctrine:
When we face problems or disagreements today, we have to arrive at solutions through dialogue. Dialogue is the only appropriate method. One-sided victory is no longer relevant. We must work to resolve conflicts in a spirit of reconciliation and always keep in mind the interests of others. We cannot destroy our neighbours! We cannot ignore their interests! Doing so would ultimately cause us to suffer. I therefore think that the concept of violence is now unsuitable. Nonviolence is the appropriate method.”11
Since 1959 he has received over 84 awards, honorary doctorates, prizes, etc., in recognition of his message of peace, nonviolence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion. He has also authored more than 72 books. Being a man of peace, His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1989 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent appeal for the liberation of Tibet. He has consistently advocated policies of nonviolence, even in the face of extreme aggression. He also became the first Nobel Laureate to be recognized for his concern for global environmental problems.
Aung San Suu Kyi born 19 June 1945 is a Burmese opposition politician and General Secretary of the National League for Democracy. She was educated in Methodist English High School (Now known as Basic Education High School No.1 Dagon) for much of her childhood in Burma where she was noted as having a talent for learning languages. She is a Theravada Buddhist.
In 1964, Aung San Suu Kyi graduated from Lady Shri Ram College with a degree in politics in New Delhi. Suu Kyi continued her education at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, obtaining a B.A. degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in 1969. After graduating, she lived in New York City with a family friend and worked at the United Nations for three years, primarily on budget matters. In 1972, she got married to Dr. Michael Aris, a scholar of Tibetan culture, living abroad in Bhutan. She earned a Ph.D. at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in 1985. In 1988 Suu Kyi returned to Burma at first to tend for her ailing mother but later to lead the pro-democracy movement. Influenced by both Mahatma Gandhi‘s philosophy of nonviolence and by more specifically Buddhist concepts, Aung San Suu Kyi entered politics to work for democratisation, helped found the National League for Democracy on 27 September 1988, and was put under house arrest on 20 July 1989. She was offered freedom if she left the country, but she refused. She gave over a thousand speeches between August 1988 and July 1989—all in direct violation of the government's open meeting laws—when she was placed under house arrest.
Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) carried over 80% of the 1990 vote. She remains under house arrest, and Burma remains under a military dictatorship. Suu Kyi has received more than 80 international awards, including India’s Gandhi Award (2009), the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding by the Government of India (1993) and the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. Suu Kyi was the recipient of the Rafto Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990.
On 2 May 2008, after Cyclone Nargis hit Burma, Suu Kyi lost her roof and was living in virtual darkness after losing electricity in her dilapidated lakeside residence. She used candles at night as she was not provided any generator set. Plans to renovate and repair the house were announced in August 2009.
One of her most famous speeches is the “Freedom From Fear” (1991) speech, which begins, “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”12 She also believes fear spurs many world leaders to lose sight of their purpose. She also has several famous books and essays such as “Aung San Of Burma: a Biographical Portrait by his Daughter” (1991), “The Voice of Hope” (1997) and “Letters from Burma” (1997). She has expressed her ideology and beliefs in writing and in speech.
The story of Aung San Suu Kyi is a moving example of the power of nonviolence. Even though she was not able to entirely secure an effective umbrella organization to coordinate the resistance, nor implement what Gandhi calls “constructive program”, she led the Burmese people in a campaign for a democratic government. She is frequently called Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Daw is an honorific similar to madam for older, revered women, literally meaning “aunt”. It is thanks to the power of nonviolence in Burma that Ravindra Kumar insisted that:
“Today, it is not possible for military dictators...like that of Burma to dishonour an international call. If through a resolution of the United Nations the dictators of such a country are warned by international community of non-cooperation, restrictions or sanctions and boycott then this act, according to me, will be within the scope of nonviolent Gandhian way”13.
Kwame Nkrumah was born on September 21, 1909, at Nkroful in what was then the British-ruled Gold Coast, the son of a goldsmith. He was trained as a teacher after which he went to the United States in 1935 for advanced studies and continued his schooling in England, where he helped organize the Pan-African Congress in 1945. He returned to Ghana in 1947 and became the general secretary of the newly founded United Gold Coast Convention but split from it in 1949 to form the Convention People’s party (CPP).
