What if the world were a peace haven?

Heal the world; make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race…This song reverberates in our ears whenever there is a mention of world peace. If all of us follow the lyrics of this song and implement them in real terms, this world would be a utopia. Alas! Numerous problems beset our planet in the form of hatred, killing, violence and inequalities and so on.

Peace on earth – an elusive or obtainable dream? Every leader in the world aims to find a lasting solution to them. Promoters of the idea of world peace- fraternities, movements, peace evangelists doing their best to secure it! Philosophers, theologians, politicians, and other great thinkers from the past up to the present have offered formulas and ideas for achieving peace but no one has yet come up with a downright quick fix.

We know that wars begin in the minds and hearts of people. It is in the same place that the defense of peace and an ideal state of harmony can be constructed. The peace we build must be on a secure foundation. Not just on political and economic arrangements, but upon an intellectual and moral solidarity with all of mankind.

Unfortunately mankind tries to grab everything by coercive force. Even an intangible and a valuable entity like peace is aimed at by using sheer aggression. People fight wars to maintain‘status quo peace’ in their nations when their opponents attack them. Isn’t that a paradox shedding blood to prevent bloodshed in your own nation? ‘Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding’ as Albert Einstein conveys, has been a long-time endeavor of UNESCO- crusader of mutual understanding while working to eliminate discrimination, intolerance and violence.

Different notions about what constitutes world peace! Is it Resolution of conflict? Is it absence of hunger, deprivation or social justice? It is viewing the forest without seeing the trees instead oflooking the other way around. The perennial question will be where to start.

The teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, lies with the “Golden Rule” which says “not to do unto others what we do not want others to do unto us”. This rings true when we look at how people are treated in some parts of the world.

If we treat other people like we would like to be treated and live harmoniously with one another,there would be no conflict and the rest follows. For this reason, in order to achieve world peace, we have to start with ourselves. Who are we?  Agents of change and ambassadors of good will!

Learning to live together by participating in the wealth diverse cultures of the world…  Averting the fear instinct when confronted with ‘isolation’… This is how one begins the peace process.Engaging in genuine dialogue, rethinking the values of cultural diversity and bridging cultural and religious barriers, breaking stereotypes and turning people away from violence… These are ways to build our relationship with the economy, society and environment. Future challenges of humankind require collective response. This kind of solidarity calls for a holistic approach to world peace.

•Universal humanitarianism

Humanitarianism is the virtue of kindness, benevolence that is extended universally and impartially to all human beings. The basic foundation of world peace… The violence hampering the world peace today is our creation. Misunderstandings, conflicts of ideologies, fighting each other for petty means… All these arise as we are losing sight of basic humanity. Do we bother to maintain supremacy of humanity over matter and ideology? All of us want to be happy and avoid suffering.

A self-centered approach to life and constantly trying to use others for our own benefit, begets us temporary satisfaction. In the long run, we don’t succeed in achieving personal happiness and world peace. Thinking of others when pursuing our own happiness is a ‘wise self-interest’.

If nations are interdependent, that would generate cooperation. Greed and jealousy and the need to overpower the other are what that causes instability.

Humanitarian aid is offered by organizations, domestic and foreign agencies to countries and people in dire need. United Nations Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East provides healthcare, education, social services and emergency aid to Palestinians living in refugee camps in Jordan, Syria etc. Humanitarianism needs to start with our homes. Kindness showered on our nearest and dear ones spreads to other as well. Not everyone can be generous enough to help others who are not related to them, but one can always emulate humanitarian efforts by world agencies and social workers who lend their hand in alleviating distress.

•Compassion as the bolster

Peace is an expression of compassion and a sense of caring which is less visible in this world of disarray and havoc. Compassion and love are the moral constitutions of world peace. The pursuit of the certain things like land and other resources or any other desire and attachment involve the use of aggression and competitiveness as supposed remedies. Wherever there is aggression, it translates into action breeding belligerence. A spirit of sharing and being considerate of other people is called for. The practice of compassion isnecessary especially to those responsible for conducting national affairs, in whose handslie the power and opportunity to create the framework for world peace.

It is compassion which propelled an organization like Amnesty International to protect human rights. It attempts to release prisoners on the basis of their conscience, which plays a vital role in compassion. The world would be so much a better place if we did no harm and do good whenever possible and have the avenue to do so. Compassion gives rise to sympathy, forgiveness and kindles fellow feeling. This trait lacks in voracious eaters of peace and violence perpetrators and needs to be inculcated in them.

