Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peace means Business

Peace has been understood in many different ways by different individuals in different cultures and in different times.  As per the USIP's Glossary of Terms for Conflict management and Peace-building, 'Peace Terms' (2011), edited by Dan Snodderly, the word “peace” evokes complex, sometimes contradictory, interpretations and reactions. For some, peace means the absence of conflict. For others it means the end of violence or the formal cessation of hostilities; for still others, the return to resolving con- flict by political means. Some define peace as the attainment of justice and social stability; for others it is economic well-being and basic freedom. Peacemaking can be a dynamic process of ending conflict through negotiation or mediation. Peace is often unstable, as sources of conflict are seldom completely resolved or eliminated. Since conflict is inherent in the human condition, the striving for peace is particularly strong in times of violent conflict. That said, a willingness to accommodate perpetrators of violence without resolving the sources of conflict—sometimes called “peace at any price”—may lead to greater conflict later. 


I agree with all the definitions/interpretations/reactions including peace at any price probably is not the best way to peace, the process to get to peace is equally important. Having said that, attaining/achieving peace is hugely important in the current times. 


This is a time when peace should become a corporate imperative. It is crucial for growing economies. Smart businesses should promote peace so that peace could protect their success. Every time, there is a violent conflict, businesses, small or big, suffer losses. I am dead sure if the United States was not involved in Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the recession would not have hit the country so badly. Let's face it, peace leads to wellbeing as well as money! 


Peace and commerce have many commonalities. Just like peace needs tolerance and acceptance of differences, successful trade involves people of different race, color or religion. Both peace and commerce strive to go beyond borders, aspire to form international ties, and bring prosperity. 


In todays world peace needs financial investment and financial investments need peace for stability and profit. I appeal to the business community to invest in peace by educating their employees, their families, and their clients about tolerance and the commonalities amongst religions and cultures. It is not tough to raise awareness regarding the importance of peace and peaceful ways to live but it needs some serious commitment both from intellectual and financial factions. In simple words, 'Harmony means money'! :-) 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Department/Ministry of Peace

Think about the millions of dollars spent on manufacturing, buying, maintaining arms, training and maintaining the combatants (State armed forces, local militias, and/terrorist groups), rehabilitating combatants and many other expenses related to wars plus the psychological pain and fear that goes with it. If we compare all that to the efforts and money spent to plan for peace, we would be surprised.

Often, war gives more power to the powerful and makes the rich richer. However, only a handful people are benefitted from the monies generated by wars and millions of people are left to suffer psychologically, physically and economically. 

History tells that time and time again individuals and groups have tried to convince the world for peace and non-violence. Unfortunately, their messages have not been given the due importance and ‘Peace' has become a 'nice expectation' rather than the imperative to run a nation.

With nuclear weapons, terrorism, violence related to drug cartels spreading around the world, it is time to rethink the importance and place of ‘Peace’ in our countries. It is time for Peace to go beyond the non-profit organizations and become critical part of the State Governments.

There is a website called, ‘Global Alliance For Ministries and Departments of Peace’. The website content is not regularly updated but does have good information regarding movements around the world to form Ministries/Department of Peace within their State governments. I was happy to see India as one of those countries.

As per the website, in October 2005 three organizations, the US Peace Alliance, the Canadian Federal Working Group for a Department of Peace, and the UK ministry for peace, organized the first People’s Summit for Departments of Peace in London. These countries were Australia, Canada, Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, Italy, Japan, Spain, the Netherlands, Romania, the United Kingdom, Jordan, and the United States. Since then, the group has organized more summits and working towards its goal. I would love to know their latest achievements. More information can be found in the website: http://www.peoplesinitiativefordepartmentsofpeace.org/

The United States has a very rich history in this regard. I would like to share parts of very insightful and interesting information I got from Wikipedia on this subject (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Department_of_Peace ).  I would like apologize for copying and pasting so much text from this article but I truly believe that it was important to share this great information, especially for those who are aspiring for a Department/ Ministry of Peace in their respective country.

In 1793, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Founding Father (signer of the Declaration of Independence), wrote an essay titled "A plan of a Peace-Office for the United States”. Since then, many Law Makers have made similar initiatives, both from the Republican and Democratic Parties but without complete success.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) introduced U.S. Department of Peace legislation to Congress in July 2001, two months before the September 11 attacks. Kucinich has reintroduced the legislation every 2 years. The bill currently has 70 cosponsors. Some of the numerous organizations endorsing the legislation include Amnesty International and the National Organization for Women.
This bill includes several additional proposed mandates that would work in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and go beyond the existing mandates of the United States Institute of Peace. Some highlights among the areas of proposed additional responsibility include:
·       Provide violence prevention, conflict resolution skills and mediation to America's school children in classrooms as an elective or requirement, providing them with the communication tools they need to express themselves beginning in elementary school through high school.
·       Provide support and grants for violence prevention programs addressing domestic violence, gang violence, drug and alcohol related violence, and the like.
·       To effectively treat and dismantle gang psychology.
·       To rehabilitate the prison population.
·       To build peace making efforts among conflicting cultures both here and abroad.
·       To support our military with complementary approaches to ending violence.
·       Monitoring of all domestic arms production, including non-military arms, conventional military arms, and of weapons of mass destruction.
·       Make expert recommendations on the latest techniques for diplomacy, mediation, conflict resolution to the U.S. President for various strategies.
·       Assumption of a more proactive level of involvement in the establishment of international dialogues for international conflict resolution (as a cabinet level department).
·       Establishment of a U.S. Peace Academy, which among other things would train international peace-keepers.
·       Development of an educational media program to promote nonviolence in the domestic media.
·       Monitoring of human rights, both domestically and abroad.
·       Making regular recommendations to the President for the maintenance and improvement of these human rights.
·       Receiving a timely mandatory advance consultation from the Secretaries of State, and of Defense, prior to any engagement of U.S. troops in any armed conflict with any other nation.
·       Establishment of a national Peace Day.
·       Participation by the secretary of peace as a member of the National Security Council.
·       Expansion of the national Sister City program.
·       Significant expansion of current Institute of Peace program involvement in educational affairs, in areas such as:
  1. Drug rehabilitation,
  2. Policy reviews concerning crime prevention, punishment, and rehabilitation,
  3. Implementation of violence prevention counseling programs and peer mediation programs in schools,
·       Also, making recommendations regarding:
  1. Battered women's rights,
  2. Animal rights,
·       Various other "peace related areas of responsibility".

Isn’t this material so simple, practical, meaningful, and critical? The cost for putting a Dept. of Peace would be very little compared to what is spent in the name of Department of Defense. The important part for this department is the NOT the dollar amount attached to it but the perspective that it brings to the strategic planning and the authority that it gives to peaceful options at the decision making table. Let us make it happen before the wars and conflicts prevent our grandchildren from being born. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Defining and Doing the Duty





Beauty, strength, youth, are flowers but fading seen;



Duty, faith, love, are roots, and ever green.



                            GEORGE PEELE, Polyhymnia




Last week, we went to watch Phillip Glass' opera 'Satyagraha' live from the Met right here in Puerto Rico. The show touched on Gandhi ji's life in South Africa. Instead of using real life conversations, Glass used teachings from Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture. There I found another important piece that will help us to continue to complete the mosaic of inner peace.



'Duty' (from "due" meaning "that which is owing") is that piece. In the past, we have talked about forgiveness, acceptance, having a bird's eye view to situation, moving forward, and service as few virtues to claim and sustain inner peace. Somehow, we did not give sufficient emphasis on our day-to-day duty meaning our duty towards our spouses, children, our jobs as well as the higher duty towards the humanity, environment and our creator. 


We all, deep down in hearts, know what is our duty and often loose our peace of mind just because we fail to fulfill it. Therefore, it is crucial that we keep our focus on doing our duty. We can't control the outcome always because so many factors and people play a role in accomplishing/finishing a task, a conversation or a process. As far as we know we did our duty, no matter what the outcome was, we can be at peace with ourselves!


However, there are situations where for some reason, we are/were able to fulfill our duty and it hurts. It hurts but by letting it hurt us, we are not helping ourselves either. What we need to do is to learn a lesson from it, make the necessary changes in ourselves and in the circumstances to ensure that if ever again we are in a similar situation, we are capable of doing our duty. Remember, anytime is a good time to move on from a hurtful situation. 


One thing that is very important to mention before we close this post and that is, 'define your duty as the  symphony that is created both with your heart and your mind'. Not based on external factors such as other people, books, movies, so on and so forth. You are unique, your experiences are unique, your needs are unique, your worldview is unique and therefore the way You define Your duty.


Let us identify our duty and put all our strength in fulfilling it without ceasing, accept the failures, learn to forgive, and peace will follow!

O India, My Motherland!

A plea of a migrant to her motherland:   O India, my motherland, My identity and my pride! My soul seeks nourishment, Only you...