Create peace inside yourself and the world might follow
Historically the relationship between religions and world peace is ambiguous. Religions declare that God is the creator of the universe, and all people are brothers and sisters.
On the other hand, they can have a negative impact on world peace because people use religion to justify wars. They misuse religion for their own selfish purposes to stay in power and to control people.
Religions create certain emotions that can lead to violence. Throughout history, people have misused religion to incite their followers to fight with others in the name of God. Religion has had the power to create heaven on Earth as well as a hell on Earth.
We have gone to the moon and sent exploratory electronics to Mars, but we have not learned to live peacefully with our fellows on Earth.
In my opinion, all religions are like the branches of the same tree, which has only one major root and that is God. We are the children of the same creator who does not belong to one religion or nation. God is eternal and resides in hearts of all human beings. If you love someone, you love God, and if you hate someone, you hate God.
People might accept the ideas that have just been expressed above, but they will question whether such attitudes or belief works in practice. So the question is, What does faith in God and humanity have to do with bringing about world peace? Everything!
Religions have certain dreams for world peace, and many are still striving for this outcome. Dreams have a great capacity to change things. For example, in his most famous speech in Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King Jr. declared, "I have a dream." Today he is a hero because he pursued his dream for racial equality in the United States. Dreams always show us what kind of society we can become in the future. Dreams can have divine messages and the power to move people from mere possibilities to realities.
Gandhi had a dream. He looked upon India as a diverse community with the potential to cast off the colonial yoke and become a democracy. Gandhi studied different scriptures and found the commonality among religions. He united people from different religions and suggested that they should live in peace and harmony. He believed that "ahimsa," nonviolence, is the highest religion. Ahimsa means a person should refrain from harming others in his thoughts, speech and deeds.
Nonviolence needs more courage than violence. Gandhi said, "If we have to fight a war, that should be against those evil thoughts which take place in our mind before they take place in the external world."
All religions teach hope. Hope is the belief that things can change for the better. We must hope for peace even when peace appears to be all but impossible.
When people take the first step of creating peace within themselves, within their families and within society, then it becomes the first step toward world peace. When you have become successful in finding peace within, you can create peace among various communities.
Prayer, fasting and silence are three important exercises to purify one's mind, body and spirit and to attain self-realization, God-consciousness and peace within. Let there be peace in the world. Let it begin with me, and with my brothers and sisters.
Gandhi said, "There is no way to peace, peace is the way. Be a change to see change in the world."
Raj Kumar, who practices Hinduism, is president of the Gandhi International Institute for Peace and the Indian-American Friendship Council in Hawaii.