After his ‘positive action’ (nonviolence) campaign created disturbances in 1950, Nkrumah was jailed, but when the CPP swept the 1951 elections, he was freed to form a government, and he led the colony to independence as Ghana in 1957. A firm believer in African liberation, Nkrumah pursued a radical pan-African policy, playing a key role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. As head of government, he was less successful however, and as time passed he was accused of forming a dictatorship. In 1964 he formed a one-party state, with himself as president for life, and was accused of actively promoting a cult of his own personality. Overthrown by the military in 1966, with the help of western backing, he spent his last years in exile, dying in Bucharest, Romania, on April 27, 1972. His legacy and dream of a “United States of Africa” still remains a goal among many. His numerous writings address Africa’s political destiny.14
If Nkrumah was successful, he owed part of his formation, directly or indirectly to Gandhi. Nkrumah became a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent strategy of “Satyagraha”, which he coined as “Positive Action.”15
Here is a summary of what his positive action is all about:
Positive action has already achieved remarkable success in the liberation struggle of our continent and I feel sure that it can further save us from the perils of this atomic arrogance. If the direct action that was carried out by the international protest team were to be repeated on a mass scale, or simultaneously from various parts of Africa, the result could be as powerful and as successful as Gandhi’s historic Salt March. We salute Mahatma Gandhi and we remember, in tribute to him that it was in South Africa that his method of nonviolence and noncooperation was first practiced in the struggle against the vicious race discrimination that still plagues that unhappy country. But now positive action with nonviolence, as advocated by us, has found expression in South Africa in the defiance of the oppressive pass laws. This defiance continues in spite of the murder of unarmed men, women, and children by the South African Government. We are sure that the will of the majority will ultimately prevail, for no government can continue to impose its rule in face of the conscious defiance of the overwhelming masses of its people. There is no force, however impregnable, that a united and determined people cannot overcome.16
Nkrumah was totally committed to the liberation of Africa from his student days to his death. The ideals of freedom, equality, independence, and social justice inspired him so much. These convictions underpinned his ambitions for self-determination for the Gold Coast, as Ghana was called at the time. He envisioned all social groups in African society had a role to play in mobilising for political independence via a campaign of “Positive Action.” 17 He adopted the Gandhian strategy of boycotts, strikes, leafleting, and educational campaigns included women, youth groups, farmers associations and trade unions.18
African unity was the only solution by which Africans could regain their respect, dignity and equality in the world. On this note, he formed the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in May 1963. The intention was to win over his contemporaries to achieve Continental Union Government for Africa. For him,
We need the strength of our combined numbers and resources to protect ourselves from the very positive dangers of returning colonialism in disguised forms. We need it to combat the entrenched forces dividing our continent and still holding back millions of our brothers. We need it to secure total African liberation.19
As independence dawned in some parts of Africa, repression had mounted in others. The Gold Coast having become the independent state of Ghana in 1957, the All African Peoples' Conference A posthumously published work by Kwame Nkrumah reproduces the provisional agenda prepared for the conference: “The main purpose of the All-African Peoples' Conference to be held in Accra, Ghana, in December 1958, will be to formulate concrete plans and work out the Gandhian tactics and strategy of the African Nonviolent Revolution….”20 Gandhi actually inspired his Positive Action. Nevertheless, Nkrumah was also accused of dictatorship and we must insist that not all his doctrine are in line with Gandhi totally. But we praised his little efforts to follow Gandhi.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. His father was Chief Henry Mandela of the Tembu Tribe. Mandela himself was educated at University College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand and qualified in law in 1942. He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944 and was engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies after 1948. In response to Apartheid, the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) launched a campaign of Gandhi-inspired acts of civil resistance and nonviolent non-cooperation. Mandela traveled across the country as the ANCYL’s national volunteer-in-chief, recruiting volunteers and coordinating protests.
He went on trial for treason in 1956-1961 and was acquitted in 1961. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. From 1964 to 1982, he was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town; thereafter, he was at Pollsmoor Prison, nearby on the mainland.
During his years in prison, Nelson Mandela’s reputation grew steadily. He was widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa and became a potent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength. He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.
Nelson Mandela was released on February 11, 1990. After his release, he plunged himself wholeheartedly into his life’s work, striving to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier. In 1991, at the first national conference of the ANC held inside South Africa after the organization had been banned in 1960, Mandela was elected President of the ANC. In 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
On 10 May 1994 Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratically elected State President of South Africa on and was President until June 1999. As president, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid. His advocacy of reconciliation led to international acclaim and importantly the trust of the White African population.21 In 1999, Mandela received the Gandhi/King Award for Nonviolence from the World Movement for Nonviolence. The prize was presented by Ms. Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi and a then-member of the South African parliament, a position she could not have held prior to the end of apartheid. Ms. Gandhi described Mandela as the living legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, the Gandhi of South Africa.
