Peacemaking and Conflict Prevention Strategies



By Mr. Ramjee Singh


Prayer, Preaching and Precept : Faith cannot be developed except through prayer. "Nonviolence succeeds only when we have a living faith in God" - says Gandhi. 1 Human effort must always be there. All this and much more along the same line can never be a substitute for prayer. But one may ask, "Why pray at all?" Doesn't God, if there be one, know what has happened? "Does 'He stand in need of prayer to enable Him to do His Duty?" The answer is - "No, God need no reminder. He is within everyone. Nothing happens without His permission. Our prayer is a heart search. It is a reminder to ourselves that we are helpless without His support ... Prayer is a call to humility. It is a call to purification, to onward search. "2 In its simplest definition, prayer is merely a wish turned God-ward.

A popular preacher once said of his pulpit efforts, "I always roar when I have nothing to say." To love to preach is one thing - to love those to whom we preach, quite another. Pulpit discourses have insensibly dwindled. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions. The, defects of a preacher are soon spied. "It is better to allow our lives to speak for us than our words. God did not bear the Cross only 1900 years ago, but he bears it today. "3 Crucification of Christ is more powerful than the innumerable sermons delivered from the pulpit so far. An ounce of action is better than tons of words. What is faith worth if it is not translated into action? Hence Gandhi advises: "Do not then preach the God of history, but show Him as He lives today through you. "4

He further said: "My life is my message." It means that even a lofty utterance that has not the backing of sincerity and experience will be inert and lifeless, and will utterly fail to penetrate and quicken the hearts of men.

Saints and scholars have been eulogising the virtue of peace from time immemorial, but the world is still not conflict-free. It seems that "war is the mad game that the world so loves to play." Even the great warrior Napoleon curses war as the "business of the barbarians." Glorification of war misleads the youth to think that slaughter is the most heroic virtue.

There are scholars who not only glorify wars but regard them as pious also. Many dreadful and long wars have been fought and justified in the name of religion - Jehads, Crusades, supporting wars to end injustices are common. But it is also believed that to be prepared for war is one of the most efficacious ways of preserving peace. Then there are those who advocate war for human progress and so on.

The science of war has not only been a part and parcel of our polity but it has been an essential dimension of our educational curriculum also. For example, Dhanurveda of Military Science has been recognised as one of the auxiliary scriptures ( Upaveda ) and an essential part of Vedic education. So also in ancient Greece and Rome, training in military warfare was regarded as the most prestigious part of education.

Peacemaking Through Peace-Education : What is required as a precursor of peace­making is the introduction of peace­education and peace-research. Before the onset of nuclear era, peace-education and peace-research were more or less a fad for a few pacifists. If we recall, Theo attempted to establish the intimate relationship between science and peace in his book entitled Towards a Science of Peace published as back as 1955. Also he has suggested scientific methods for conflict­resolution and prevention of war. The SIPRI (Stockholm Institute for Peace Research), set up in Sweden in 1966, started publishing World Armament and Disarmament SIPRI Yearbook from 1968. Subsequently, dozens of universities set up peace centres focusing on conflict prevention methods. According to the Peace Diary, 1995, we find a list of 176 international and 1700 national organisations engaged in either peace-education or peace­research studies or training in peace in the wake of nuclear prolification at an alarming speed. The United States alone possesses about 30,000 nuclear war-heads and their power of destruction is a thousand times greater than that of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. When Einstein was asked: "With which weapon shall we fight in the Third World War?", he replied, I cannot say about the Third War but so far as the Fourth War is concerned, we shall be constrained to fight with our nails and teeth." The idea behind it was that a nuclear war will mean the total annihilation of mankind. It is precisely this reason that in spite of humiliation and losses in men and material it suffered, the United States, having 'overkilling' nuclear capacity decided not to deploy nuclear weapons in Cuba, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Yugoslavia.

Misconceptions and Scientific Truth : We still suffer from some worn out orthodoxical beliefs that violence is ingrained in our inheritance, genetic constitution, behaviour and brain. The representatives consisting of distinguished anthropologists, ethnologists, psychologists of the Spanish Unesco at Seville (Spain) in the 'Statement' declared on May 16, 1986 that it is scientifically incorrect to say that

  • we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors;

  • that war or any other violent behaviour is genetically programmed into our human nature;

  • that humans have a 'violent brain';

  • that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behaviour; and

  • that war is caused by 'instinct' or any single motivation.5

Astonishingly enough, even enlightened people, quoting the Ramayan and the Gita, justify war for upholding righteousness. But this argument is not tenable. Firstly, We have witnessed the saddest tragedy of the war of the Mahabharata. Secondly, there is a qualitative change in the nature of warfare during the nuclear age. Hence, we have to explore a 'moral equivalent of war' or a 'war without violence'.

