Human rights discussion focuses on violence

Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Any goal against any oppressor can be accomplished through non-violent activism.

Those were the words of Brett Greider, assistant professor of religious studies. He and senior Justin Lehmann spoke at the presentation “Creating a More Sustainable Future: Peace and Non-Violent Activism in the 20th and 21st Century” as part of the “Issues of Peace” human rights conference.

Non-violence is an effective way to make a difference politically, Lehmann said.

“It’s a huge political force,” he said.

Lehmann and Greider spoke against the anti-terrorism bill that passed in Congress. They say it threatens the civil liberties of Americans.

The law, known as the counterterrorism law, gives federal agents the authority to tap phones used by terrorism suspects and to share secret grand jury information with intelligence agencies.

It also permits FBI agents to secretly search a suspect’s home or office without any notice.

“We’re giving up our liberties for a temporary sense of safety,” Lehmann said. Both said violence against Afghanistan is not the proper way to handle retaliation against terrorism, and promoted more peaceful methods.

“It’s OK for us to get scared, but we’re too quick to act,” said junior Justin Vernon, who was one of the 30 people to attend the presentation and discussion. Vernon said he advocates peaceful solutions, and the United States shouldn’t act like the bully on the playground.

Greider gave historical background into non-violent activism, and said it has been an evolution.

He gave insight into Buddhist ways of thinking, the writings of Henry David Thoreau and used the Jesus tradition to illustrate his point. Jesus was a radical activist who wanted to change society, but used non-violent activism, justice and compassion to advance his cause, Greider said.

“Jesus saw how his society was and refused to submit,” Greider said. Lehmann spoke of more modern history. Mahatma Gandhi preferred violence to cowardice, but didn’t think violence would accomplish his means, Lehmann said.