Peace in our time?

It seems like we wake up to the news of a new terror attack every day. What does it say about the state of the world today that this sort of news is commonplace? It is shocking and troubling to say the least, and tragic for those who lose loved ones. What a terrible blow it must be for the families of victims. Our condolences lie with them.

Ela Bhatt, founder of a movement to help women overcome poverty had an interesting insight on peace. “When there is an unfair distribution of resources, there is unrest. Peace is under threat. When people cannot enjoy the fruits of their labors fairly, we have the basis of an unjust society.”

Initially, I was wondering what nonprofits could do to better this situation. A lot of nonprofits are indeed providing emergency relief measures, counselling, medical treatment and help with rebuilding a regular life. Individuals who want to help set up crowdfunding campaigns to help victims of terror and their families. However, NGO efforts can neither solve the refugee crisis nor stop the rise of religious terror. To paraphrase Ela Bhatt, this problem is brought about by the creation of an unjust society. When a society encourages terrorists in the name of religion, national identity or violence against outsiders, it all adds up to an unjust society.

The task is then to build a just society. Naturally this is a utopian ideal, but it is the process that matters. When people feel that they are being heard, that their grievances are being addressed and that they have a chance at building a better life, it will mean a more peaceful life for everyone. In these dangerously polarised times we focus too much on scoring points at each other’s expense. Yet we have all forgotten how to collaborate to build a world we can all be proud of.

The task is too large for the social sector to tackle alone. It is a task much like rebuilding Europe after the World Wars, or even India’s own Independence. We need to reimagine our shared values – locally, nationally and globally. Perhaps at the end of it, we will be able to live peacefully together with our fellow citizens across the world.

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