Role of Education in Peacemaking : Since war has lost its relevance, we have to be serious about 'peace-education and research' as well as 'training for peace and nonviolence'. Not only this, we must not also neglect 'peace extension progra­mmes'. Extension is recognized as the third eye of education. The U.N. rightly calls upon educational institutions and media to create the necessary political will. Pope has said:

"It is education thatforms the common mind;
Just as the twig is bent, the toe is inclined."

For inculcating the attitude of peace and nonviolence, we must have Peace Education or Disarmament Education. The establishment of Peace Education Commission under the auspices of the International Peace Research Association marked a decisive phase in the history of peace-education. The recent contribution and initiative of many western scholars and peace activists in the field of peace-research is so amazing that it puts Indian scholars, who are supposed to be traditional custodians of peace and nonviolence, to shame. Out of 234 Indian Universities and more than 10 thousand colleges, there exists hardly 10 university departments and only a dozen colleges having courses in Gandhian Studies and Peace Research.

It is high time the Indian insight and its traditional experience combined with western peace researches to develop an integrated view of peace-making. It is due to the lack of imagination and creativity that educational planners in India have failed to realise the importance of introducing peace­science in the scheme of higher education, while incorporating the study of military science as an important subject and N.C.C. ( Military Training ) as an extension programme.

Indian Philosophy of History' of Peace : In India peace-education has been left to the saints and sages who have invariably emphasized the value of peace throughout their sermons. Even Indian philosophy and culture are replete with the message of nonviolence. Ideology of peace is an integral part of our life and society. We start any important function with the invocation of Peace: 'Om Shanti' and so we end with 'Om Shanti' . There has been a strong legacy of nonviolence in Indian culture. It regards that human society is a ceaseless growth in terms of spirituality. The Indian philosophy of history believes that man has been steadily progressing towards nonviolence or ahimsa. Our remote ancestors were cannibals. Then they began to live on chase, then as hunters, then on agriculture and so on. All these are signs of progressive nonviolence and diminishing violence. Prophets and avatars have also taught the lesson of ahimsa. Not one of them has professed himsa. Man as animal is violent, but as Spirit is non-violent. And yet violence seems to persist. If mankind has steadily progressed towards ahimsa, it follows that it has to progress towards it still further.

The Holistic Approach ; There are generally two approaches of peacemaking -subjective and objective. The subjective approach is generally advocated by the religious saints and sages, According to them, peace does not dwell in outward things, but within the soul. Five great enemies to peace inhabit with us viz. avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride. If these enemies were to be banished, we should enjoy perpetual peace. Hence it is said that if we have not peace within ourselves, it is vain to seek it from outward sources. All our religious teachers emphasize the subjective aspect of peace and prescribe necessary moral discipline and meditational practices. This is known as yoga, which aims at internal peace through the cessation of mental activities. Different schools and religious sects adopt different methods of meditation.

This religio-spiritual approach of peace­making is traditional. Saints and peers of all religions have been decrying violence and war and eulogising peace. The very word 'Islam' means peace. According to Vinoba Bhave, the term Hindu literally means "one who is away from violence". (Hi = Himsa, i.e. violence, +du = away). The emphasis, however, is upon individual orientation. If we can change the individual, society will be automatically changed. Wars can be abolished or reduced only in direct ratio to the abolition or reduction of war-mentality.

Moral disarmament must precede physical disarmament. The centre of morality is the individual. Whether it is the doctrine of unity of mankind, or unity between science and religion or between religion and religion, it rests on the crest of the individual. Lord Krishna, who had probably more personal experience of war than even a modern field­marshal, said long ago: "Lust. Hate and Greed form the triple gateway into Hell. "6 So they say that the "Paradise is within Thee" as the fount of fragrance is within the musk-deer. Hence the work of the different religions have been foundational in purifying the very source of fountain.

Even in modern times. the Inter-religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP) and World Congress of Religion for Peace (WCRP) or Fellowship in Prayer (FP) and others do try to achieve peace but it is a tragedy that religion has not always been providing force of reconciliation across the world today. Instead of providing a constructive force, religions have become a destructive force resulting in a lot of problems. Organisations like Theosophical Society whose teachings are based on claims of mystic insight into the nature of God and the Laws of the Universe are no doubt making honest endeavours but peace requires a more robust, realistic and holistic approach. Besides, religions are interlockers in mutual rivalries. Religious approach is one-sided and individualistic.

Peace demands a comprehensive and pragmatic supplementary approach. Although violence has lost its dynamics in the thermonuclear age, the hold of violence is so profound on our mind that we still put our faith in its capacity to succeed. This necessitates a multi-pronged attack.

Firstly, we should understand that peace is not only the absence of war, it is much more positive. Even interpreted, the term 'nonviolence', the Indian equivalent of 'peace' (Ahimsa) seems to be of negative import or form. Nonviolence is not only the absence of violence but it implies 'active love'. Gandhi's non-cooperation movement had its root not in hatred, but in love. Hate is the subtle form of violence. We cannot be nonviolent and yet have hate in us. In its positive form, ahimsa means the largest love, greatest charity. "If I am a follower of ahimsa, I must love my enemy" - says Gandhi.

The second misconception regarding the nonacceptance of nonviolence as a viable ideology is that peace is passive and nonmilitant in character. People forget that love is the strongest force before which the hardest heart and the grossest ignorance must disappear. Nonviolence is not resignation from all real fighting against wickedness, it does not mean meak submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means 'the putting of one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Gandhi has a distaste for passive spirituality or passive non-violence. He says, "Yours should not merely be a passive spirituality that spends itself in idle meditation, but it should be an active thing which will carry war into the enemy's camp." Giving examples of the militancy of the apostles of peace Gandhi says: "Buddha fearlessly carried war into the enemy's camp and brought down on its knees an arrogant priesthood. Christ drove out the money-changers from the temple of Jeruselam and drew down curses from the heaven upon the hypocrites and the Pharisees." Both were for intensely direct action. Nonviolence is not cowardice or even weakness.7 Nonviolence and cowardice do not go together.8 Possession of arms implies an element of fear, if not cowardice. Gandhi's oft-quoted statement is inspiring when he says "I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should cowardly become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour."9

The third misconception is that it is a long­drawn out process. But, "it is the swiftest the world has seen, for it is the surest." The way of peace ensures internal growth and stability. Nobody questions that the path of nonviolence or peace is the nobler way and it prevents brutalisation of human nature but there is always a doubt how a disarmed neutral country can stop external aggression nonviolently. Gandhi had suggested some methods of 'civilian defence'. Firstly, it would restrict the passage of invading army by refusing all supplies. Secondly, one should be prepared to re-enact a Thermopylae and should like a living wall of men, women and children inviting the invaders to walk over your corpses. Gandhi had shown such courage in the Satyagraha of Bardoli and Peshawar.

It is generally thought that peace and nonviolence are meant only for saints and sages. Gandhi tried to depict nonviolence as a universal principle applicable in all spheres of life and in all circumstances. It is applicable in the forum and the legislatures as in the market place. Secondly, it is not mere individual practice but for the practice by groups and communities and nations. This shows its societal dimension.

Some people think that nonviolence has no place in politics and worldly affairs. Gandhi strongly refuted this charge by saying: "I have no use for them as a means of individual salvation."

Peace and nonviolence begin at home. Domestic violence has become a writ large phenomenon these days when children are illtreated, women abused and even burnt, servants treated like animals and so on. We can teach and practise nonviolence even at home. Even toy soldiers should be abolished. "We must disarm the nursery" ­said Dr. Paulin a Luisi. We must home a temple of peace.

Similarly, we must develop nonviolent political science. Dr. Glenn D. Paige has, in his book: To Nonviolent Political Science suggested cycles of growth from violence to nonviolent awakening, to exploration of nonviolent alternatives, and to consolidation to resources in preparation for a new season of work for nonviolent global transformation. A centralised political structure is bound to lead to violence and exploitation. Similarly, totalitarianism, aggressive nationalism and theocratic fundamentalist states are bound to lead to violence.

Like nonviolent politics, we must have nonviolent economics, which should have a notion of a balanced development. Craze for the growth in material progress, leads to wrong notion of development and to the erosion of natural resources and pollution of environment. Gandhi advocated an economy of peace and permanence, appropriate technology and non-exploitative economy.

Violence is also ingrained in our social structure. Discrimination itself is a subtle form of violence. To fight the menace of untouchability or social apartheid, Gandhi put his whole heart and soul for its liquidation. He was a crusader against social injustice like early marriage, oppression of women, casteism, untouchability and so on.

The dream of a peaceful society is impossible without peace-education. The present educational system neglects the education in human values. Secondly, it is education of the class rather than the masses. Hence it has become a vested interest. Paule Fairire has therefore advocated the "Pedagogy of the Oppressed". Thirdly, there is a sort of regimentation in the present system, so Ivan Ellich has advocated "de-schooling" or "non­formal education". The very concept of competition in class and sports are based on the notion of Darwin's "struggle for existence" and "survival of the fittest". Education should become an instrument of nonviolent social change.

Triple Transformation : Peace is no doubt the demand of our time. Mere meditation or sermons on peace are not enough. Peacemaking needs some new technology and new ideas. Peace is a holistic concept. It is neither subjective alone nor objective alone. It is both ideological and structural. With all respect to the teaching of saints and prophets like Mahavira, Buddha, Jesus, Tao, Confucius, Zoraster, Mohammed, Nanak etc., social peace is still elusive. They have emphasised one important point that in order to have a peaceful society, one must have peace of mind and heart. But man does not live in a vacuum. He lives in society. He is the product of social system, injustice and violence. We cannot think of a moral man in an immoral society. Hence, we have to apply a double-edged weapon of reforming the individual and free society from structural violence.

There is of course an important place for mass media and educational apparatus. Thus we dare to suggest a Triangle of Peace­making through Triple Transformation­(1) transformation of the individual, (2) transformation of society, and (3) transformation of education and media.

Organisation of Peace : Organisation is the litmus test of nonviolence. In any organisation, there is bound to be some element of coercion and violence. But without organisation, one cannot go ahead. Herice we should evolve such a peace organisation which must have a sense of dedication. Personal likes and dislikes, ambitions and petty jealousies should have no place here. There should be minimal control. All decisions must be taken unanimously. They should have living faith in truth and nonviolence. Such an organisation is called Shanti Sena (Peace Brigade).

Gandhi said: "Nonviolence cannot be preached. It has to be practised." The practice of violence can be taught to people by outward symbols. We shoot at boards, then at targets, then at beasts. Then we are passed as experts in the art of destruction. Nonviolent people have no outward weapon, Therefore, not only their speech but their action also seems ineffective. Nonviolence when it becomes active, travels with extraordinary velocity and then it becomes a miracle. What is necessary today is the organization of nonviolence. For this Gandhi had mooted the idea of the formation of Shanti Sena (Peace Corps) ultimately forming a Peace Brigade. The War Resistors International at its conference at Wardha in 1960, had an International Shanti Sena under A. J. Maste while Michael Scott and Jaya Prakash Narayan were chosen to lead the European and Asian units respectively. G. Ramchandran, a close disciple of Gandhi and the founder Vice­Chancellor of Gandhigram Rural University ( near Madurai in South India ), started Shanti Sena Centre as an educational experiment, Instead of having the usual unit of para­military outfit, National Cadet Corpse (N. C. C.), Ramchandran had the courage to set up Shanti Sena training programme as an extension activity in his university, which was very successful for sometime. Pt. Nehru addressing the rally of Gandhi Gram Shanti Sena, had said: "Our fight against violence and hatred will have no meaning if we are not ready to involve the youths. Every student of this country should become a messenger of peace.

Martin Luther King Jr. while taking the salute of Shanti Sena said, "India has great potentials and the' concept of peace army is spreading. It is bound to grow'as it holds out great promise to the entire humanity. Perhaps this alone will pull us back from the precipice." Glenn D. Paige of the Hawaii University said, "The future of mankind is not certainly in the hands of soldiers of the army, but in the hands of the Shanti Sainiks who are to create a new social order." He further said: "The Shanti Sena of the Gandhigram University is a practical vision of a warless society, a paradigm of practical living."

The veteran nonviolent man of the Indian subcontinent, only next to Gandhi, who had floated Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants of God), was Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan who had visited Gandhigram and witnessed the rally of Shanti Sena. He exclaimed: "My eyes, water when I see you. You are the real children of God, "l0 The former U.S. Ambassador to India, Robert Goheen in his convocation address to the G. R. I. said: "While the rest of the world is engaged in a serious bid to evolve nonviolent alternatives I see in Gandhigram a model for the rest of the University."

The idea of organisation of Peace Force had originally struck Gandhi as a substitute for police and para-military force to control problems of civilian and communal conflicts. He had not only prepared its pledge but also a blueprint of its organisation. The Seven Commandments which Gandhi gave for the Shanti Sainiks are crucial to understand its organisational philosophy: 11

  • A Shanti Sainik must have living faith in nonviolence, which is impossible without faith in God.

  • He/She must have an equal regard for all religions.

  • He/She will cultivate love of the people through selfless service.

  • He/She will do peace work singly or in groups.

  • He/She must have a character beyond reproach and known for his strict impartiality.

  • He/She will not wait till the conflagration breaks out, but will try to handle the situation in anticipation.

  • There should be a distinctive dress.

The members, in its very nature of a movement like Shanti Sena cannot be large. Every member of the Shanti Sena has to take a pledge and undergo strict training. The pledge is an assertion of one's resolve:

  • To work for peace and be prepared, if need be to lay down my life for it;

  • To do best to rise above the distinctions of caste, sect, colour and party because they deny the unity of man;

  • Not to take part in any war;

  • To help in creating means and conditions of non-violent defence;

  • To devote regularly a part of my time to service of my fellowmen; and

  • Accept the discipline of Shanti Sena.

Gandhi did not only preach about Shanti Sena but he also lived and died like a Shanti Sainik. He was aware of social and cultural diversities in India having the potentials of occasional conflicts and tension. Besides, he had a long range view about the threat to democracy in case there is ascendancy of military power over the civil power, which he wrote in his Last Testament. 12 Gandhi had more than once staked his life to control the communal riots. He was able to stop the mass insanity with his presence - something the entire military might of India and Pakistan failed to achieve. This prompted the then Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten to call Gandhi, "the One-man Boundary Commission." He had visited the worst riot affected areas of Noakhali, Bihar and Delhi and was planning to visit Pakistan. But he fell to the bullets of the assassin. As a commander of Shanti Sena, he gave the command and as a Shanti Sainik he laid his life as a martyr of peace. After the death of Mahatma Gandhi, Acharya Vinoba Bhave, his spiritual disciple, took the reigns of Shanti Sena and gave wider dimension - "Peace in mind and revolution in the mode of society." 13 According to him, the person having peace in mind has so much capability of revolutionising the mode of society. Thus he saw a deep inherent relation between internal peace and external revolution. So also Jaya Prakash Narayan who took initiative for restoration of peace at many places in India. It was he who encouraged some 400 dacoits of Chambal area to surrender their arms and resolved to lead a new life. G. Ramchandran, another disciple of Gandhi must be credited with introducing the Shanti Sena training programme in the Gandhigram Rural University as an instrument of peace­building, Narayan Desai, who worked with Jaya Prakash Narayan as Secretary of All India Shanti Sena MandaI, established a centre of Peace Training at Bedchi in Gujrat. An outfit for the training of peace volunteer has also been floated with the name of Ahimsa-Vahini.

Epilogue : Western scholars like Gene. Sharp. Johan Galtung, Glenn D. Paige etc. must be credited with pioneering peace studies. Johan Galtung is one of the founders of modern peace studies having founded the first International Peace Research Institute in Oslo and co-founded the International Peace Research Association and launched the Journal of Peace Research. He has taught at 50 universities and published more than 80 books on peace studies. He appreciated Gandhi's taking up the case of structural violence with nonviolent revolution. He considers Gandhian model of Satyagraha as a "moral equivalent of war." "True heroism is not killing, it is risking one's own life to prevent killing." Gene Sharp's advocacy of "civilian based defence policy" is a great contribution to peacemaking. Prof. Glenn D. Paige is a champion of Nonviolent International Order and an ardent advocate of Nonkilling Political Science. Incidentally all these three peace-stalwarts of the west are deeply inspired by Gandhi. So far great Peace­activists like Martin Luther King, Petra Kelly and Eastern Peace-thinkers and activists like Daisaku Ikeda of Japan and A. T. Ariyaratne of Sri Lanka acknowledge their source of inspiration to Gandhi.

This explains that Gandhi's idea of peace­making is holistic and his approach to life is rational. He was not a visionary but a practical idealist. To him, the religion of nonviolence is not meant only for the rishis and saints, it is meant for the common people as well. As we come close to the dawn of the 21st century, we come to realise that the Gandhian perspective of peacemaking finds greater acceptance.




Author : Mr. Ramjee Singh is Professor Emeritus, Bhagalpur University, Bihar, He is former Member of Parliament and is an internationally acclaimed Scholar of Gandhian thought.

Article Source : 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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