Attaining Peace


John was stressed. When he came home one night, he felt upset and unhappy. The children were playing and noisy, and he got irritated and shouted at them. The dinner food was not to his taste, so he snapped at his wife with critical words. The wife left the dining table and went to her room, not finishing her dinner. The next day, when John went to the office, he did not respond to greetings and got impatient with his office mate. Then late in the morning, his boss reprimanded him. He automatically shouted back. He was fired that day. He felt so angry that when he drove back home in his car, he drove so fast that he rammed his car to a vehicle in front which was slower and blocking him.
The state of harmony in John’s family, workplace and community, was being disturbed by the agitated state of John’s mind, emotions and stress. Had he been more cheerful, none of the unpleasant things around him might have happened.

There are two kinds of peace: inner peace and social peace. The first one is more important than the second one because it is inner conflict that causes outer conflict. When individuals have inner peace and harmony, then he will inevitably contribute to social peace, whether it is in his family, his company, in the community or in the world. He will not tend to commit acts of aggression, injustice, oppression or violence.

When we look at the various dimensions of social peace, we will find the same pattern. When people have fear and insecurity towards another group of people, there is a tendency to be hostile towards the other group. This hostility leads to words and actions that will only worsen the mutual hostility, such as creation of restrictive policies or barriers to trade. Untoward incidents may arise that may eventually lead to violence, conflicts and wars.

This was what happened between Pakistan and India, Israel and the Arab countries, Mexico and the United States. In Ireland, the dislike and insecurity was between Catholics and Protestants, both Christians, which led to violence and bombings between them.

How can these be prevented in the future? Through education. When children are taught to understand other groups without prejudice, whether between nations or religions, then they tend to feel more harmonious towards other groups. I have lived with families who belong to various nationalities and religions, and I find that people are more or less the same — kind, hospitable and friendly. But when they have been taught biases against other groups, then they unconsciously develop hostility.

Schools should be encouraged to teach the histories, cultures and religions of other people with an open mind. We must teach young people to become world citizens and not just citizens of a particular country. Due to ease of travel and communication, the earth has become a small place of 7 billion people, sharing the same resources, the same air and oceans and the same dangers. We must learn how to live as one family regardless of our culture and religion. But because of insecurity and mutual hostilities, countries spend so much money on weapons and defense systems instead of channeling those funds to fight hunger and poverty.

The top five countries in military budget (US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and India) spend a total of more than one trillion US dollars per year on weapons and defense systems. The United Nations estimated that it will only need US$116 billion a year, or just about ten percent of what these five countries spend for defense, to eradicate hunger in the world and even remove global poverty.

But such military buildup will continue so long as people distrust and dislike each other. We must build a world where people will no longer think in terms of national boundaries and self-interests. The example of Costa Rica is worthwhile to emulate. It has no armed forces and hence no military expenditures according to its constitutional provision in 1949. It has never been at war with any other country since then and has been one of the most stable and progressive nations in Latin America despite the fact that it is neighbor to countries that have suffered from political turbulence, high crime rate and social violence in the past half century, namely, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

We need to think of ourselves as brothers and sisters living on one earth — the only habitable globe that we know.

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