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Which Way to Peace?

Dubravka Kalac Zadar, Croatia >Sometimes, when I walk the streets of my city, late in the evening, when there's only silence present, pictures of  not so distant past strike me, and I...

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Peace Academy Reflection

Tory Tevis I would like to begin my reflection on the Sarajevo Peace Academy by first stating how difficult it was to settle on a topic to write about.  All the...

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Which Way to Peace?

Which Way to Peace?

Dubravka Kalac

Zadar, Croatia

>Sometimes, when I walk the streets of my city, late in the evening, when there's only silence present, pictures of  not so distant past strike me, and I wonder: is it possible that the War used to walk these same streets? Then the boxes of my memory open, and take me deep inside, to where I think was impossible to dwell. Facing the past, this is how it's called, a painful past, difficult to the extent that one doesn't know what to do with it, other than erase it, delete it, bury it. The strategy proves to be the wrong one, there's no way you can avoid to face it over and over again, in reality, in dreams. Sometimes it feels as if it happened in some other life, to some other person, because it sounds more like a scenario of a film, and you don't think you could have ever possibly played a role in it. But one thing I know, I wouldn't be able to go through the same scenario once again. What would I do if another war breaks out? Would I try to hide? But where would I hide in this world so unsafe and full of violence? Is there peace anywhere? Again, the strategy proves to be the wrong one. And I face myself with another question, is there any alternative, any possibility of change, of feeling safe and secure, with no worries, fears of another bloodshed, but without having to escape, hide?

I wonder how many people out there face the same questions, how many people lose their precious  moments of freedom, a chance to live a decent life, losing their dear ones, how many homes have to be destroyed, how many lives have to be taken. And for what? Quelle connerie, la guerre.

It is said that historia est magistra vitae. What have we really learned from history? When I think of what we learned in school, history is nothing else but the history of wars, presented through statistical data of the victories and losses, history, or better to say, the wars, repeating themselves. Another victory meant conquering,  losing and rewinning the territory. Another data on eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, divide et impera, and the number of casualties. Homo homini lupus. It's always us against them. And who are they? Are „they" so bad as to be beyond redemption? Or is it only the lack of trust and a lot of igorance and blindness surounding us? Behind the abstractive images of the ennemy are the faces of other human beings, just like us. Is it possible to break this vicious circle of hatred, violence, and vengeance?  How to face them instead of retreating into a closed world of false safety, world free from any responsibility?

In the world we're living in it is easy to enter the state of hopelessness, and  just be  a passive observer, turning your head away from obvious injustice and oppression. Is there any alternative way? That's the main question I've been posing to myself for many years. What can I, as an individual do, to try and make any kind of contribution to make this world a better place?  Am I of too little account to make any difference? The only thing I know is that I can not be silent anymore. I thought I did the right thing by opting out, staying aside, observing, without any hope it could be different.

Peace academy opened a whole new world to me, a world of individuals  throughout history and present times who managed to make a difference. Individuals whose achievements are, for most of them, barely mentioned in the history textbooks, but who managed to shift the world, and show us that there's another way, and that there is a force that is more powerful than all the other forces, which  is  love, and its power to  transform. To be the change that we want to see in the world, we need to be guided by the satyagraha and ahimsa, principles of truthforce and nonharm.  We need to resist the social evil in a non-violent way, and that has nothing to do with passive resistance, as we were taught in schools. Just by being active, facing the violence and injustice, trying to transform them and not ignoring them, from day to day, in this present moment, and the whole new perspectives unfold to us. And it all happens, without exception, at the grassroot level. Examples of individual courage to speak up in most difficult circumstances give me hope things can be different.

There's too much passivity and silent consent to violence around us that each individual voice represents the light at the end of the tunnel. Why haven't we ever learned about conscientious objectors during the Second World War? Peace communities around the world? About Hans and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Movement?

One can not but admire in awe the courage these young people had to reveal the responsibility of the silent masses that enabled the Nazi regime to fulfill all the atrocities, and the prison of passivity that legitimized the genocide done in those times. They had to pay their courage by their own lives, but they rather chose death than to live an undignified life, with no moral integrity.

Bearing witness- Gandhi knew that. Martin Luther King knew that. Joan of Arc knew that. All three moved mountains with their conviction and all three paid for it with their lives, which only served to move mountains even further. They stood for and behind what they knew 100%. And they knew it from the heart at least as much as their heads. There is nothing passive about taking a stand in this way.[1]

We humans are all intimately interconnected. How we treat each other matters to the health and well-being, perhaps even the survival, of us all as a species, not in some vague future, but in this very moment. Kindness is the natural response to recognizing interconnectedness. And in that kindness is true wisdom. [2]

If others are not free, then in a very real way, we cannot be completely free or at peace either, just as we cannot be completely healthy in an unhealthy world.[3]

There is always an alternative way, and that one is a force more powerful. And we shall do it that way. Even when we face the doubt whether our deeds make any sense, and whether trying to change something will get us anywhere, we should always bear in mind Gandhi's words: Whenever you're in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test: Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you have seen and ask yourself the following questions: is the step you contemplate going to be of any use to him? Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control ober his own life and destiny?

What have I learned at the Peace Academy? The most precious thought is to realize I'm not alone in this world, and that there are people around me, who all have the same goal: live in peace and let other living beings on this planet live a peaceful, decent life, because we were only given this one to live, and we should make the best out of it. We shouldn't turn away our heads from the obvious injustices that suround us in our everyday lives. Even if we feel alone, just by being openhearted and loving kind, doing good, offering help, just like Ta'ayush does helping the cave dwellers, we can make a change. What is more precious than moral friendship, having people around who share the same values and goals, feeling a sense of community even in the most difficult circumstances. How we treat each other makes a difference.

The world will shift- You don't necessarily have to surrender your life to bear witness to injustice and suffering. The more bearing witness while dwelling in openhearted awareness becomes a way of life for all of us, the more the world will shift, because the world itself is none other than us. But it is sometimes more often than not, a long, slow process. And yet, at times, a tipping point is reached that could not be predicted even one moment before. And then things shift, rotate, transform-very quickly.[4]

Let's hope it's the end of the world as we know it, and let's try to shift for a change through truthforce and love. It is our responsibility as individuals; we can enter the pores of our society, try to prevent blindness, raise people's awareness and make them see. Even the possibility that our acts of resistance will end in failure or won't stop the overall injustice doesn't mean we should give in. Let's spread the messages we got in the academy to our children, neighbours, friends, colleagues. And this is already the beginning of the butterfly effect.

Which way to peace? There's no way to peace, peace is the way.

[1] J. Kabat-Zinn, Arriving at your own door, Hyperion, New York

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid.