In Pursuit of Peace

Published: 01.07.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

To achieve peace means to change both individuals and systems.

To achieve peace means disarmament. The present arms race produces not security, but maximum insecurity. We know that any large number of nuclear explosions will bring the nuclear winter, the withering of plant life, animal life, human life over at least half the globe. We know that we have several times been close to nuclear disasters; we know that we have several times, through the error of a man or a machine, been on the brink of nuc1eara disaster. The only security is to get rid of nuclear weapons - yes, and other weapons too. And the first condition is to stop nuclear activities, for only a nuclear freeze can avert the nuclear winter. Once we have stopped we can reverse the process.

To achieve peace means to give priority to feeding the hungry, healing the sick, bringing water to the thirsty, offering the light of education to those who sit in darkness. UNESCO could eliminate illiteracy for the cost of two strategic bombers. World Health Organization (WHO) could rid the world of leprosy, malaria, yaws and trachoma for the cost of one aircraft carrier. It is hard to see how Christians can read Jesus's Parable of the Sheep and the goats without horror, for under it the nations are judged according to whether we have fed the hungry. No excuses are allowed. If we have not done so, we are in hell. "Every gun that is fired, every warship that is launched, every rocket that is made, constitutes, in a final sense, a theft from those who are hungry and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." So said President Eisenhower.

Or in the words of the poet Longfellow:

Were half the power that fills the world with terror,
Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts
Given to redeem the human mind from error,
There were no need of arsenals or forts.

To achieve peace means to be effective members of the United Nations. The UN is not a blueprint for world government. It is an instrument for the cooperation of the nations, for us to use as well will. It does not exist apart from us. Its failure are our failures, its successes our successes. But we must not use it when it is convenient to us, and ignore it at other times. We must put it in the forefront of our policies at all times. We must channel aid from North to South through its agencies, so that aid is not just a form of neocolonialism. We must give the states of the South more say in the International Monetary Fund. We must strengthen the peace-making and peace­keeping functions. We must see that when the Security Council calls for mandatory sanctions, its call leads to action.

To achieve peace means a change of mind over nationalism, so that it ceases to be a danger to world peace. Local, tribal, state, national loyalties are deeply precious. But unless they are held against an overriding commitment to the unity of all humankind, they become a deeply divisive sin. Only if there is that clear higher loyalty can those lesser loyalties take their proper place. Uncontrolled nationalism has been the major cause of wars.

To achieve peace means to be committed to peace. A great British peace-leader, Clifford Macquire used to say, "I can't disarm Russia I can't disarm America. I can't disarm Britain, I can't disarm you. There is only one person in the world I can disarm - myself." For those who hold a religious commitment, this should be a clear part of it: the Hindi tradition of ahimsa and Gandhi's satyagraha; the injunction to Jains and Buddhists not to take life; the Taoist doctrine of wu-wei, passive acceptance; the Jewish vocation to suffering; Christ's call to Jove the enemy and to refuse to meet violence with violence; the preciousness of peace in the Quran, the Sufi understanding of the Jihad as spiritual, and the example of Abdul Ghaffar Khan among the Muslims. We have fallen far away from our calling. It is by such commitment that the world will be changed.


Anuvibha Reporter (Special Issue: Dec. 2000)
Ahimsa, Peacemaking, Conflict Prevention and Management Proceedings and Presentations
Fourth International Conference on Peace and Nonviolent Action (IV ICPNA)
New Delhi: Nov. 10-14, 1999

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