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CULTURE OF PEACE

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Working Together for Peace 
The Asian Perspective 

M. Aram

 

India, fortunately, is the home of all religions and birthplace of four: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Bahaism have found a hospitable home in India.

The way Zoroastrianism came into India is a fascinating story. When the Parsis came as refugees seeking asylum and landed on the coast of Gujarat, their head met the king of the region and asked for land and permission to live in peace. They would put aside their weapons. The king granted permission. The Parsi leader said that they would be like sugar added to the milk. To this day, the small Parsi community is like sugar in milk, a precious part of Indian society.

Moral Basis: Satya and Ahimsa

The moral basis for peace comes from religions. Religion has been the source of values. Mahatma Gandhi identified truth and non-violence as the twin principles of morality. The genius of Gandhi was that he extended satya and ahimsa to the social realm. This was his historic contribution. Let me quote Gandhiji himself.

We have to make truth and non-violence, not matters for mere individual practice but for practice by groups and communities and nations. That at any rate is my dream, I shall live and die in trying to realise it.

Indeed he lived and died for non-violence and truth.

Nagaland Peace Mission

The Nagaland peace effort was an example of the practice of non-violence and truth. First there was cease-fire — the eschewal of violence as a method of settling a political dispute. Then there was ‘continuous dialogue’. It took many years of dialogue before we arrived at the Shillong Peace Accord.

There was also the policy of transparency — truth was not hidden. The Peace Observers’ Team helped in finding out the truth and letting it be known to all concerned and to the public.

When there was a stalemate in political talks, two principles were identified and accepted:

1. The solution should be honourable to all concerned.

2. The solution should be acceptable to both parties.

We moved towards a final solution where there is no vanquished or victor. It would be a win-win situation — the path Lord Buddha had shown. A sincere approach was of the essence. It took time before confidence was built. I recall the underground leader saying:

Many people say, ‘Peace, Peace’.

It is not heart Peace, it is mouth Peace.

The Asian Scenario

Last month the ACRP (Asian Conference on Religion and Peace) met in Thailand, at Ayutthaya, the ancient capital. Dr A.T. Ariyaratne was there. Let me quote excerpts from the statement we adopted.

The emerging scenario in Asia presents positive trends which favour peace, security and good neighbourhood.

Economic power is gaining precedence over military power.

New global values find increasing acceptance.

Democratic processes and citizens’ actions are on the rise.

Growing economic independence is another positive development.

On the other hand, there were areas of concern:

The people of Asia are profoundly concerned about the ongoing arms build-up and proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The ACRP statement suggested specific steps to promote peace and good neighbourly relations in Asia.

  • to relax visa regulations to enable free movement of people — to reduce military spending

  • to make more budgetary allocation for education and health

  • to send inter-religious goodwill missions to areas of conflict like Sri Lanka

  • to create a common Asian security system

And further:

Asia is rich in diversity of race, culture and religion. Let us appreciate and celebrate our differences and live together in a spirit of mutual accommodation and acceptance.

Building a Sharing Community

Sharing is much better than gifting. Sharing means a sense of community. Building a sharing community is eminently practicable. Our cultural background nourished by our respective religious teachings provide a suitable environment to launch such endeavours. Let us launch them.

Building a Culture of Peace

The culture of peace

Has to be built

brick by brick,

Act by act,

Community by community.

The vision was given by Gandhiji in his inimitable words, with which I close:

In this structure composed of innumerable villages, there will be ever-widening, never-ascending circles. Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual, always ready to perish for the village, the village ready to perish for the circle of villages, till at last the whole becomes one life composed of individuals never aggressive in their arrogance but ever humble, sharing the majesty of the oceanic circle of which they are integral parts.

 

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