Although they never met, Gandhi and Mandela are often mentioned together as giants of 20th-century anti-colonialism. South African leader Nelson Mandela described Mohandas Gandhi as “the archetypical anti-colonial revolutionary” and acknowledged the earlier leader’s influence on the independence movement in South Africa.22
Both Gandhi and Mandela began their careers as western-trained lawyers. Both served terms in Johannesburg’s infamous Fort prison for their activism. Mandela himself often cited Gandhi as an inspiration and claimed the Indian leader as a son of South Africa, stating that “India gave South Africa Gandhi the barrister and Africa gave India back Mahatma Gandhi the Great Soul.”23 The leadership qualities of Nelson Mandela had at its base Gandhi’s Spirit. When Mandela spent 27 years of his life in Robben Island in the prison, the room was full of books of Gandhi and many other classics. The twenty seven years he spent in jail were spent in meditation and reflection and it is said that throughout the years, the bitterness left his soul and he provided the leadership to steer South Africa to be a multi ethnic state. Mandela stands tall amongst our contemporary leaders, for his ability to forge unity amongst traditional enemies.24
Gandhi’s influence on Mandela was shown by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Visiting South Africa on the 137th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, Singh described Mandela as the greatest Gandhian for transforming the lives of millions. Singh said Gandhi would have been “elated” to see his aspirations of peace and reconciliation realized in the transformation of South Africa under Mandela’s leadership. In the eyes of the world, the mantle of Gandhi seemed to have “descended” on Mandela.25 In fact, Nelson Mandela is “An Icon of his age.”26
Mandela tried his best to follow Gandhi in everything, though he differed from him at some point:
Gandhi remained committed to nonviolence; I followed the Gandhian strategy for as long as I could, but then there came a point in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could no longer be countered through passive resistance alone. We founded Umkhonto we Sizwe and added a military dimension to our struggle. Even then we chose sabotage because it did not involve the loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations.27
This behaviour of Mandela would never have happened to Gandhi! But he still traces the roots of his philosophy of life to Gandhi.
While commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the visit of Martin Luther to India from February 10, 1959 to March 10, 1959, in Washington DC on Feb 11 2009, The US House of Representative unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the influence Mahatma Gandhi had on Martin Luther King Jr, the great civil rights leader of America who has been a source of inspiration to President Barrack Obama. Observing that the great American leader was tremendously influenced by the nonviolence philosophy of Gandhi, the resolution says King encountered this during his study of Gandhi, and was further inspired by him during his first trip to India. King successfully used this in the struggle for civil rights and voting rights. The trip to India made a profound impact on Dr. King and inspired him to use nonviolence as an instrument of social change to end segregation and racial discrimination in America throughout the rest of his work during the Civil Rights Movement, the Congressional resolution says.28 During a period of soul-searching, he had, in his words, “despaired of the power of love in solving social problems.” At this point, he was coincidentally introduced to the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi in a sermon by Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University, who had just returned from a trip to India.
But which Martin Luther King are we talking about? Not the one at the base of the 16th Century revolution, but the one Nick Campbell from Juneau, Alaska ranked as the PEACEMAKER HERO. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta on Sunset Adams Street in 1929. He was also a paper boy. His mom taught him to read before he went to school. He read books about black people who were heroes, like George Washington Carver. Jim Crow Laws were laws that separated blacks from whites. Martin’s parents did not like segregation, which means keeping blacks and whites apart. The situation was such that black people had to sit in the uncomfortable chairs and the white people had all the comfortable chairs. More to that, there were lots of restaurants open for whites and hardly any open for blacks. Worst still, blacks had to use different drinking fountains from whites. And above all, they had to pray without whites in church. Blacks were cursed, chased, lynched and killed, just because of the colour of their skin. When blacks came into the stores, white people wouldn’t answer their questions. King married Coretta Scott in 1953 and she proved to be a real companion. On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. It started a Montgomery bus boycott of the buses by the black people. They didn’t know if it would work, because no one else had tried it before. But the bus boycott worked. It took one year to change the rules. Martin Luther King Jr. was the president of the Montgomery Improvement Association. He believed that love, not violence, was the most powerful weapon, just like Gandhi believed. King was encouraged after the successful Montgomery bus boycott in 1956 to visit India. By the time he accepted Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s invitation to visit India in 1959, the civil rights activist saw himself as a “pilgrim to Gandhi’s land.”29 Martin told people not to obey unjust laws. The Children's March of Spring, 1963, played a central role in the advancement of Civil Rights. The Children's March’s original goal was to desegregate downtown stores in Birmingham. People watched on TV and started thinking about black people’s rights.
King is very famous for The Letter from Birmingham Jail or Letter from Birmingham City Jail. It is an open letter written on April 16, 1963 from the city jail in Birmingham, Alabama, where he was confined after being arrested for his part in the Birmingham campaign, a planned non-violent protest conducted by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference against racial segregation by Birmingham's city government and downtown retailers. King’s letter is a response to a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen on April 12, 1963, titled “A Call For Unity”. The clergymen agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not in the streets. King responded that without nonviolent forceful direct actions such as his, true civil rights could never be achieved. As he put it, “This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’” He asserted that not only was civil disobedience justified in the face of unjust laws, but that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” The letter includes the famous statement “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” as well as the words attributed to William Ewart Gladstone quoted by King: “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
His popularity grew after his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. Many assert that this dream was realized with the ascending of Obama as president of the USA. Martin was against the Vietnam War. He did not like violence. Martin was 39 when he was killed.
The impact Gandhi made on him is best described in his own words:
As I read his works I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. The whole Gandhian concept of Satyagraha…was profoundly significant to me. As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform.30
By this, King put Gandhian method of nonviolence as one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. What fascinated King most in Gandhi was The ‘turn-the-other-cheek’ philosophy and the ‘love-your-enemies’ philosophy which Gandhi drew from the Sermon on the Mount. He therefore came to realize that Gandhi was the first person in history to reinvent the Christian ethic of love as a potent instrument for social and collective transformation. It was a short journey thereafter to unreserved acceptance of the Gandhian technique of nonviolence as the only viable means to overcome the problems faced by his people.31 In Gandhi’s teaching he found the answer to a question that had long troubled him: How does one set about carrying out a social reform? He found in the nonviolent resistance philosophy of Gandhi the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. King therefore advocated and practiced civil disobedience and nonviolence. Before he had read about Gandhi, he had almost concluded that the teaching of Jesus could only be put into practice as between individuals; but after making a study of Gandhi he realized that he had been mistaken.
Commenting on the relationship that existed between King and Gandhi, John Odey attests that King’s reverence for Gandhi was such that he “kept on reminding the blacks of the momentous need to conduct themselves in the spirit of Christ and that of Gandhi. It would therefore appear that he and Gandhi were the same in every bit of their conception of nonviolence and the application of its techniques.”32 While there are many remarkable similarities between the two, they also differed slightly in some areas. But their objectives were the same, to free the oppressed. There’s a vast difference in accomplishment between King and the others listed above. Most thinkers say that King remains one of those rare gems that tried to follow Gandhi to the latter. He died a real satyagrahi.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, Transvaal on the 7th of October 1931 in South Africa. His father was a teacher, and he himself was educated at Johannesburg Bantu High School. After leaving school he trained first as a teacher at Pretoria Bantu Normal College and in 1954 he graduated from the University of South Africa. After three years as a high school teacher he began to study theology, being ordained as a priest in 1960. The years 1962-66 were devoted to further theological study in England leading up to a Master of Theology. From 1967 to 1972 he taught theology in South Africa before returning to England for three years as the assistant director of a theological institute in London. In 1975 he was appointed Dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black to hold that position. From 1976 to 1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978 became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. As a vocal and committed opponent of apartheid in South Africa he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. He was generally credited with coining the term Rainbow Nation as a metaphor for post-apartheid South Africa after 1994 under African National Congress rule. The expression has since entered mainstream consciousness to describe South Africa’s ethnic diversity. Tutu was the first black ordained South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. Other awards given to Desmond Tutu include The Gandhi Peace Prize in 2007, the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism and the Magubela prize for liberty in 1986.33
Tutu is an honorary doctor of a number of leading universities in the USA, Britain and Germany.
Desmond Tutu has formulated his objective as “a democratic and just society without racial divisions”, and has set forward the following points as minimum demands:
The concept of reconciliation and forgiveness as was practiced in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission headed by Archbishop Tutu was influenced by Gandhi. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 1995 to deal with the harm that had been caused by Apartheid to people’s dignity, which affected their state of self worth. It underscored the fact that the process of reconciliation is not about forgetting the past but about acknowledging the crimes committed and thereby acknowledging the other person as a human being who had suffered. The perpetrators of crimes relating to human rights violations who gave testimony were given the opportunity to request amnesty from prosecution. The mandate of the Commission was to bear witness to, record and in some cases, grant amnesty and reparation as well as promote rehabilitation. This process was heavily influenced by the traditional practices of Ubuntu societies in South Africa.35 Ubuntu is really a quality that Gandhi came to share with progressive Africa. It is our sense of connectedness, our sense that my humanity is bound up with your humanity. Tutu himself says: “What dehumanises you, inexorably dehumanises me.”36
He received the Mahatma Gandhi Global Nonviolence Award and from his speech, one can depict the influence of Gandhi on Africa:
Gandhi was to influence greatly Martin Luther King Jr., the leading light in the American Civil Rights Movement, as well as the South African National Congress of Nelson Mandela. So many, many people expected our country to go up in flames, enveloped by a catastrophe, a racial bloodbath. It never happened. It never happened because in the struggle against an evil of injustice, ultimately it did not take recourse to violence and because you and so many others in the international community supported the struggle.37
“You don’t have to fight in a war to be a hero; you just have to be responsible, courageous, loving, trustworthy, respectful and caring”. Many quote these words when contrasting Barrack Obama with his predecessor George Bush. The former is the first African American President. He is outstandingly intelligent and doesn’t want what’s right for him; he wants what’s right for the world. Obama is a hero.
