Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid – John 14:27.
The 2005 meeting of the Peace Council was held in New York City (Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary) from Sunday, September 25, to Friday, September 30, 2005. On Monday, September 26 at 5:00 pm the Peace Councilors presented a public interfaith service at Riverside Church in New York City. The major theme of the meeting was to discuss the increasing political and cultural influence of religious extremists in the world and in the United States. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the chief guest of honour. On Tuesday morning, Dr. Joseph Hough, president of Union Theological Seminary, opened a discussion on the growing political power of the “religious right” in the United States and its influence on domestic and foreign policy.
The goals and purposes of the meeting were to review threats to peace that are posed by the growing political influence of extremist or “fundamentalist” religious viewpoints and groups, and to discuss or plan responses to these trends. The Council considered further collaboration between the Peace Councilors and Union Theological Seminary’s programs in interfaith education and peace. They met and exchanged ideas and experiences with the recipients of the Tanenbaum Center’s Peacemakers in Action award. Many of them are younger or less well-known peacemakers working at the grass-roots level in various countries. The committee reviewed the progress of work done in war afflicted areas and planned future Peace Council initiatives, programs, methods, and meetings. Finally this also provided further opportunity for the Peace Councilors to collaborate and to renew friendships with each other.
Peace is Possible 18th September 2005 was UN International Day of Peace. Political and religious leaders from all over the world gathered in the city of New York to assure each other that in a world of war and chaos, all hope is not lost. They voiced together ‘Peace is Possible’.
26th September 2005 will be a memorable day for me because I was in the presence of none other than His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso. He was at the Riverside Church in New York with other religious peace makers around the world to hold high the banner of peace and justice in the world. The evening was a wonderful experience. The service for peace had prayers from the Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jain, and Jewish traditions. I would like to share a few thoughts from the speech by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Before I mention extracts from his speech, I want to share the most extra ordinary sight I witnessed just before His Holiness was to give his speech. The Riverside church in New York is a beautiful building with wonderful settings, and a cross hangs in front of the altar. As he got up to speak, before facing the audience, he set his sight at the cross, bowed with reverence, hands folded and then addressed the crowd. We need to learn to respect our own tradition from how others respect and revere our religion.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama stated:
- I believe in peace, love, compassion and non-violence which I try to practice, in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha and the great sages of India and Tibet. No matter what part of the world we come from, we are all basically the same human beings. We all seek happiness and try to avoid suffering. We have the same basic human needs and concerns. All human beings want freedom and the right to determine our own destiny as individuals and as peoples. That is human nature. The great changes taking place everywhere in the world, from Eastern Europe to Africa are a clear indication of this. Any relationship between human beings and countries will have to be based on the principle of equality, respect, trust and mutual benefit.
- I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share. I am convinced that everyone can develop a good heart and a sense of universal responsibility within ones own religion.
- With the ever growing impact of science on our lives, religion and spirituality have a greater role to play reminding us of our humanity. There is no contradiction between the two. Each gives us valuable insights into the other. Both science and the teachings of the Buddha tell us of the fundamental unity of all things.
- I believe all religions pursue the same goals, that of cultivating human goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings. Though the means might appear different, the ends are the same.
- I pray for all of us, that together we succeed in building a better world through human under-standing and love, and that in doing so we may reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings.
As he finished his speech he faced the cross again bowed with reverence and took his place among the other dignitaries. I shared this experience with you all because ‘PEACE’ is what we all want and yet find hard to achieve. St Seraphim of Sarov said; “Be at peace within yourself and thousands around you will be at peace”. Peace has to come from within us. We need to alienate all the evil that broods in our hearts and minds and make a genuine effort to love and share. We participate in the greatest of love feast – the ‘Holy Qurbana’. The priest offers heavenly peace several times during the Liturgy, we sing about it, we exchange the kiss of peace with our neighbours, we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ (a reminder of the great peace between God and man) and the congregation is blessed us to go forth in peace at the end. How is it that after participating in such a great mystery of love and peace that we still do not have peace within us, within churches and among nations?
We need to asses the value of peace and its meaning in our lives. May the meaning of peace make us work and pray for peace. The best way to achieve peace is to love one another and consider every one else greater that yourself. Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. John 15:12 – This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you – John 13:34.