World Peace And Universal Understanding
The noble cause of world peace and universal understanding is extremely dear to my heart. From my early childhood, the writings and speeches of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru have greatly influenced my thinking and in particular my views on world peace and universal understanding. In his famous Tryst with Destiny speech delivered at the stroke of midnight hour on 15th August,1947, Nehru said,” Peace is said to be indivisible, so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.” On 3rd October,1960, Nehru told the UN General Assembly without mincing words,” In order to achieve peace we have to develop a climate of peace and tolerance and to avoid speech and action which tend to increase fear and hatred…if we aim at right ends, right means must be employed. Good will not emerge out of evil methods. That was the lesson which our great leader Gandhi taught us”.
Nehru was never tired of extolling the philosophy of his Guru Mahatma Gandhi about whom the legendary scientist Albert Eistein wrote, “Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this, ever in flesh and blood, walked upon this earth.” What was Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of peace? On 8th May,1937,Gandhi ji said, “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.“ In a most illuminating letter to the Cosmopolitan, New York, Gandhi ji chrystalised his philosophy in the following words, “Peace is unattained by part performance of conditions, even as a chemical combination is impossible without complete fulfillment of the conditions of attainment thereof. If the recognized leaders of mankind who have control over the engines of destruction were wholly to renounce their use, with full knowledge of its implications, permanent peace can be obtained.” In a tribute to children, the future citizens of the world, Gandhi ji also said, “If we are to reach peace in this world and if we are to carry on a war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” Indeed, if we were to place children of different colours, religions, races and nationalities in a single chamber, they would put the United Nations to shame. The charismatic Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance speech on 10th December,1989 said, “We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share…I believe all religions pursue the same goals, that of cultivating human goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings.”
On 10th June,1963, President John F. Kennedy, who ushered in the Nehru-Kennedy spirit in the pursuit of world peace, expounded his now famous strategy for peace in the following words, “Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace– based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions–on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace–no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts..For peace is a process–a way of solving problems…So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.”
Another great American Dr.Martin Luther King, who was a staunch disciple of Mahatma Gandhi,in his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech on 10th December,1964 said,“ I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and non-violent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.” And Sir Winston Churchill, the mesmeric British Prime Minister, who advocated the doctrine of “Peace through Strength”, said in his now famous “Sinews of Peace” speech on 5th March,1946, “ But what we have to consider here today while time remains, is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries. Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens; nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement.”
I now turn irresistibly to Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, our national poet and Nobel Laureate whom Jawaharlal Nehru once aptly described as the “great humanist of India.” Throughout his life, Tagore resolutely believed that until and unless the big and powerful nations with their vast technological superiority halted their desire for territorial expansion and control over the smaller nations, world peace could never be achieved. According to the poet, peace could be achieved only when diverse races and nations were free to evolve into their distinct characteristics, whilst all would be attached to the stem of humanity through the bondage of love. During the catastrophic First World War, Tagore went even beyond the shores of India to campaign for peace.His concern for the existence of humanity was expressed in the lectures he delivered during that period.“While the whole world is at war,” wrote the London Nation in an editorial entitled “A League of Spirit” on 9th April 1921, “it is some comfort to hear even one voice, however still and small, persistently murmuring of peace. Amid the turmoil and shouting, one may still catch the quiet words of an Indian pleading the cause of understanding, friendliness and forbearance, as though they, and not devastating conflicts, were the most natural things in the world.” In 1935, the World Peace Congress Committee was formed in Paris under the leadership of two formidable French littérateurs of the day viz.Henri Barbusse and Romain Rolland. A branch of the committee was also formed in India encompassing Tagore and Gandhi and other Indian personages. On 5 September 1936, the World Peace Congress held its maiden conference in Brussels. The poet sent a terse message where he warned delegates,“ we cannot have peace until we deserve it by paying its full price, which is that the strong must cease to be greedy and the weak must learn to be bold.” On the occasion of his 80th birthday on 7th May,1941, a few months before his death and whilst the dreadful, bloody Second World War was raging unabated, he wrote his immortal essay “Crisis in Civilisation”,considered to be his last testament, in which he asserted with all the strength at his command, “The failure of humanity in the West to preserve the worth of their civilization and the dignity of man which they had taken centuries to build up weighs like a nightmare on my mind. It seems clear to me that this failure is due to men’s repudiation of moral values in the guidance of their national affairs and to their belief that everything is determined by a mere physical chain of events which could be manipulated by man’s cunning or might.”
The world stands today at its most critical milestone. On the one hand, the cataclysmic power of science opens up an abyss of devastation and anhilation simply beyond human imagination. On the other hand, science is the blazing torch that illumines the promise of “peace on earth and goodwill to all men.” What a paradise would be open to mankind if the enormous wealth and effort expended recklessly on atomic and other weapons of mass destruction could be devoted to the cause of peace. It is clearly the case of “One world or None”!
The saintly apostle of peace Mother Teresa began her Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech on 11th Sepember,1979 with the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi,the legendary Italian Catholic friar and preacher. I am highly emboldened to conclude my article with the first portion of that very prayer:
“Lord, make a channel of Thy peace
that, where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that, where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that, where there is error, I may bring truth;
that, where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that, where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that, where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that, where there is sadness, I may bring joy.”
Supreme Court of India
The author addressed a gathering of MPs and other eminent persons at the House of Lords in London in February,2009 on “World Peace and Global Understanding” and was awarded the prestigious “Ambassador of Peace Award” on the occasion.