Barrack Obama was born to a white American mother, Ann Dunham, and a black Kenyan father, Barrack Obama, Sr., who were both young college students at the University of Hawaii. When his father left for Harvard, she and Barrack stayed behind, and his father ultimately returned alone to Kenya, where he worked as a government economist. He was brought up largely by his grandparents. His father wrote to him regularly but, though he travelled around the world on official business for Kenya, he visited only once, when Barrack was ten.38
Obama attended Columbia University, but found New York’s racial tension inescapable. He became a community organizer for a small Chicago church-based group for three years, helping poor South Side residents cope with a wave of plant closings. He then attended Harvard Law School, and in 1990 became the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. He turned down a prestigious judicial clerkship, choosing instead to practice civil-rights law back in Chicago, representing victims of housing and employment discrimination and working on voting-rights legislation. He also began teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, and married Michelle Robinson, a fellow attorney.
His fame started in 1995 when Barrack published an autobiography called, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. His audio version won a Grammy. Obama got more involved in politics every day and decided to run for the Illinois State Senate in 1996. After winning the seat, he worked to pass the first major ethics law in twenty-five years. He also worked to lower taxes and improved health care for everybody. In 2000, he ran for the United States House of Representatives but lost. He was not discouraged at all. He was still filled with “the Audacity of Hope”.39 He was always against going to war in Iraq and spoke against it during a rally in October 2002. In 2004 Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat, representing Illinois, and he gained national attention by giving a rousing and well-received keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. In 2008 he ran for President, and despite having only four years of national political experience, he won. In January 2009, he was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, and the first African-American ever elected to that position.
He inspires many people by the books he has written, the outstanding speeches he gives, his community service and his belief that, together, we can all make the world a better place. He also inspires people by his determination to solve problems with other countries through negotiation instead of war. He has overcome obstacles during his life with great success. His actions throughout his life are evidence that he wants to make the world a better place, influence many people to do the same and create a more peaceful world. Obama is a leader and a symbol of hope.
In September 2009, while visiting Wakefield High School in Arlington Virginia Obama called for students at to take responsibility and to learn from their failures so that they succeed in the end. One of the students asked him this question: “…if you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?” “You know, I think that it might be Gandhi, who is a real hero of mine,” Obama said. From his answer, one can quickly decipher the impact Gandhi has on him. “Now, it would probably be a really small meal because he didn’t eat a lot,” he continued. In a more striking way, Obama insisted “But Mahatma Gandhi is someone who has inspired people across the world for the past several generations”.
President Obama also recognized the 140th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth saying Americans owe him “an enormous measure of gratitude,” including his influence on Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement. He insisted that America “has its roots in the India of Mahatma Gandhi and the nonviolent social action movement for Indian independence which he led”. For Him Americans are to join with Indians in celebrating his life, and find time “to reflect on his message of nonviolence, which continues to inspire people and political movements across the globe,”
We can give the examples of how Gandhi influenced Obama. Prior to becoming President of the United States, then-Senator Obama noted that:
throughout my life, I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things. That is why his portrait hangs in my Senate Office: to remind me that real results will come not just from Washington - they will come from the people.40
Not even nine months as a President, He won the Nobel Peace Prize in October, 2009 for the hope that he will improve the global community. He was the fourth U.S. President to receive one, and the third President to win the Nobel Peace Prize while still in office. In a speech as he formally accepted his Nobel Peace Prize, the president said that the nonviolence practiced by such leaders as Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. should be a guiding force. Their pacifism may not have been practical or even possible in every circumstance. The love they showed and their faith in human progress must always be a guiding force for any human being. In awarding the prize to Obama, the Nobel panel cited his call for a world free of nuclear weapons, for a more engaged U.S. role in combating global warming, for his support of the United Nations and multilateral diplomacy and for broadly capturing the attention of the world and giving its people “hope.”41
Although Mahatma Gandhi was not awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but the coveted honour has gone to several individuals who believed in and propagated the Gandhian philosophy of peace and nonviolence globally. Barrack Hussein Obama is latest in this club of Gandhian followers to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As demonstrated above, the first African American president of the United States has been an avid admirer of Mahatma Gandhi. The Father of the nation Gandhi’s contribution and influence in the rise of Obama is being acknowledged too.42
U.S. President Barrack Obama extends his nonviolent nation by personally advocating on the behalf of all political prisoners in most countries, especially in Burma. He has been working towards the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. However, saying that Gandhi was his hero and getting prizes are all very good, but Obama really needs to be more practical than theoretical. Gandhi, in contrast to Obama, never accepted public office – but accomplished so much! The presentation here on Gandhi’s influence on Obama does not in any way mean we are canonising him. Many will obviously criticise his war theory. In an e-mail discussion with Professor Wahlrab Amentahru (Instructional Assistant Professor, Department of, Politics and Government, Illinois State University), he made a comment on this, by insisting that it’s not a problem to say that Obama was influenced by Gandhi. He has talked about Gandhi enough for sure. He has also been influenced by Martin Luther King Jr. who was also influenced by Gandhi. However, Obama has a tense relationship with these pioneers of nonviolence because they would surely disagree with his continued wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and they would oppose his use of Drones to kill people in Pakistan, Sudan,Somalia, Yemen and now the greater Middle East. Unless Obama turns away from this vice, he will not be practically influenced by Gandhi.
