The lecture was followed by a panel discussion with community leaders regarding ways to mobilize people to work for interrelated social, political and environmental causes.
Dear, a priest who has worked with activists around the world on various war and poverty-related efforts, discussed the framework for nonviolence outlined in his 35th and newest book “The Nonviolent Life.” He said that the current state of world affairs makes this framework more necessary than ever.
“We now live in a world of unparalleled violence,” he said.
Dear said military conflicts, environmental destruction, poverty and nuclear weapons proliferation are examples of issues that characterize global issues in the 21st century. He explained the three steps he has developed for living nonviolently, which are explored in “The Nonviolent Life.”
“First, we all have to be nonviolent to ourselves,” he said. “Second, we have to be as nonviolent as we can toward every human being, all the creatures and all of creation. Third, at the same time, we have to join the grassroots movements for nonviolence in the world.”
Dear also spoke about his organization, Campaign Nonviolence, which follows the example of Mohandas Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. to organize demonstrations, rallies and prayer services. A proponent of civil disobedience, Dear has been arrested 75 times for acts of peaceful protest. He has received several nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, most notably from South African activist and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“He is a man who has the courage of his convictions and who speaks out and acts against war, the manufacture of weapons and any situation where a human being might be at risk through violence,” Tutu said in his nomination of Dear.
Dear said nuclear weapons are an especially important topic in New Mexico, which is the birthplace of the atomic bomb. He said he strongly advocates for nuclear disarmament in the state, which is especially relevant to Albuquerque due to its high number of nuclear weapons.
“We’re trying to call for the closing of Los Alamos (National Laboratories),” Dear said. “I want New Mexico to get rid of its nuclear weapons, I want Albuquerque to get rid of its nuclear weapons, and I want us to head towards a new, nonviolent New Mexico. We’re one of the poorest, most violent states in the country. We need leadership to make it nonviolent.”
Following Dear’s speech, he joined a panel to discuss peace activism. The panel included Joan Brown of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light; Carlos Navarro from Bread New Mexico; and Jamal Martin, the director of UNM’s Peace and Justice Studies program.
Brown, whose organization focuses on environmental issues and energy efficiency, stressed the importance of combating climate change in bringing world peace.
“Climate change is the greatest moral and ethical issue of our time,” she said. “One thing that people aren’t connecting the dots with yet is the intimate connection between the environment, especially with growing climate change, with food insecurity, violence and social unrest throughout the world.”
Adding another angle to the discussion of peace, Martin, a professor at the department of Africana Studies, used his background in community health to emphasize the necessity of using different disciplines to solve major issues.
“I believe that violence is a public health issue,” Martin said. “When I think about violence, I don’t just think about direct physical violence, but I think about structural violence. There are many facets and dimensions to the work that we have to do.”
Ultimately Dear said his message to UNM students was to actively study and practice nonviolence, both in their personal lives and as part of a larger movement. He said he hopes to continue uniting movements centered around various issues into a common cause.
“I always urge students to pick a cause and get involved,” he said. “Whether it’s homelessness, fighting racism, fighting poverty or working for the environment — there’s a million things to do. Pick one cause and get involved.”
Lena Guidi is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DailyLobo.