In order to achieve world peace, we need the behaviour that is morally praiseworthy and genuine- compassion. In the search for planetary non-violence, we need peace by peaceful means not by callousness and chaotic ways. Peace activist, Michael Naglerexpresses that when we suffer with others we grow and when we close our hearts against people we die within. Violence born out of poverty exists in this world as the government does not understand and sympathize the conditions of the neglected citizens. The government is close hearted, that is, apathetic to the poorer section of the society. If it shows enough compassion whenever there is an agitation in the minds of people, there would be violence unleashed on the common life.

Compassion helps one to assess better the consequences of one’s own action as conveyed by Johan Galtung. If the industrially advanced nations assessed the consequences of manufacturing nuclear weapons and using them for their ulterior motives, then they would not engage in such destruction in the first place. A sense of responsibility is fostered for oneself and others when there is compassion. If nations fighting against each other had this, then they would be fully engaged in trying to solve human problems instead of abusing human rights.

•World religions for world peace

All religions must seek interfaith rather condemning one another. The ideal goal of every religion is peace. The common moral precept taught by all religions is unselfishness and not to take others’ lives. They seek to lead people away from the path of violence, negative deeds owing to ignorance. The aim is to make people tread on the path of goodness.  Whether it is Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism or Zoroastrianism, they want to control the undisciplined mind that harbours selfishness and other seedbeds of trouble.

Religious fundamentalists instead of inciting violence between different religions, ought to envision and create a society that is less conflict-ridden, caring and accepting of others in their otherness. The religious orgnisations must come together to create two kinds ofpeace, both are equally important. Negative peace requires an absence of ongoing violent animosities and conflicts. Positive peace entails a state of equilibrium which enables each of us to attain the goals of flourishing and fulfillment.

If there has to be a mutual understanding between people to avoid wars, then there needs to be a better understanding between different religions that they follow too. The interfaith understanding is pertinent for all religions to work together towards the common goal of world peace. One must acknowledge that one cannot do away with the doctrinal differences in various religions. At the same time, each religion has something distinctive to contribute, so the world needs them all to achieve peace.

Religious practitioners concerned with world peace are faced with two tasks. Firstly, they need to promote respect for all religions and emphasize common concern for human well-being. Secondly, they need to bring about a viable consensus on basic spiritual values that touch every human heart and enhance general happiness irrespective of one’s individual religion. When religious leaders propagate world peace, they need to look at the purpose of religion, which is to be a better human being. They need to overlook details of theology while talking to their followers as that will lead to mere intellectualism. This in turn will only create more greed and peole will use only their minds. If the world has to prosper in the real sense, the use of heart is what is called for.

The metaphysical difference in each religion needs to be kept aside when there is a question of world peace. The fundamental similarities being subjective well-being and selflessness, of all religions have to be seen for the purpose of world peace.

•Individual power to make changes

Johan Galtung experienced the ravages of World War II in German-occupied Norway. As a child, he witnessed his father being arrested by the Nazis. By 1951, he was a committed peace mediator. As an individual he believed that sustainable peace is called for in order to address root causes of conflicts. As individuals he felt that we have the power to transcend war institutions and engage in peace building.

It is not only the people in authority who can be mediators of peace but also commoners and people from different hierarchy. Peace building process has to be inclusive and not estrange anybody from participating in conflict resolution. All of us as individuals have to transcend war as institution by transforming the underlying structures which legitimize wars. Cultural pathologies reinforce war have to be diminished.

Every individual has the power to make changes in this turbulent atmosphere where there is disbelief and victim mentality. It is not only about coming up with mechanismsto prevent war. It is more important to develop viable alternatives. Transcend, a peace building network for transforming conflicts, draws upon the background and experiences of people from every social level. The network produces diagnosis of roots of conflicts and prognosis about what is happening and will happen if nothing is done to transform the conflicts.

World peace entails a willingness to take a fresh look instead of running up and down fixed grooves of thought. Real dialogue requires empathic listening, that’s why, there has to be an inclusive system taking everyone’s concerns into account.

Nobody wants to be a mere spectator, people want their ideas also to be heard when it comes to conflict resolution. Dialogue is vital on each person’s part. Resistance to peace is common many a time as there are people who have a vested interest in maintaining conflict. There are also those who feel their basic grievances and fears have not been addressed.  So in such a case, no person should be left out when it comes to negotiations and talks.

Irrespective of what approach one takes towards world peace, it should always begin with oneself. Inner peace leads to outer peace. One has to see that an eye for an eye leads nowhere. Forgiveness is the key and not revenge. People have to be tolerant and appreciate the diversity and plurality. It is failure to tolerate other people’s opinion, beliefs, their ways that results in discrimination, repression and dehumanizing activities. Last but not the least we have to place peace before power. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Power based on love is thousand times more effective and permanent than power gained through threat of punishment.”

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