Several conferences and conventions are held throughout the year in different parts of the country. Various government departments also organize conferences spending a lot of money. NGOs and other organizations also organize conferences both at the local and national level. Hundreds and thousands of people travel to distant places to participate in such conferences. Very little effort is made to evaluate the impact of these conferences and seminars.
In 2015 a national level peace convention was organized in Indore. Over 300 Rotarians, educationists, social activists and journalists from 12 states participated actively in this unique peace convention. One of the many resolutions which the participants made was to form a National Peace Movement and hold a national level peace convention every year in different parts of the country from 30 January to 1 February. The purpose of this unique venture was to respond proactively to the increasing fundamentalism and violence in the country. Since there was a strong movement from some fundamentalist groups and politicians to justify the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Naturam Godse it was decided to hold the National Peace Convention from 30 January, the day Godse murdered Mahatma Gandhi. Eminent speakers and distinguished persons came to motivate the participants. These conventions were organised by the contribution from participants. After the convention at Indore similar ones were organised at Dimapur, Nagaland and Goa. The 2018 convention will be held in Kochi.
After the successful organization of two conventions some of the close collaborators asked questions as part of the evaluation of this mega event: What do we gain by organising this yearly Peace Convention? What do the people who come for this event from different states do after they return to their places? Is it worth to spend so much time and energy?
Each time such questions came up there were people who spoke convincingly about its purpose and impact. The National Peace Convention is meant to gather people from all walks of life from all over India and inspire them to take up activities at the local level to create awareness among the people about the urgency of peace and forgiveness. Speaker after speaker in the convention strongly mentioned that the peace building is to be done by each citizen in his own level. We cannot expect government and politicians to bring peace and fellowship in the country. We cannot wait for Rama, Krishna, Jesus or Buddha to come to bring peace. Each one of us should believe that ‘I am the incarnation of God; and I need to act, act here and now’.
It was heartening to see different initiatives of peace making by individuals who participated in the National Peace Convention. The most remarkable event was organized by St. George School, Malad East, Bombay. Principal of the school Fr. Tenny had sent one of the teachers, Ms. Shalley, to participate in the National peace Convention held in Goa. After active participation in the deliberations Ms. Shalley returned to her school and persuaded her principal to organize a peace convention in the school. Father Tenny together with his PTA, staff and students organized a one day peace convention in the school on August 23. Prominent persons like Mr. Tushar Gandhi, Mr. Tapan Mukerjee and Fr. Varghese Alengaden, President of National Peace Movement were invited to address the gathering. Student delegates, teachers and principals of many schools in the city were invited. The students presented high quality cultural programmes on peace and harmony.
Fr. Tenny and his staff made maximum efforts to make the peace convention a unique experience for 1500 young students, teachers and parents. He did not count the cost because of his conviction to create awareness of peace and harmony. All the invited delegates and students were provided delicious meals. As I was participating in this program I was inspired by the miraculous impact made of one teacher who participated in the National Peace Convention. In fact it is our dream that all the schools and colleges could organize such peace seminars and conventions to counter the fundamentalism and violence which are increasing in the country.
Peace initiative has to be taken by individuals at their local level. Dr. Renu Singh, another lady teacher of a college at Nagda, MP, organized a peace seminar inviting teachers of 30 schools of the town and other organizations like Rotary club. Over 200 people participated in this program organized by the initiative of one single lady teacher.
Inspired by the National Peace Convention members of Rotary club Dewas organized a peace rally through the town. They motivated people of all faith and walks of like to join this peace rally. Despite rains all people walked through the streets peacefully giving the message of peace and harmony.
Several such initiatives are taking place in different parts of the country as follow up of the National Peace Convention by single individuals and groups. These are the catalysts of peace in the society. They make an impact without the support of govt. agencies and patronizing of politicians or corporate groups.
Peace and harmony in the society is possible only when the individuals believe that each one is responsible for peace. It begins from within oneself. Realizing the God within will enable each one to honour the God who dwells in the other person irrespective of religion, caste and sex. National Peace Movement visualizes a world free from violence, terrorism, exploitation and fundamentalism. It has to begin from one’s thoughts and attitudes.
Peacemaking was central to the life and teachings of Christ. He asked his disciples to make it their mission: “Blessed are the peace makers, they will be called children of God”. Each time when he greeted disciples he said, “Peace be with you”. Yet today the disciples of Christ remain indifferent whenever there was communal conflicts and violence. This indifference is proved again and again by the clergy, religious and hierarchy. Even after facing hostility and repeated attacks on the church personnel and institutions they do not feel the urgency of net working with groups which work for peace and pluralism in the country. They continue delegating their responsibility to God through ‘saying’ prayers and performing rituals.
Since last four years we had been sending more than 1000 letters and brochures of National Peace Convention to the heads of religious congregations, principals of schools and bishops both by post and email inviting them to join the efforts of building peace and harmony. Hardly a few acknowledged the letters. After repeated personal contacts and persuasion a few priests and religious make their presence in the program. At the same time several people of other faith and walks of life spent their money and time to participate in this peace initiative every year.
The fourth National Peace Convention will be held in Kochi from 30 January to 1 February 2018. As disciples of Christ, church personnel should be the first to register for this peace pilgrimage. Lay leaders and youth should be brought to this unique event aimed at protecting pluralism, democracy, peace and minorities. It is time for us to make peace making our priority mission and make use of the opportunity to network with agencies and people of other faith. Every Christian should be a catalyst of peace and fellowship. Why don’t each congregation and diocese represent in this initiative for peace? Why don’t every school in the church organize a peace seminar? We need mentors to make our children catalyst of peace.(Published on 09th October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 41)