By Francis Gonsalves
Sep 26, 2014
A bus conductor noticed a passenger with a huge parcel on his lap. “What have you got there?” he asked. Said the passenger, “An unexploded bomb found in my verandah. I’m taking it to the police station.”
Horrified, the bus conductor said, “Hey, man! You shouldn’t carry explosives in your lap! Put it under your seat!”
Since we neither see nuclear warheads nor have we suffered nuclear warfare, we’re blissfully unaware that we’re literally sitting on megatons of nuclear weapons capable of destroying planet earth many times over. Hence, in this week that embraces UN’s International Day of Peace (September 21) and International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (September 26), let’s pray for peace and chip in our might for promoting it.
Shanti! Salaam! Shalom! Paz! Pace! Paix! are peace-greetings exchanged ceaselessly across creeds and countries. But do we savour peace? For the ancient Greeks and Romans, peace was more important in theory than in practice. Hence, they deified the concept in the goddess, Pax/Eirene — a youthful female holding in her left arm a horn of plenty, a cornucopia, and in her right hand the wealthy infant Plutus.
Although politicians shrewdly theorise about peace, they’d rather keep the fires of communal conflicts blazing since it’s easier to garner votes of frightened people. However, it’s the Aam Aadmi/Aurat who matters most in ensuring peace within him/herself before embracing the world with peace.
In his book Being Peace, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes: “Without being peace, we cannot do anything for peace. How can we create peace, if there’s no peace within ourselves?” Likewise, chapter 8 of the Chandogya Upanishad mentions the adjective “of peaceful heart” (Santahridaya) seven times. So let us destroy all anger, envy and hatred from our hearts and we’ll experience inner peace.
The Quran teaches: “If you enter dwellings say salaam to one another...” During the Salaat, the prescribed prayer, salaam is used as a benediction for Allah and Prophet Muhammad. Moreover, salaam is one of the 99 beautiful names of Allah (Q. 59/23). If salaam is one of the names of God, it’s but natural that God’s sons/daughters — you and I — be called “children of peace”.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace-makers for they shall be called children of God.” Indeed, peace requires “makers” for two reasons: first, it has many “breakers” and second, it does not rain down from the skies automatically.
Sadly, although there are many peace-makers among believers, there are many peace-breakers too who portray God as terrorist and use scriptures as WMDs. It’s our dharma to expose their Adharma, disarm their diabolic use of scripture, and evolve inter-religious initiatives for peace. The Krukshetra was a Dharmakshetra. Shanti! Give peace a chance.
Francis Gonsalves is a professor of theology.