by Chloe Baveas, Australia  

The dramatic description of the nonviolence discourse by Jack Duvall set the tone for the rest of the day. Keeping up with IPSI calibre of speakers, Mr Duvall passionately delved into the foundations, practicalities, successes and limitations of nonviolence action. Sitting there, listening to Professor Mary E. King, Jack DuVall, and Maciej Bartkowski explain the significance of the technique of non- violent civil resistance reinforced the belief that we must always remember that small actions from small communities can change society for the better. I particularly liked this point as I feel it helped to breakdown the stereotypical image of nonviolent movement as pacifism. Instead, all three speakers stressed the importance that nonviolent movement is an operational technique, a very real, strategic and tactical method to mobilise people on a grassroots level to pursue nonviolent action to change society.

In the afternoon segment, Dr Mary King emotionally recounted her personal experience with the civil rights movement in America in the 1960s. Similar to Mr Prendergast the day before, it was refreshing to hear a real life story, implementing the theory we’ve learnt in the last two weeks. It was incredibly inspiring to hear Dr King’s story and witness how she still vehemently believes in her cause and strongly advocates the effectiveness of nonviolent action. Personally, I found Dr King’s story particularly moving as it reminded me that the lessons we learn in the comfort of SAIS Bologna actually affects people on a daily basis and that people are struggling and fighting for causes that I take for granted. Her story humanised and personalised the words exchanged between four walls.

We come to this symposium as students, people who wish to learn, to reaffirm to ourselves that the path we have chosen to follow is the right one in life. Mary King’s story, the life that she has led and the events that she has helped to influence epitomised the reason we are here. She is living proof of why so many of us are inspired to work in this field of conflict resolution and reconciliation. And she is living proof that our efforts, however long they may take to achieve, are worthwhile and never something to doubt.