The core theme running through the various sessions of 6th National Peace Convention at Christ University Bangalore from January 30 to February 1, 2020 was defeat hatred, exclusion and division. Various speakers of the convention appealed to the participants to counter the divisive forces by practising and disseminating the values of Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian Constitution. The Bangalore Peace Declaration 2020 adopted at the end of the convention emphasized the same and included concrete action plans to be implemented at the personal and institutional/organizational levels.
“Use anger positively to counter hatred,” said Shri Tushar Gandhi while addressing the 490 participants of the 6th National peace convention in its inaugural session. Shri Tushar Gandhi also emphasized that if the political leaders are becoming perpetrators of hatred, the citizen are equally responsible because they come from the society and they are elected by the people. In fact, many citizens are filled with prejudice, hatred and enmity. Hence if peace has to come to the world and the nation, the citizens have to change their mindset and should have the courage to speak against the culture of hatred, exclusion and divisiveness.
While speaking on the second day of the National Peace Convention, Supreme Court advocate Dr. Raju said, “One of the core values of Indian Constitution is fraternity that guarantees the dignity of the individual. Fraternity and dignity of the individual are two sides of the same coin. There cannot be fraternity without the dignity of the individual.” The constitution of India recognizes that even the criminals have their dignity. What make people criminals are the circumstances. Today justice is often interpreted as taking vengeance, he lamented. He also said that the constitution envisages a fraternity that is inter-generational and a fraternity that encompasses the whole universe. Any effort to divide the people of India in the name of caste, religion and language etc. is a violation of the constitution and violence to the millennial heritage of India, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
George Kannanthanam, while speaking about his interventions for the empowerment of the underprivileged groups said that branding someone as the OTHER is fundamentally wrong. Basically all human beings are one. There cannot be peace in the society unless and until people believe that they are all one. Citing various examples, he proved that service, especially to the neglected, the needy and the underprivileged, is a significant means to create brotherhood and peace.
Edward Thomas, founder of Dream India Network, asserted in his address that religions, which are expected to bring peace to the world, have become causes of division, conflict and violence, because they have deviated from their original vision. If all people believe that God is one and that God is spirit, why do the followers of religion fight with each other? He exhorted the participants to respect all religions by celebrating different religious festivals and thereby build peace and harmony. The constitution of India gives respect to all religions and enjoins the State not to favour or disfavour any particular religion.
Dr. Lalita Sharma Anant from Indore shared with the participants her interventions for the underprivileged through the ‘Open Sky Learning Classes’ at Abhakunj Indore. “When we help others through services we enrich ourselves, besides contributing to the development of the nation and bringing peace to the people who receive our service,” said Dr. Sharma. Many poor and dropout children were transformed into professionals through her intervention, Open Sky Learning. She emphasized that peace is not only the absence of war, but it requires removing the factors that generate conflicts. In the absence of education and employment many young people take to the use of drugs, robbery and other crimes.
“What women need today is equity beyond equality. Women empowerment requires equal decision making role for women in all spheres,” said Ms. Brinda Adige, a social activist from Karnataka. All religions discriminate against women and exclude them from many spheres. Unfortunately, women have internalized paternity, she lamented. Women are to be made equal partners in decision making process so that their feminine qualities could contribute greatly to establish peace, she opined.
Shri R. Manohar, a human rights activist from Karnataka, said that rights and duties are two sides of the same coin and the Indian Constitution gives adequate importance to both. When the State and the rulers, who are expected to be the duty bearers, become violators of the rights of the people, there is need for defending the rights of the people, he said.
Speaking on the topic, “Knowledge without Character Dangerous to Peace”, Srimati Anuradha Shankar IPS stated that what distinguishes human beings from other creatures is creativity and wisdom. Combining wisdom and creativity is genuine knowledge. She said that information is only one aspect of knowledge and often information is misunderstood as knowledge. Knowledge that does not lead to wisdom is dangerous. Killing of lakhs of civilians including children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, using atom bomb in 1945, was an abuse of knowledge. In the same way killing Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, using a pistol was another horrific example for the abuse of knowledge. Gandhiji was murdered by a person who had a lot of information, but he lacked genuine knowledge and character. Against this backdrop, what Martin Luther King Jr. said is very relevant: “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
Killing signifies lack of character. Everyone who tries to conquer the world does not have character. Building character is building our immune system, physically, intellectually and spiritually. How can it be done? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the answer.
About 40% of the participants were high school students from different states of India. They enthusiastically participated in the Convention and proposed many creative action plans during the group discussion. Four students from four schools delivered powerful speeches on four dimensions of peace. Ishika Narula of Servite Convent Senior Secondary School, Hoshangabad (MP) spoke on the topic, “Use of Non-Violent Means for Conflict Resolution ensures Peace”. Raima Pan of St. Mary’s Convent School, Jagecha, Howrah, (West Bengal) shared her views on the topic: “Personal Integrity, the Foundation of Peace”. Limnisha Changkakati of Kroot Memorial School, Bangalore spoke passionately on the topic: “No Peace without Forgiveness” and Adithi Khatri of Auxilium School, Bangalore delivered her speech on the topic, “Greed and Consumerism, Enemies of Peace and Sustainability”.
In order to defeat hatred and nurture peace, the participants prepared an action plan that is included as a part of “Bangalore Peace Declaration 2020” adopted by the participants at the end of the convention.
Action Plan at the Individual Level
The participants made the following commitments to themselves.
· Respect all faiths by learning about them and greeting the members of other faiths on their festival days.
· Avoid forwarding messages that hurt the sentiments of others.
· Help and support the victims of natural and human-made disasters irrespective their faith, caste, language etc.
· Read the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi and motivate others to read it.
· Practice forgiveness and adopt non-violent means to resolve conflicts as well as to protest against injustice.
· Preserve the spirit of Vasudhaiva kutumbakam, by protesting against any effort to discriminate or divide the people of India on the basis of caste, religion, language etc.
· Learn more about the Indian Constitution, especially its universal values and share them with others.
· Motivate people to discuss about the constitutional values in the Gram Sabha meetings and Gram Panchayat meetings. The preamble of the Indian Constitution will be translated into vernacular language to be used locally.
Action Plan at the Institutional and Organizational Level
· One peace seminar will be organized in a year for the students, teachers and the parents by the schools and colleges.
· Preamble of the Constitution will be exhibited at common places in the educational institutions and will be recited in the school assemblies at least once a week.
· Peace clubs will be formed in the schools and colleges.
· Gandhian values will be promoted through various cultural programmes and peace rally will be organized on Oct. 2.
· Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi will be given as gift to guests and friends.
· Networking will be done with the nearby educational institutions for organizing peace conference for the people of the locality.
· Songs and video clips will be produced and disseminated to promote the constitutional and Gandhian values.
· ‘Gandhi’ movie will be shown to the students and teachers followed by discussion and quotes of Mahatma Gandhi will be exhibited in the schools.
· Festivals of all religions will be celebrated in the educational institutions and organizations and readings from different religious scriptures will be used for prayer.
· Constitution Day will be celebrated in the schools and organizations with various programmes for promoting its universal values.
The 6th National Peace Convention was concluded on February 1, 2020 with the adoption of a peace declaration. Dr. George Edayadiyil, the Chancellor of Christ University, in his presidential address emphasized the need for defeating the divisive forces in India that promote hatred and revenge. He appreciated the action plan adopted by the participants as a follow up of the peace convention. Fr. Varghese Alengaden, the moving spirit behind the Convention and the President of National Peace Movement, thanked the participants for their active participation and the sacrifices they made in terms of time, money and energy for nurturing peace. The 6th National Peace Convention was organized by the Indore based National Peace Movement in collaboration with Christ University Bangalore, Rotary District 3040, Indian Currents and Trendsetters.
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 10th February 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 07)