Eight of us from inspiral went to the Defence White Paper public consultations last night. Submissions were overwhelmingly for more peaceful means of defence and security. This is the verbal submission I made on behalf of Urban Seed.
Thankyou for this opportunity to voice some of what I believe about defence and security. As someone who has committed his life to pursuing peace and justice through the method and lifestyle of nonviolence, it is all the more important that we hear alternative voices to the increasing reliance on violence, alienation and threat power that characterises most foreign policy these days. Once again we must listen to the voices of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Thich Nhat Hanh, voices for creative nonviolence.
I know a bit about defence, security, and safety, from working for an organisation called Urban Seed. Much of our work takes place just around the corner from here, in Baptist Place, which Urban Seed has called home for about 15 years. Every day we welcome some of the city’s most marginalised people into our homes and lives, mostly through sitting around a lunch table enjoying good food together. We call it Credo Café because it expresses something of what we believe about the world. Those who come for lunch at Credo are largely people whom the average citizen feels threatened by – the homeless, the mentally ill, those with drug and gambling addictions, people who have often led violent lives. In such a place, security becomes particularly important, especially when it is not merely a workplace, but a home. But what we’ve discovered is that safety based in threatening or excluding or hurting others is not safety at all. If security is to be real, it must be mutual.
And so we’ve been experimenting with nonviolence – not a mere refusal to act violently, but a creative, active power that sometimes aggressively and provocatively, but always lovingly, confronts situations of violence or oppression. Nonviolence is transformative of conflict because it does not seek to dominate or threaten the other, but to win them over by confronting them with the injustice of their actions. It is this kind of creative, self-giving love that characterises the safety of Credo, and it’s a safety that extends out into the surrounding neighbourhood. By welcoming people rather than shunning them, by extending active love rather than threats or violence, people are invited to respond in kind. Often we have people over for lunch who might ordinarily feel they have nothing in common, such as lawyers and homeless people, and as they sit around a table together, understanding is fostered, and friendships are formed. Sometimes when they leave Credo, potential enemies have become friends.
What happens on this local level can and should happen on a global level. Unless we extend active love to those we believe threaten us, the cycle of violence will continue.
And so I call on this committee to reject the logic of violence, which yields only bitterness and hatred and further violence, for the creative, powerful force of nonviolence. I call on you to equip our brave defence forces not with more weapons to kill, maim and destroy, but weapons of love that will build our nation into something we can be even more proud of, that will be of benefit to even our enemies. I call on you to transform our army, navy and air force from a domestic defence force to an earth defence force, which takes seriously the greatest threat to our existence, which is not terrorism but global warming. I urge you to stop buying weapons of mass destruction and instead use those billions of dollars to lift those in our own country and overseas out of poverty, to feed, clothe, heal and educate. By demonstrating such love we will have no enemies, no need for defence, and the only real security that exists.