Non-violence : an essential requirement of the human conscience

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Violence and Insecurity

Violence and Insecurity! I have to say that these are two realities that also affect me deeply on a personal level and the level of “my life in general” because, since 2011, the violence and insecurity that used to be in the North of Mali has spread to almost the entire Malian territory and then to Burkina Faso in 2013. I noticed that since 2015, the same reality of violence and insecurity has found its way to Burkina Faso.

What is violence?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force, threats against others or oneself, against a group or community, that results in or has a high risk of resulting in trauma, psychological harm, developmental problems or death”. There are different forms of violence: physical, sexual, psychological and verbal.

In our communities

I can testify to having suffered in the community from attempted physical violence from a confrere, psychological violence and very often verbal violence from certain confrères. While saying all this, I don’t want to accuse anyone, but only to testify that “violence, especially verbal violence”, does exist in our communities.

In the Sahel

In the Sahel, physical violence and insecurity unfortunately affect a large proportion of our population! The kidnapping of our confrere Father Ha-Jo Lohre in Bamako on November 20, 2022, is proof of this. Fortunately, he was freed on November 26, 2023.

 Many here associate fear and the sense of insecurity with the rise in violence in certain regions. A. Peyrefitte, the French Minister of Justice in 1977, said: “The impression that each person has of violence stems in particular from personal experience, the knowledge that he or she might have had of it from those around him or her, and the information disseminated by the media”.

I read an article last year by a Burkinabe sociologist, Mr. Sidi Barry, who said that the security crisis we are experiencing has its roots in ethnic and religious issues, the frustrations of populations who have been forgotten, the lack of investment in development infrastructures in many areas, especially in communications, health and education; to this, we must add the endemic unemployment we are experiencing in many Sahelian towns. Violence and insecurity, therefore, lead individuals and communities to destroy or devalue physical capital (infrastructure, equipment), human capital and social capital based on trust, rules and networks of relationships.

An example of this is the speech made by General Moussa Traoré, Governor of Gao, on February 19, 2023: “The problems the population of the City of Askia is suffering from are linked to electricity, telecommunications, water shortages, insecurity and rural development”; at the same meeting, Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga reassured us that these concerns would be passed on to the proper authorities, and that development only makes sense when a country is secure. Conflict and war can have a high cost regarding military expenditure and external debt.

On the social level, we sometimes see activists and social networks destabilising society by preaching intolerance, ethnic discourse, hatred, and terrorism. so much so that we often hear people say, “Nobody trusts anybody”; governments are doing their best to educate and sensitise people on this problem, but there’s still work to be done on the freedom of the press, human rights, freedom of expression and political parties.

Measures we can take to prevent violence

It is possible to prevent violence, but the unprecedented humanitarian and security crisis in the Sahel poses significant challenges: reconciliation to appease the hearts, education, reintegration of children who dropped out of school because of insecurity, strengthening dialogue and negotiation involving political and religious stakeholders, fostering trust between the military and the population, continuous prayer for peace asking the Lord to ensure the security of the population and their property, since in certain areas, people no longer sleep peacefully, nor cultivate the land, nor travel.  In Burkina Faso, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is around 2,000,000.

Promoting empathy and non-violence in society

Breaking the cycle of violence means overcoming the processes of justification and legitimisation of violence to show that violence is not inevitable. We also need to show that non-violence is an essential requirement of human conscience and that it can be an alternative to violence in various areas of society and even international relations.

It is also urgent to prepare children to become citizens. A genuine civic education for children, with the following characteristics: cooperation instead of competition, creativity instead of the reproduction of models, solidarity instead of rivalry.

To conclude, I would say that there is renewed hope because, in many parts of the Sahel, things are looking much better: many people, structures, associations and movements are engaged in the fight against violence and insecurity for a better future.

The Catholic Church, through organisations like Caritas, has many projects and programs along these lines; at the archdiocese of Bobo-Dioulasso level, there are security sessions. I quote: “From the petty marauder to the violent terrorist, the actions of criminals trouble the quietude of citizens, laypeople, priests and religious communities, putting a strain on evangelisation efforts and the process of human development”. May God bless and protect us!

By: Manuel Gallego Gomez, M.Afr.

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