Timo, nonviolence and the Metta Center

Timo with Stephanie and Michael in Petaluma

Timo wrote explaining his work and life in Finland:


Since 1999, I have been working at Lapinjärvi Educational Center (LEC) (until 2008 as a full-timer, after that as a guest lecturer) and teaching Civil Service Men, i.e. conscientious objectors who refuse to do the military service. Finland is one of the few countries in Europe who still have obligatory military service (the others are Greece, Cyprus, Belarus, Swizerland and to some extend also Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Russia and Norway). In Finland about 65 % of the age group do military service, 7 % civil service (in schools, hospitals, universities, libraries, municipality offices, ngo’s etc.) and the rest don’t have to participate because of medical reasons. In LEC we give the men (aged 18-30) a one month training before they do their 10 months work-service. We give them lectures about fist aid, fire fighting, the system of obligatory military service, oil spill response, civil defence, democracy, history, nonviolence and many other things.

Even before finding the Metta Center from the internet I had visited India, “found Gandhi,” read his autobiography and other books about him, and watched the documentary “A Force More Powerful” (first time just by chance in a hotel room in Estonia). Inspired by the film (and the lives of Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi, MLK, Aung San Suu Kyi, etc.) I started a lecture called Nonviolent Conflict Resolution, with the aim of introducing the young audience to new heroes and of inspiring them to find out more about nonviolence.

One day I found Michael Nagler’s lectures from YouTube and the Metta Center’s page and this has helped me in many ways. I got many new perspectives on the subject: the spiritual side of nonviolence, the difference between technical and principled nonviolence, about constructive program, the link between antimaterialism and nonviolence. Interestingly, I also teach about “life skills”, which is a lecture, or actually a discussion about values and about the meaning of life. Metta Center’s material (including The Search for a Nonviolent Future) made me realize how closely connected my two lectures were. Nowadays the name of the lecture is simply “Nonviolence,”  the emphasis is on the principle of nonviolence and if I don’t have a separate lecture about life skills to the particular audience, I start even the nonviolence lecture by asking them, in small groups, to list out their most important values. In that way we get into discussion about happiness, what it is, what do we need to be happy etc., before we go in to the principles of nonviolence. I visit Metta Center’s web site every week to get more materials and ideas for my lectures, but mostly to just get inspired, again and again. 

Besides my work (which includes giving those lectures at LEC and writting a travel guide about Sarajevo) I do voluntary work for Peace Union Finland and Finnish Christian Peace Association. I also organise Loviisa Peace Forum, which is an annual event in Loviisa every August, a meeting point of people, ideas, cultures and religions. The aim of the Forum is to lessen fears of humankind, find new ideas and celebrate life. We have seminars, theatre -performances, movies, exhibitions etc., and I try to keep the nonviolence -theme in the forefront as much as possible.