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Nonviolence as a Way of Life: Report on the South/South Trainers' Gathering in Vedchhi, Surat (India), 7-11 February

The initiative for a South/South gathering of nonviolence trainers came out of a 1991 International Trainers meeting held in Handel (Netherlands) under the joint auspices of WRI, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. Hosted by the Institute for Total Revolution in Vedchhi, India, the event brought together trainers from Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and India. The programme focused on the concept of nonviolence training as a way of life and as a technique with concrete examples from the participants' countries and offered a comparison of approaches to training in the South and the North. Much emphasis was also placed on developing efficient networking and carrying on the consultation work as often as possible. Three trainers, Narayan Desai from the Institute for Total Revolution and Vice-Chair of WRI, Altemir Labes from Brazil and Tess Ramiro from the Philippines, have agreed to continue coordinating the work of the group. The next meeting has been tentatively scheduled for March 1996, with some of the participants hoping to meet with other South trainers at the WRI Triennial in Brazil next December.

Altemir Labes offers his views on the significance of the gathering in Vedchhi:

The Vedchhi gathering brought a significant contribution to the analysis and planning of nonviolent struggle in the South. It provided a space where we were able to discuss and compare our methods for action, which are guided by very similar realities: fragile democracies, widespread poverty, and injustice. Confronted with these experiences on a daily basis, we have to think about where our struggle should begin and what it should lead us to.

You might be wondering why we organised a meeting with participants from the South only? We are not trying to isolate ourselves from our Northern colleagues, but simply want to create our own forum for discussing nonviolence from our common background. In Vedchhi we came to understand how incredibly important such South/South encounters are. Our approach to nonviolence is very concrete, since we experience conflict every day. Nonviolence is a philosophy, a way of life, not an abstract notion. Nonviolence is aggressive and creative, a powerful tool towards the liberation of humanity as a whole.

Given the success of this first gathering, we intend to continue our collaboration into the future. The next gathering has been tentatively scheduled for March 1996. In the meanwhile, we will attempt to reach out to other South trainers and build up a fruitful exchange of ideas.