Nonviolence is always going to include taking risks, but so does violence. And when you get down to it, so does living, really. Risks are part of the package when we sign up to be born. Avoiding all risks–meaningful ones– is avoiding the very nature of life itself.
The story of nonviolence is replete with tales of risk. Such as that of Aleksander Jevtic. Living in the northern Croatian town of Vukovar, a town that was ethnically mixed, Jevtic was Serbian, and this story takes place during the bloody ethnic struggle between Serbs and Croats in the 1990s. It was November of 1991, to be specific. Vukovar had just been raided by the Serbian army, and they took a van full of prisoners back to a town just across the border.
In the midst of cruelties and humiliations, Jevtic was identified as a Serb by one of the officers who had served in the Yugoslav army with him years before. He was taken aside and asked to identify any other Serbs in the group. The officers were standing some ways back from him. He started calling out people’s names and telling them to go into the room designated for the Serbs. But he was not just calling on those he knew were Serbs. He started giving Serbian names to Croats, looking at them to make sure they “got” what he was doing, and sent them, too, into the room. People caught on, but not the guards. And he only stopped when the entire room designated for Serbs was too full to take anyone else.
Jevtic was an ordinary person. He did not expect one day to become a prisoner of war and be put in the situation described above. Yet the risk he took was enormous. Nonviolence brings these qualities out of us, in spades.
Can you think of cases where you could have — or did — take some kind of risk, if not as grave as Jevtic’s? If you did, what did you learn?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com