International Day of Nonviolence is commemorated every year on the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, October 2, in celebration of his contributions to humanity in promoting nonviolent social action.

Leaders like Gandhi have prompted global movements that have awakened global consciousness to fundamental principles and shared values, bringing humanity closer to a world of peace and prosperity.

Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammed Ali Jinnah in Bombay, September 1944. (Source: BL Photo 429/(17))

Well-known nonviolent demonstrations such as Gandhi’s Salt March and the U.S. March on Washington Civil Rights Movement were instrumental in creating change by taking a peaceful stand for human rights.

These movements were driven, not just by sheer numbers, but multitudes who were inspired by a unifying vision and the soul power of leaders such as Gandhi and Dr. King.

One of the earliest nonviolent movements in the 20th century is the less well-known March First Movement in Korea. Also called the Samil Independence Movement, the series of demonstrations advocating Korean independence from Japan began on March 1, 1919, spreading throughout the country to involve over two million Koreans across the peninsula. This was considerable as it was estimated to be about ten percent of the population at the time.

A citizen-led movement, its exact origins and impact are still being debated, but the Movement was clearly a global one. The Korean Diaspora, particularly in the United States, Japan and Korea played a significant role all throughout the roughly six-week long series of nonviolent protests.

The Movement also played a significant role in challenging global moral sentiments on the issue of colonization as well as inspired and influenced the self-determination movements for other colonized peoples. Driven by a coalition of interfaith leaders, the March 1st Movement sought to cast a vision for a new future not tied to the pain of the past but formed from the enduring aspiration of the Korean people to create a nation that would benefit succeeding generations and the world.

March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (photo from: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

Scholars have pointed to the example set by the March First Movement as playing a significant role in the independence movements of India, China, Philippines among others.

As we celebrate International Day of Nonviolence, we remember this very significant instance of nonviolent protest and the power of a people united by a vision that can inspire people across the world.

2019 marks the centennial of the March 1 movement and is drawing attention around the world to commemorate the nonviolent, citizen-led movement for peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula. Action for Korea United, of which Global Peace Foundation is a member, is spearheading efforts to commemorate the 100-year anniversary and rekindle the spirit of the 1919 Movement to build momentum towards Korean self determination as a reunified nation.