Inspirational Articles

Spiritual Activism

Spiritual Activism

By Kathy Ryndak and Gord Riddell

A few months ago we received a letter from a reader who was angry that our column and Vitality magazine published ideas containing political opinions that the reader found offensive. The reality is most people find today's politics to be offensive, period. Yet the political arena is the one area in which we must be prepared to not only look at but also become involved in. The original Greek meaning for the word politics is a gathering of citizens. The United States Constitution states government of the people, by the people. Nothing could now be further from the truth in the evolution of government.

There is a vast difference between politics and government not unlike the difference between spirituality and the Church. On the one hand are ideas having the freedom to evolve, namely spirituality and politics, while government and Church remain institutions tied to old ways, old rules and becoming more and more marginalized from the lack of participation or interest of individuals each day. Their fight is not the implementation of new ideas and approaches but the very existence of these institutions as they now stand are at stake. The time has come to expand our spiritual awareness and understanding to include politics and a rapidly changing world landscape into our spiritual practise.

Non- Violence

The early days of the new spirituality took us inside to discover ourselves and a deeper personal meaning to life, to develop a greater sense of compassion and peace within, it is now time to bring those ideas and qualities back into the world. Spirituality has always run the risk of being so inwardly focused that we lose sight of the greater world around us and leaves its problems for someone else to clean up. If spirituality teaches personal responsibility for our actions then we must expand this responsibility to include our communities as well as our planet.

It is important to state that spiritual activism must not only be inclusive of all human rights but must embrace the approaches of those people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. who advocated and successfully created change through non-violence. The fighting going on around us is only creating more violence. Armies only beget more and bigger armies. State policies are almost invariably protectionist and self-serving of that country or region and rarely, if ever, reflect the greater struggle in our world.

The concept of non-violence invites our full participation, not in fighting what is wrong, but in implementing a new vision into the world. To fight and oppose will only lead to greater struggle but to take our inner experience of compassion and peace into our communities will lead to a far more permanent change for our planet. As Marianne Williamson said " Change does not happen from the top down, but from the bottom up."

Perhaps we have all been nave enough to believe that those we call world and government leaders will be able to bring about the changes that so many pray for. However if peace is self-serving, then there can be no peace. True peace for our planet must be altruistic. It must be so open and encompassing that all peoples and conditions are embraced and ultimately, changed. "Non-violence is not is hard is the patience to win."- Cesar Chavez.

Your Community/Our World

Martin Luther King said, "Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives." In 1998, 51 of the world's largest economies were not nations, but transnational corporations. The G8 nations, along with a few other Western countries, usurp 75 percent of the world's food and use 83 percent of all other resources. We must recognize that politics and economies are intricately linked and greed is at the root of most of the world's poverty. To actualize Dr. King's vision we will need to recognize the need to share equally all resources including food, education, science and medicine with the entire planet while being culturally respectful and honouring.

Things we can do starting in our communities include:

  1. Get involved in organizations committed to creating non-violent change.
  2. Support through time and money local food banks, shelters and anti-poverty groups who struggle to make a difference in you own backyard.
  3. Write, email, or telephone your Member of Parliament, Provincial Parliament, your Mayor and local officials. Use your voice and be heard.
  4. Vote in elections for people who support your ideas.
  5. Run for office. Imagine what government would look and be like if it was run by spiritually aware people.
  6. Participate in environmental groups.
  7. Write your local newspapers.
  8. Form or join citizen action circles in your community.

Margaret Mead said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has." Grass roots politics begins with ordinary citizens informing elected officials of the need for change. It has always been the most powerful form of lobbying in a democratic society. Non-violent participation requires infinite patience and must always be based on the principles of win-win. The harbouring of hatred, old wounds and intolerance cannot foster change. An attitude of love and forgiveness is the only vehicle honouring enough of the human condition to implement lasting change and peace.

The time has come to move all the work we have done on the inside, the cultivation of love, compassion, understanding, and peace and actively reflect those qualities to the outside world. We as individuals can and will make a difference. Start by focusing close to home, what we can do to make our communities reflective of higher ideals and principles. That act alone will create a ripple effect that reaches far, far beyond our borders. Don't just pray for the homeless person you just passed, do something about it. Pray for the greedy, that they might learn to share and not hoard the world's wealth and resources. Believe you are making a difference. "An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo.