A recent report by the Institute for Economics and Peace found that there were only just ten countries in the world which were currently free from conflict or war. Peace is a distant dream on our planet which is still inhabited by people who are no better than the primitive savages. Use of sophisticated weapons does not make the violence civilised. On the contrary, our weapons as well as our attitudes are infinitely more destructive than those of the savages.
13.3 percent of the globe’s total economic activity, $13.6 trillion, is spent on wars and related activities. That is the equivalent of $1876 for every person in the world. In Indian terms, everyone in the world could get Rs 125,000 if we could build up a world of peaceful coexistence.
Mahatma Gandhi was the greatest apostle of peace during his lifetime if not in the entire history of mankind.
Wars begin in the minds of people. Gandhi said that in slightly different words. The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO borrowed that concept from Gandhi. "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed," says the Preamble.
Peace must begin in the minds of people. That was Gandhi’s plain logic. He suggested practical methods for bringing about such peace. Where there is religious fundamentalism, Gandhi recommended tolerance and respect for other creeds. Eradicate social evils, uplift the poor and the downtrodden, treat women as equal to men, decentralise power, decentralise wealth... Gandhi’s suggestions are practical even today.
But we chose to be selfish and called it economic liberalism. We chose to be violent and savage and called it freedom struggles or jihads. We thought nationalism was the right word for our prejudices and hatred.
Gandhi is still relevant. There is so much religion today without spirituality. Such religion is a sin, according to Gandhi. The Mahatma listed seven sins: “politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice." Who can refute the relevance of that teaching even today?
If I may borrow the words of Francis of Assisi, Gandhi was an angel of peace . He sought to bring love where there was hatred. Light where there was darkness. Hope where there was despair.
PS. Today is the 147th birth anniversary of Gandhi. Today is the International Day of Non-violence. May this day make some meaningful difference somewhere, especially at the Indo-Pak borders.