Friday, November 27, 2009

A March for Peace

I was going through some old papers the other day and ran across a few items that intrigued me.  They brought up some old memories, as you can probably tell from recent postings, and reminded me of some experiences I had buried deep in my memory.

One moment I had buried was when I was asked to speak on peace at a "peace" gathering.  Obviously, as you can tell by the quotation marks, it was not what it was billed to be.  Peace is not the word I would use to describe what I saw there.  After the introductory inflamatory talks, which were cheered by the audience, I was asked to speak.  To say that it was a moment of discomfort would be a bit of an understatement.

While I don't actually recall what I said, the gist of it went something like this:  "Are you angry at the injustice  being shown in (fill in the blank)?  (loud cheers of agreement)  Are you angry at (fill in the blank again)?  (more cheers of agreement)  Are you angry at (fill in the blank one more time)?  Do you want to fight (fill in one last time for fun)? (even more cheering)"  All of this was said in a loud rallying type of voice.  The following was said quietly and calmly.  "Well then, you have just taken the first step towards war. Fighting for peace is like (bleep)ing for virginity."

The stunned silence allowed me the opportunity to really speak about peace, and how to develop it from the inside out, while still addressing issues of global injustice.

After that sad experience, I have always looked more carefully into the background of the events at which I am asked to speak.

So why am I telling you all this, dear Reader?

Because, amongst all the papers, I found the following talk, given a few years later at an actual march for peace.  This one was put on by an interfaith group, and I was very happy to be a part of it.  I hope you enjoy this talk:

The teachings of the Enlightened One, the Buddha, are just as profound and just as sacred as the teachings of His Holiness, Jesus, the Christ.  The laws espoused by the Prophet of God, Muhammad, may my life be a sacrifice for Him, are just as pure and just as stainless as the laws given forth by Moses, He Who saw God.  The light that shines from the deeds, acts and manners of the Lord Krishna is the same light that shines from the deeds, acts and manners of the Glory of God, Baha'u'llah.

In fact, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Baha'u'llah: I would make no distinction between any of Them.

Now, if you just felt a slight bit of discomfort when I likened the Founder of your Faith to the Fouder of another, you may wish to ask yourself why you are here.

The march towards eventual world peace requires far more than a few hours walk.  It needs more than outlawing germ warfare, prohibiting poison gas or banning nuclear weapons.  It demands more than imposing economic or political sanctions.  It requires a change in the conditions and attitudes of each and every one of us.

There are many causes of war: racism, subjugation of women, the increasing gap between the extremes of wealth and poverty, to name just a few.  But one of the most visible is still religious intolerance.

So long as we feel that slight tremor when confronted with someone else's faith, we have taken that first step from peace to war.

We must understand that religions are not parallel lines; they are bound to meet.  They are all the result of our ardent search for truth and our constant endeavour to live in peace with the world around us.

The Founders of all these beautiful teachings have given us the same light.

They all teach the Golden Rule, the honouring of parents, the need for prayer, and They all have raised up great civilizations.

Muhammad tells us in the Holy Quran (17:110), "By whichsoever Name ye will, invoke Him.  He hath most excellent names."  Again, in Surih 42, verse 15, "I believe in all the scriptures that God has revealed."

The Buddha teaches, in the Dhammapada, "Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love.  This is the eternal law."

When we realize that this march upon which we are about to embark is but a metaphor for the march which we are all taking towards God, then we will see that we are all marching in the same direction.  We may not all follow the exact same path, treading in the same footsteps, but our goal is identical.

Even the candles we light today: the flame will symbolize different things for each of us.  They will have a world of meanings for each person.  But today, we all light the light of peace and burn away the veils of prejudice.

When we step towards the chasm seperating us from another's ideas and beliefs, and we no longer feel that vertigo when looking into the unknown; when we understand that someone else's faith is just as sacred to them as ours is to ourself; when we show them the respect we wish to be shown, then we will have made a great stride towards world peace.

Then this march will continue in our hearts, and not end with our feet.

Of course, you know, despite anything else I may do in my life, the line that I bleeped at the other rally will probably be the one quoted in my obituary.

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