Below is a constructive criticism for Obama during his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize written by Michael Nagler43 in the YES Magazine:
There were many noble thoughts resounding throughout President Obama’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize. The knowledge he revealed of some of his great predecessors, particularly Martin Luther King and Aung San Suu Kyi, was astounding for someone in his position; but then he made a fatal mistake, and it is essential to recognize that mistake and to correct it—to make sure that it does not happen again. Obama said, “A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies.” He is wrong.In March of 1943, Gestapo headquarters in Berlin ordered the arrest and deportation of the remaining Jewish men who had been left out of the roundups so far because they were married to ‘Aryan’ wives. But then a totally unexpected thing happened. First one, then another of those wives began to converge on the detention center on Rosenstrasse demanding their men be released. By the end of the weekend, they were nearly 6,000 strong and refusing orders to disperse though Gestapo headquarters was only a few blocks away. And the Gestapo caved in—they released the men. Moreover, as we have learned only recently, in Nazi-occupied capitals all over Europe, officials carefully watched the failed experiment and decided to leave their own Jews who similarly had Aryan spouses alone. In other words, an unorganized form of nonviolence carried out spontaneously by untrained people with no organization and no follow-up “stopped Hitler’s armies” in their most virulent form, saving tens of thousands of people. On one level, it should come as a surprise that such a sophisticated president, who speaks knowledgeably about King and Gandhi, should come out with the oldest objection in the book, "it wouldn’t have worked against the Nazis" — the most frequently heard cavil, the most knee-jerk reaction that people like me, who advocate the "sweet reasonableness" of nonviolence, can hear in our sleep. There are several problems with the logic of this apparently imperishable argument, but it will do for now to simply say that it is patently false: nonviolence did work against the Nazis—when it was tried. The issue is not just philosophical
Other statements he used in his speech like “Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms.” And “We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes,” are really pure speculations! Again, Nagler hammers in the same article:
President Obama displays more awareness of the nonviolent alternative than anyone who has held that high office in our lifetime. From what other President could we expect to hear these words in a public speech: “As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak—nothing passive, nothing naïve—in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.” And yet, as he follows out of this logic he runs into a tragic block. He declares without evidence that nonviolence would not have stopped Hitler’s armies and cannot stop a ruthless and determined opponent, although it stopped Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, and about a dozen other ruthless dictators. He likewise bemoans the fact that when a Darfur or a Rwanda happens we have only two choices, to stand by and do nothing or to use deadly force, because “inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That is why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.”
Nagler does not want to criticise Obama at such, his aim is to condemn the culture that has entrapped him, forcing him to betray his high intelligence. So Nagler wants to alert every one of us to the danger it poses—to encourage each of us to learn all we can about nonviolence and personally begin the shift, as Martin Luther King urged, from a ‘thing oriented’ civilization to one based on the infinite potential of the human being. No doubt he concludes his article by portraying that the election of Barrack Obama to the Presidency of the United States opened a door to a much brighter, nonviolent future. We have to pluck up the courage to walk through that door before it closes once again.
This icon is a catholic priest born in the Early 1950s in Ngbo in Oha-Ukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State Nigeria. After his seminary formation in Augustines Senior Seminary Jos from 1977-1984, he was ordained a priest on July 7, 1984. John Odey holds a doctorate degree in Moral Theology from Academia Alfonsiana in Rome. He is a writer of many books revolving around politics. His 37th book entitled “My life and my commitment”44 is his autobiography in which this icon talked about himself. His numerous writings on the great nonviolent leaders Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, coupled with his heated criticisms of the deploring political situation in his country ranks him a great nonviolent prophet of our time. His boldness and frankness towards authorities trying to bend the rules shows someone following the footsteps of Gandhi. This is a man who does not mince words as Stephen Elem would say to remind Nigerians (and I would add Africans) of their maladies:
... corruption in both high and low places, poverty, indiscipline, hunger, underdevelopment, selection instead of election, artificial fuel scarcity, abduction, strike, ethnic clashes, cultism, examination malpractices, internet fraud, network problem, power outage, marginalisation bad roads, rigging of election, injustice, jungle justice and the celebration of HIV/AIDS45
I certainly agree with Elem’s conclusion to the above article that it takes a man like Odey to stand up and fight for the rights of citizens in a country where freedom of speech is not free. In effect Odey offers constructive criticisms to the government to make the latter realise its shortcomings and improve.
