Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
It is almost one and half months that we 22 from four subcontinents have been living here at CU I House on the same floor. Ms. Wendy, my neighbor hears my shower time songs, lyrics unknown to her, but she enjoys. So many minds, so many different backgrounds, so many perspectives, so many different values, ah it is all so many. We talk peace, no it is not mere peace, we are here for positive peace. Yes, we do work but here professors work more than us! They have been trying their best to open up my insulation. Bob Marley songs, war videos, peace videos, dance, and what not are used to help us understand peace. No, positive peace.
Is it possible to understand peace in isolation? Is it possible to understand peace without any a backdrop? Is it possible to understand peace without taking contemporary history into account? I think it is not possible.
Who has changed the world in the 20th century, the professor asked. I said Hitler. Everyone was taken by surprise. I could see red faces. The body language of the professor made it clear to me –“hey man, it is an assembly of Bishops for peace and you are uttering the name of that scoundrel. May god help you.” But I was right. Had there been no Hitler there would not have been the Second World War. Had there been no Second World War, the colonies would have remained as colonies. Is it not for peace? Freedom to colonies and emergence of new nation state, was not it a positive peace? Yes, I do agree that we are not free from corruption, we are still starving, we are yet to have basic amenities, and the human development index is not up to our expectations. This is not peace. Right, I do admit it. We will have to make it. Nothing comes of its own, someone has to bring it. And for that, if not you, then who? If not now, when? But mind it, peace is always a relative term. Do not try to make it absolute, it may turn to eternal peace. Peace does not mean the tranquility of graveyards.
In one and half months we have discussed peace and great leaders of peaceful movements. Only one Indian could made some space for himself in our deliberations, that is Mahatma Gandhi, obviously.
The whole world knows Mahatma led the freedom movement of India and he did it by Satyagraha in a peaceful way. It is an observation made in isolation without taking contemporary history into account. What was the time, when Prime Minister Attley was actively considering freedom to India? It was just after the Second World War. Though the allies won the war, they were not in a position to keep their colonies and they knew it. That is why they gave in and the Satyagraha of Mahatma was a success. The world order became bi polar and the USSR emerged as a new force, Eastern Europe and the Balkans became newly red. The world order has changed again following the “Glassnost” and “Parastroika”. The USSR is no more. Now it is a unipolar world and we are doing everything to make Uncle Sam happy.
Do you think that in the contemporary back drop of human history any country could get freedom through Satyagraha? We are living in a world where even ‘sovereign’ countries are not free. In this WTO regime no country can decide its economic developments on its own terms. Do you think Satyagraha can make us free from this bondage? Do you remember the story of Angulimala and Buddha’s intervention? Buddha came to intervene at what point of time? When Angulimala had already killed 999 people and the last one was supposed to be his mother. The Buddha stepped in at this point. Buddha did not try to stop Angulimala at the time of the very first killing, he waited until 999. That is the teaching. Now our duty is to wait until 999? No intervention, keep quite, and remain in “peace” until the situation goes to the worst possible extent.
Religion has not been able to bring peace to today‘s world.
In India we have been having the curse of ‘untouchability’. The so called high caste people never allowed the so called lower caste people to develop their life and social status. 200 years ago thousands of untouchables decided to give up Hinduism as this religion did not give them social justice. In order to make a life beyond this curse, thousands of untouchable people become Christians.
But did they get social justice? NO! They remained as untouchable or dalit Christian in India. New converts of the so called upper caste will not share the same church with them. Burial grounds meant for the upper caste Christians can’t be used by the dalit Christians! Even dalit Christians can’t have a single drop of water from the common well of the village. What is a good religion? God is the same, goodness is not.
In central and western India the scenario was different. A highly educated dalit leader, who is also one of the makers of the Indian constitution, Mr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, accepted Buddhism by his choice after a great deal of study of scriptures. He was followed by thousands of dalits of central and western India. But these new Buddhists didn’t get the social justice in that religion also. Nowhere in India in all big Buddhist shrines and monasteries will one get to see a Buddhist monk from these dalit communities in prominent status. They are not allowed have it because they are low caste Buddhists!
Which is the better religion for them? Are they in peace?
We will have to pave the way for enduring peace. But how? I am waiting for another one and half months, as I am sure to get an answer.
Prasanta Rajguru, India
Rotary Peace Fellow
January 2015 Session