The Dalai Lama at The Vancouver Peace Summit, 2009, photographed by Kris Krüg.
Until very recently, many people felt that disagreements and conflicts between nations and communities could only be resolved through war or the threat of force. Although everyone wishes to live in peace, we are often confused about how it can be achieved. Violence inevitably leads to more violence. It is not the solution – certainly not in the long term. Today, more and more people realise that the proper way of resolving differences is through dialogue, compromise and discussions, through human understanding and humility. There is a growing appreciation that genuine peace comes about through mutual understanding, respect and trust.
Nevertheless, I have no doubt that problems will continue to occur within human society. When they do, they should be solved in a humanitarian way, for which non-violence provides the proper approach. Terrorism, for example, cannot be overcome by the use of force because it does not address the complex underlying problems that give rise to it. In fact the use of force may not only fail to solve our problems, it may exacerbate them and frequently leaves destruction and suffering in its wake. Human conflicts should be resolved with compassion. The key, I repeat, is non-violence.
In the present global situation we need a well-thought-out, coordinated long-term strategy. It has never been more urgent, for example, that we seek a genuine determination to achieve global demilitarisation. However, I believe that in order to have the confidence to eliminate physical weapons, some kind of inner disarmament is necessary. To begin with we need to embark on the difficult task of developing love and compassion within ourselves. Peace is not merely the absence of war, but a state of tranquillity founded on the deep sense of security that arises from mutual understanding, tolerance of others’ points of view, and respect for their rights. Peace is not something which exists independently of us, nor is war. The political leaders, policymakers and army generals who have responsibilities with respect to peace are members of our own human family, the society that we as individuals have helped create.
In this context, the proposal that there should be a Ministry of Peace within governments is not merely admirable, but if implemented would represent a serious indication of actual intent. I am happy to give my support to such a body whose responsibilities would include being a consistent voice for non-violent means of settling disputes.
I would like to offer what encouragement I may to everyone involved in this project with the caution that whenever we pursue noble goals, obstacles and difficulties are bound to occur. As human beings, we may lose hope. But as there is nothing to be gained from discouragement, our determination must be very firm. According to my own limited experience, we can transform ourselves and so make a difference by transforming the societies we belong to. I am convinced that if we all were to spend a few minutes every day trying to develop a sense of inner peace, eventually it will become part of our lives and then everything we do will contribute to peace in the world.
CF-188 Hornet during Operation Impact, February 2015 (photo by Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND)
Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau:
As Canadians contemplate peace and goodwill, we in the Canadian Peace Initiative urge you to stay the course on ending the combat mission in Iraq and Syria, despite the mounting pressure to maintain it. In our view, you are the first global leader involved in this conflict who has indicated that bombing is the wrong choice to end the war and bring the peace. You stand with former President Arias of Costa Rica, who won the Nobel Prize for Peace for his role in ending conflicts in Central America by negotiated outcomes without the use of force.
Although Canada is lauded by our allies for playing a part in repelling ISIL’s recent attack on Erbil, the main conclusion from that battle is that ISIL is able to mount such attacks, when it is claimed that it has been contained. Clearly, that is not the case.
The Canadian emphasis on those displaced by the war, through our humanitarian work to resettle 25,000 refugees in Canada, is a right and just response to their plight. Canada could certainly take more, but this is an outstanding beginning.
A negotiated outcome is being sought for Syria, as evidenced by the UN Security Council resolution on this issue. Now that your government has encouraged our diplomats in the field to act once again, there is an opportunity for Canada’s outstanding historic role in peace diplomacy to be reaffirmed in this most difficult, but not intractable, conflict. Since the first principle of any negotiation is that all parties to a conflict be at the table, negotiations will necessarily have to include ISIL.
Certainly, we do agree that ISIL carries out terrorist acts. However, it should be acknowledged that many see the actions of Western governments in a similar light, from the use of depleted uranium weaponry, to the “indiscriminate” use of drones (the term repeatedly used by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), to the 2003 invasion of Iraq (in violation of the UN Charter).
Violence will not secure a positive outcome to the conflict. Only a ceasefire, followed by a UN peacekeeping force adequately resourced and with a sufficiently robust mandate, will lead to successful negotiations.
We appeal to you to present Canada to the world as a nation with an independent foreign policy, dedicated to peace diplomacy, within the framework of the UN and other multilateral, non-military structures.
Dr. Saul Arbess, Co-founder and Director,
Canadian Peace Initiative
adapted from a photo by W. Lloyd MacKenzie, via Flickr
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
The Canadian Peace Initiative warmly congratulates you on the success of the recent election. We are delighted that, in your initial conversation with President Obama, you indicated your intent to end Canada’s combat mission against ISIL. Over the last ten years we have been very concerned by the move that Canada has taken, away from its traditional commitment to peacekeeping and peace diplomacy, to a belligerent role on the world stage.
There is currently no strategic focus for peace in government, and there has rarely been a greater urgency or a better window of opportunity to consider the creation of a Department of Peace in our country. This is one of the principle aims of the Canadian Peace Initiative. We see that Canada has an important role to play in the prevention of violence and the resolution of conflicts at home and abroad. Bill C-373, An Act to Establish a Department of Peace, passed First Reading in the House of Commons on November 30, 2011, and we have been diligently working on advancing it to Second Reading.
We recall your father’s courageous peace initiative, embarked on in 1983, when he said, “it is essential in my judgment to seek stability at a number of points along the downward trend line and to recognize that peace and security in the modern age are indivisible.” The Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security (1984-93) was established as a legacy of that initiative, by a unanimous vote of Parliament.
We feel confident that your vision for the country will include an expanded Canadian peace initiative. In the words of Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, “Of all our dreams today there is none more important – or so hard to realize – than that of peace in the world. May we never lose our faith in it or our resolve to do everything that can be done to convert it one day into reality.”
As you develop policy to reinvigorate peace building as a primary goal of Canada’s government, we would like to work with you.
Furquan Gehlen and Christopher Cutler,
National Co-chairs, Canadian Peace Initiative