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CULTURE OF PEACE
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.
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:
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:
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.
On the other hand, there were areas of concern:
The ACRP statement suggested specific steps to promote peace and good neighbourly relations in Asia.
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 vision was given by Gandhiji in his inimitable words, with which I close:
©1999 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi