URI to teach nonviolence methods worldwide & at home
Colombians learning conflict reconciliation this week in Providence
KINGSTON, R.I. -- June 14, 2000 -- The University of Rhode Island announced
today that its Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies plans to train people
in nonviolence methods in countries around the world, but it isn't overlooking
violence right in its own backyard.
"We want to make Rhode Island the first nonviolent state in this
country," said Dr. Bernard LaFayette, distinguished scholar-in-residence
at URI, who directs the nonviolence center.
The announcement was made during an intensive training session for 30
participants representing a cross-section of people from Medellin, Colombia
at URI's Providence Campus. Among the delegation are former gang leaders
who have now formed the "Thou Shalt Not Kill" organization, police
officers, a lawyer, business executives, a priest and two nuns, a doctor,
a university dean, and three journalists.
Later this summer, LaFayette and seven URI students will participate
in an international nonviolence conference in Johannesburg, South Africa,
where he helped establish the first international nonviolence center. The
goal, according to LaFayette, is to establish nine similar centers around
"Peace is not a lack of will, but a lack of skill," said LaFayette,
a former civil rights leader and international authority on nonviolent social
change and nonviolence education.
URI faculty and staff connected to URI's Center train people who, in
turn, will train others.
Nonviolence training is not issue-oriented or culturally bound, said
LaFayette. Rather it is based on time-honored ideas that were embraced and
expanded upon by Dr. Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi.
According to LaFayette, the same method can be used in Rhode Island,
Colombia, Africa and other places around the globe because it is universal.
The core of it is human interaction. It's the same process that trains the
prisoner and the correction officer, the manager and the worker. The process
can be applied to any area of life, to the family, the workplace, and the
"In my experience, 85 percent of the time violence isn't something
that erupts in the distance. Rather violence begins and ends in neighborhoods."
Medellin, Colombia has been called the murder capital of the world, a
place where kidnappings are common and retaliatory actions expected. To
help stop the cycle of violence, a group of Colombians contacted LaFayette,
which resulted in URI scheduling its intensive 160-hour certificate training
program first in Colombia and then in Providence.
"Whether the training is effective depends on the quality of people,
the diversity of the group, and their commitment to breaking the cycle of
violence," said the former civil rights leader who was national coordinator
for the 1968 Poor People's campaigns led by Dr. Martin Luther King.
Closer to home, URI's Center has provided nonviolence educational sessions
and consultations to police departments, prison officials, school departments,
and community action groups. South Kingstown High School teachers and Kent
County Mental Health social workers are among those who have become certified
to teach nonviolence. URI's Center has trained teachers, students, and administrators
in Middletown. Impressed, the superintendent of schools there has announced
that the town plans to be the first of the state's 39 cities and towns to
declare itself nonviolent.
URI has certified 40 Providence police officers in nonviolence training.
The officers teach two hours of nonviolence training to expelled or suspended
middle and high school students who attend an alternate school at the Providence
Police Academy. Teachers teach the students academic courses the rest of
In addition, URI will offer its second, six-credit, certificate program
at its Summer Institute on Nonviolence from July 31-August 17. Expected
students include teachers, students, and police. For more information, call
"We want to make the University of Rhode Island the West Point
of the nonviolent world," said LaFayette. "We want to train an
army of peacemakers.
"In order to de-institutionalize violence, we have to institutionalize
nonviolence. It was Martin who told me that campaigns come and go. Institutions
remain. It's a time for every institution to look at itself. Every institution
is either involved in violence, perpetuates it, or is working toward peace.
"If you look at the history of the world over the last century,
it is a history of wars. As we begin the 21st Century, we need to move to
a culture of nonviolence. It is a time for self-examination. How am I, how
are you, contributing to violence?"
For Information: Linda Acciardo, 401-874-2116, Jan Sawyer,