What Is Shanti Sena ?

> >What is a Shanti Sena?

In addition to the vibe that we are *all* responsible for keeping the peace, and the encouragement for everyone to be involved in what we Rainbows see as a community responsibility, it's important to know that there is also a Shanti Sena Clan that sees peacekeeping as being their primary volunteer service at a gathering. There is some consistency in networking and communications for more serious or ongoing situations, as well.

Just as with any volunteer service, some people don't want to do it at all. Others are happy to help out when the need arises. Others, such as myself, consider ourselves on duty 24 hours a day. Naturally, the degree of experience and competence varies, as does the degree to which people communicate with others about day-to-day or ongoing situations.

Many of the folks at the gathering carry radios. Not all of them are Shanti Sena. And not all Shanti Sena clan carry radios at all times. But if there is a serious situation that needs more than an on-the-spot intervention, anyone can go up to anyone with a radio and ask them to call for a major Shanti Sena effort or a Shanti Sena council.

Examples of when to put out the word gathering-wide that Shanti Sena help is needed would be an instance of a lost child, or a violent person who is out of control.

Examples of when a Shanti Sena Council might be called is an occurence of sexual assault or the consideration of what to do with a mentally ill person who is a danger to self or others.

As with any other function of the gathering, there is no real organization, but there is a lot of co-ordination and cooperation. And as with any other function of the gathering, sometimes it runs very smoothly and sometimes there are problems. Sometimes the people involved are wonderful, and sometimes they are assholes.

A general word of caution: if someone tells you something that doesn't sound or feel right, like "You should give me all your money to hold because I'm Shanti Sena," they are lying. I've heard stories over time of abuses committed in the name of Shanti Sena. This really upsets me.

No one has authority over anyone else at a gathering. Shanti Sena are peace-keepers, mediators, diplomats, crisis counselors, and so forth. They are *not* cops, and have no right to violate anyone's rights. They only time there is a moral or legal right to detain or restrain someone or instruct them to do somehting they would otherwise not do, is when there is imminent danger to self or others

. If you see someone doing something in the name of Shanti Sena and have questions about whether or not it is righteous, please ask for a full Shanti Sena council immediately. Ask someone to put the word out on the radio that others should come join in. We are each other's best checks and balances.

Most of the instances where I have heard of questionable actions taken in the name of Shanti Sena have occurred at Regionals. This I believe to be due to lack of experience and/or communication. Any mistakes in this direction can be avoided by following some general guidelines.

The following guidelines are a working definition only - formulated by me as I write - and are open to additions, corrections, and whatever discussion or argumentation we wish to enter into.

  1. Safety is the primary consideration of any Shanti Sena action - safety for both the person acting out and for the people around them.
  2. Whenever possible, interventions should be non-physical. Any physical intervention should be as brief and as gentle as possible, and then only if someone is harming themself or others.
  3. If any decision needs to be made about what to do about an ongoing situation, or about an instance in which violence has occurred, it should never be made by one or two people, and it should not be made in the heat of the moment. Folks need to chill, sit down with each other in a circle, OM to bring in Spirit, and then discuss the issue calmly.
  4. Whenever possible, we try to deal with the situation in camp. If someone is a clear and imminent danger to self or others, however, it is appropriate to turn them over to the police if no other solution can be arrived at to insure the safety of other gatherers; or if the person is mentally ill and is clearly a threat due to their disorientation, it is appropriate to turn them over to the local mental health system. Many people may question whether this is the best thing to do, and questioning is a good thing; but there comes a time when all other options for safety have been exhausted and our only resort is the system. Sad but true.
  5. The purpose of Shanti Sena is not to determine guilt or innocence, or to mete out justice or punishment. If someone has been injured and wishes to press charges, they have the right to do so and to turn it over to the criminal justice system. It is not Shanti Sena's place to decide that this should not be done. There may also be instances in which an injured person may not wish to press charges, but a Shanti Sena council determines that the perpetrator presents an ongoing threat to safety, and in that case might fall back on point #4.
  6. There are times when someone just doesn't get that their behavior is not acceptable, but it is not appropriate to turn them over to the system. Yet, we may not feel that they are safe to remain at the gathering. At that point, a Shanti Sena council may determine that the best course of action is to ask the person to leave the gathering. This option should never be taken lightly, and only in instances where safety cannot be insured by any other means. It should be carried out gently and respectfully, the person being escorted to the highway or to the bus station. The "banishment" stays in effect for that gathering only. There is no such thing as permanent exile from the gathering. All people are capable of change, and hopefull they will get the message the first time they are not allowed to stay.
Finally, I would like to say that by and large, I have seen this informal system work very well. Fortunately, we don't have do take drastic action very often, having found more creative and effective ways of communicating and teaching people what is necessary to live healthy and safe in a community without rules or laws. It's amazing, but we really do maintain functional, peaceful anarchy at the gatherings. Nothing short of a miracle, in fact. I guess we're back to giving God/dess credit - with a little help from our friends, naturally! Call it voluntary compliance with common sense, temporary insanity, or whatever, but somehow, we do it.

In love and service,