By Henrylito D. Tacio
“I dearly wish to see lasting peace established in Sri Lanka as soon as possible,” said British-born science fiction guru, Arthur C. Clarke, referring to Asia’s longest-running war in which the Tamil Tigers’ campaign for an independent homeland has left tens of thousands dead.
Although the conflict started in 1972, fighting has been escalating in the island since late 2005, when a Nordic-brokered truce unraveled. Clarke, who shot to fame after writing ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ lived for five decades in Sri Lanka until his death recently. “But I’m aware that peace cannot just be wished — it requires a great deal of hard work, courage and persistence,” he said.
That was what John Lennon, one of the Beatles, also dreamed. In one of his famous songs, he wrote: “Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”
Even Martin Luther King, Jr. himself longed for peace. “One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal,” he said. “We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.”
“Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace,” Buddha pointed out. But what is peace? “Peace is more precious than a piece of land,” says Egypt’s Anwar Sadat. An anonymous author puts it this way: “Peace is the marriage of the people and the planet, with all attendant vows.”
Oscar Romero illuminates: “Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.”
If you have seen the Hollywood movie, “Miss Congeniality,” there was a scene where contestants were asked to state their thoughts on anything. But at the end of each answer, they all had one appeal: “world peace.”
Alfred Bernhard Nobel was the man who discovered dynamite. At the time of his death, he controlled factories for the manufacture of explosives in many parts of the world. However, his will provided that the major portion of his $9 million estate be set up as a fund to establish yearly prizes for merit in physics, chemistry, medicine and physiology, literature, and – yes, you’re right! – world peace.
Its Asian counterpart – the Ramon Magsaysay Award – has added the word “peace” in its international understanding category. My former boss, Harold R. Watson, received the prestigious award in 1985. The Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa themselves collected the same award before they were honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.
But despite all the recent initiatives, peace is elusive as ever. “Do you know what astonished me most in the world?” asked French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. “(It’s) the inability of force to create anything. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the spirit. Soldiers usually win battles and generals get the credit for them. You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war. If they want peace, nations should avoid the pin-pricks that precede cannon shots.”
How can peace be attained? “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies,” Moshe Dayan advised. “Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said.
War is not the solution to the problem, although war is going on in other parts of the world to attain peace. But peace can also be achieved if they lay down their arms. The Bible foresees: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).
Hafast Abiola shares this idea: “Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have and all that they are.”
American President John F. Kennedy reiterated, “But peace does not rest in the charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people. So let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper, let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace in the hearts and minds of all of our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings.”
“Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold,” the Dalai Lama claims. “It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighboring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.”
Will there be peace on earth soon? Judy Chicago wishes that day will come soon. “Then all that has divided us will merge. And then compassion will be wedded to power. And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind. And then both men and women will be gentle. And then both women and men will be strong. And then no person will be subject to another’s will. And then all will be rich and free and varied. And then the greed of some will give way to the needs of many. And then all will share equally in the earth’s abundance. And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old. And then all will nourish the young. And then all will cherish life’s creatures. And then all will live in harmony with each other and with the earth. And everywhere will be called Eden, once again.”
Is that a wishful thinking? Well, Mahatma Gandhi declared, “It is possible to live in peace.”
And Walt Whitman, in his ‘Leaves of Grass,’ wrote: “Peace is always beautiful.”
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That we may live in peace
By Henrylito D. Tacio