Eugene Song urged Africans and especially Cameroonians to follow the example of this prominent figure who is a courageous and committed man of God trying to bring about changes in his country. He praised the effort of Odey whom he identified as:
…the vociferous and indefatigable Catholic Priest of Abakiliki diocese…who challenges the vices that have crept into the socio-political and economic landscape of his country. He feels Nigeria has been plunged into a pool of bribery and corruption and something has do be done quickly so as to ransom the situation…Fr. John Odey believes that criticizing the vices ravaging the land must go beyond the pulpit. He holds that theologians/pastors should stand at the forefront leading the people in the fight against injustices.46
What motivated John Odey to be interested in Gandhi’s nonviolence? He outlines it himself:
Beginning from the year, 1979, when as a Seminarian, I first read some works of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, I have continued to grow in the conviction that to fight against social injustice is a compelling moral obligation. It is not enough to frown at social injustice and do nothing about its possible elimination. More importantly, I have since then equally lived in the conviction that nonviolent resistance provides the best solution to human conflicts.47
The unstable socio-political situation of Nigeria was also a determining factor to opt for nonviolence:
…the increasing incidents of violence in Nigeria, the efforts of some Nigerians to counteract violence by disseminating the philosophy of peace and nonviolence, and my personal interest in and conviction that nonviolent resistance is the best and the most morally refined form of protest against social ills, combined motivated my choice…48
Seeing that no serious study of the nature and meaning of peace and nonviolence can afford to ignore the role of Mahatma Gandhi, he hopes to throw more light to Nigerians ( and I will add to Africans), who are interested in the nature, meaning and practice of nonviolent resistance. John Odey is of the serious opinion that when those who can talk, choose to remain silent in any situation, it is a great form of violence which he coined “violence of silence”. What does he mean by this? It is “the violence of those who are in the position to speak for the oppressed and whose voice could be heard and hearkened to, but who have decided to keep quiet and watch the predators destroy the nation and the people. Like the violence of Pilate who washed his hands after condemning Jesus, thinking that he had become innocent of his blood” 49.
In his autobiography, Odey insists that the commitment to truth and justice is his like. In the last paragraph, he outlines the raison d’etre of his mission as a prophet:
Whether I am alive or dead, I will be glad if it is said that somewhere, sometime and someday that as a Catholic priest, I did not shy away from playing my prophetic role, no matter how feeble, to save Nigeria when our leaders went on rampage in their blind pursuit of wealth and power at the expense of the country and the people. If at the end of my earthly sojourn a good number of people will honestly say that I struggled to live the good life, to give hope to the poor and the hopeless, to set the oppressed and the downtrodden free, to speak for those who are enslaved by our so-called leaders, to defend the defenceless, to be the mouthpiece of those who have mouths but cannot speak, to open the eyes and minds of leaders blinded and distorted by the allure of power and money and that I tried to make our leaders understand that all the money they steal from the nation and in the process make life unbearable for millions for their fellow men and women have no value beyond the grave, I will pass on to the yonder world a happy man in the hope that God’s grace will take care of my many shortcomings. But before then, the commitment to truth and justice is my life.
Born on 15 October 1930 in Kikaikelaki, North West Region of Cameroon, Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi is the Emeritus Archbishop of Douala. He trained as a teacher in Nigeria and London, and then went on to earn a licentiate in theology in Lyon and a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He was ordained a priest on 17 April 1966 in Soppo, diocese of Buea and from 1966 to 1967 he carried out his ministry as curate at Fiango (Kumbo). On 6 December 1979 he was elected the first bishop of the diocese of Yagoua, erected the same day. He received Episcopal ordination on 6 January 1980 in St. Peter's Basilica. On 23 April 1982, he was elected vice-president of the Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, on 19 November 1982 he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Garoua and on 17 March 1984 he was made Archbishop. In 1985 he was elected as president of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon a position he held until 1991. In 1990 he was President Delegate to the 8th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. He became the Archbishop of Douala on 31 August 1991 and in 1994, President Delegate to the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Tumi is one of the rare prelates to publicly denounce the political situation of Cameroon where so many of his kind seem to be silent! As a priest of God, he clamours for justice and peace and fights for the human rights of his compatriots51. His public pronouncements have led people think that he is interested in taking over the presidency of the country. There is an impression in the political world of Cameroon that pastors have always been silent or indifferent to the political situation. Eugene Song corrects this impression when he says: “It will be a gross understatement to claim here that pastors of Cameroon have been wholly silent in the face of increasing corruption and injustices prevalent in the country”52. To add more flesh to this proposal, Eugene Song continues: “A prominent Cameroonian Statesman and a true patriot who has never been silent in the face of injustices and oppression in Cameroon is Christian Cardinal Tumi, Archbishop emeritus of Douala”53. Tumi’s time bomb exploded when he published a book entitled “The political regimes of Ahmadou Ahhidjo and Paul Biya, and Christian Tumi, priest”. The effect of this book could be seen during the lunching. Ireneaus Chia Chongwain depicted well the scenario during the lunching.
