The origins of the Institute began in 2013, with an effort by several people to explore purchasing a Benedictine Abbey in Northeastern South Dakota. The idea was to use it as a training center for nonviolence. People could reside and work there on the land, in the greenhouse, in the bakery, in teaching and mentoring those who came for training; or just have a place for rest and renewal from an activist lifestyle. The Abbey was sold before a solid proposal and financial plan could be developed.
That led to some serious conversations and exploration between Clark Hanjian and Carl Kline, Institute co-founders. They were friends who had been together in India and had worked together to host a National Nonviolence Conference in the early 80's. Their conversations and work led to the development of the first two week Institute training program. It was held in the Black Hills of South Dakota, at Placerville Retreat Center, in August of 2015.
Much of the development of the mission statement and core ideas were written by Clark. He was also instrumental in researching potential funding sources and doing the technical work. Carl focused on implementation, questions of faculty and resource persons and recruiting the first group of participants. A group of some forty plus gathered that first year from some six nations.
After a successful experience that first August, participants from Mexico were interested in hosting a training in their country. So in June of 2016, another 40-50 people gathered at Tosepan Kali in Cuetzalan in the state of Puebla. After this truly amazing gathering, it was determined that Mexico would hold another training in June of 2017 and a planning committee was formed.
Shortly after the June program, there was a request for a shorter term workshop on nonviolence from a friend from the state of Chiapas, Mexico. So it was offered. Then one of those participants wanted one in his community. So a second was offered. And then a third was requested and offered. A fourth two day workshop is planned in Mexico for late June of 2017.
This Mexican workshop experience convinced our International Coordinating Committee that perhaps we should be offering weekend workshops, preparing people for our longer more intensive training programs. So we will be exploring enlisting the help of trained resource persons to begin offering such workshops in the U.S. beginning in the fall of 2017. This will be one of the options we will begin offering as the Satyagraha Institute, wherever it is requested. We will still emphasize our original intention of bringing people together for a longer and more intense time frame.
A second Hills gathering was held in 2016 with some forty participants from some six nations. It was a little shorter (nine days) instead of two weeks, to accommodate schedules of faculty and participants. The third Black Hills training program is scheduled for August 4-13, 2017.
The Institute is growing and developing organically. The best example of this is our training program in Nigeria. Started by a Nigerian participant in the 2016 Black Hills program, Christopher Ehidiamen, Christopher accepted the responsibility of taking the Institute to his home and inviting other Nigerians to join him. In May of 2017, some thirty persons from Nigeria and at least two other African countries are gathering together in Lagos for a six day training, our first in Africa.
A second new option the Coordinating Committee has decided to offer is a four month immersion experience in India through the Gujarat Vidyapith, the University Gandhi founded. They offer internationals a four month program with half the time focused on Gandhian theory and the other half in the field in Gandhian institutions throughout the country. Two recent Institute participants were in this program from October 2016 to January 2017.
Like the pebble thrown in the pond, we intend to make nonviolent ripples in the global sea of violence. As each new satyagrahi goes home with new knowledge, better skills, a deeper spiritual grounding and a web of extended relationships, we expect a wave to begin emerging. That's the vision!
The hope is to allow the Institute specifics to emerge from the experience and energy of its committed members. We hope to be a living and breathing organism, not an institution. We will depend on our participants to keep dropping pebbles, maybe some stones, and rely on Gandhi's underlying reality of Truth as God to help us move into the future.