It is understood when sports in general and football in particular, draw huge crowds in Cameroon, but when the launching of a book releases a human avalanche to the event, it can only be put down as the exception to every rule. That was the case on Tuesday, April 17, when a healthy portion of the Yaounde population trooped to the Djeuga Palace Hotel to witness the launching of Cardinal Tumi's latest publication…The book chronicles the past and present regimes governance excesses, their obsession for power and the mechanisms used to keep a tight rein on dissenting voices and remote-control the citizenry. One indisputable conclusion cuts across the book the obsession for power breeds limitations in judgment54.
Tumi in this book exposes in clear terms his experience with political leaders of both the Ahhidjo and Biya regimes. In it he also relates the plots and threats of his life. Some people prefer to call this book Cardinal Tumi’s Autobiography because he gives experience of his life. He has always loved to fight against corruption.
Just like Gandhi, Tumi opines for freedom of everyone. Therefore, the Catholic Church firmly believes in religious freedom for every human being. That is every man’s inalienable right. The Church must promote the right of every individual and community to social and civil freedom in matters of religion. Such freedom is willed by the Creator of all things. It is therefore embedded in every man’s nature and should not be curtailed by anyone whosoever. Any coercion in religious matters must be avoided. Quoting the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (num. 155), he insists that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups and every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others. This freedom is the power that the will possesses to determine for itself and by itself to act or not to act, without being forced by any external or internal force55. The cardinal was by this, reacting to a situation in the north in which non-Moslems of the North of Cameroon believed they could get work with the government if they become Moslems; or at least, bear Moslem names. The cardinal never minced words to insist: “That is a moral pressure that violates the individual’s freedom to choose a moral pressure that violates the individual’s freedom to choose in conscience his own religion. It is even anti-constitutional”56.
When the Lamibe in Garoua wanted to oblige Christians to pay the Zaka, a sort of tax Moslems pay to their religious chiefs, it was Tumi who sent a letter to all Christian communities telling them that they had no obligation to pay the said tax.
In his exercise of function as the President of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, the Bishops reacted to the economic crises in Cameroon in 1990 recognizing the external causes of it but insisted on causes for which Cameroon was responsible. The government reacted bitterly. As a result this was said of Tumi: “He has become by this fact, the pet hate of the regime!”57. Despite this, he never relented in his duties in forming people’s consciences.
The Cardinal has always been a precursor of the right formation of conscience “…the formation of the conscience is vital for the Human person”58. His stand on issues touching the political life of the country led some to think that the Cardinal was against Biya. The Cardinal’s statement: “you can be against someone’s political thoughts and still love him”59 is in line with Gandhi’s thoughts.
Like Gandhi, Cardinal Tumi has always been an advocate of Justice. In the concluding pages of his book he invites all to reflect on justice:
I believe there are many people in our society who have been gravely hurt by all forms of injustice: the injustice of parents towards their children-not sending a child to school is unjust; injustice towards workers-workers deserve a just wage…in the absence of justice, nothing good can be expected from the citizens. It would be asking them for the impossible. This is the time to say loud and clear certain things, which could shock some who refuse to leave the already beaten path. Once leaders of a nation raise injustice into an instrument of government rule, the people and all men and women of good-will, who ardently yearn for peace, must not fold their arms. Otherwise, through their silence, they become accomplices to injustice60.
In effect, Tumi is giving us a lesson great nonviolence leaders including Jesus have already given. We must not remain silent in the face of injustice. Cardinal Tumi is as Eugene Song insists “A glaring example of a vociferous prophet and a critical pastor of the regime in Cameroon”61
From his words, we can deduce that Tumi is a harbinger of truth he thinks it is a virtue which politicians, in general, and in especially Cameroonian politicians lack:
The Cameroonian politician does not like the truth. He refuses to objectively analyse the opinion of the other person for fear that the other person might be right. Truth is the light that exposes everything; it resists all attempts to cover it up because what we strive to cover it with is called a lie. The man who lies goes against his sacred nature… I, insist on the love of the truth because I believe that is what Cameroonian politicians lack. Truth does not call for any defence because it is already by its very nature strong, and it can never be defeated. It is only swindling and lie-telling that have no force before the truth, that need arms, soldiers and prisons to prolong their domination. A partial government digs its own grave. What is most important in the life of a politician, in the true sense of the word, is to free the heart and the mind from the fear of truth because it is a grave sin to give in to the evil of lies. He who is afraid has something to hide; that is obvious62.
With this, Tumi brings to the contemporary world a message of nonviolence which should be the option of all the prelates.
If nonviolence has been so effective, it can be applied to the African democracy. As late as the end of the sixties, the West African nationalist pioneer, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe wrote in the light of his own experience: “On Gandhi’s teachings of satyagraha, history has proved Gandhi right…” And we can add that Gandhi will continue to be proven right in Africa.63 In other words, Africa needs Gandhi.