On Tuesday, September 21, 2020, the world marked the International Day of Peace, a day devoted by the United Nations for all humanity “to commit to peace above all differences and to contribute to the building of a culture of peace in the world.” This year’s edition is especially significant as it marked the 20th anniversary of the UN Resolution on Action on a Culture of Peace. The Day was aptly themed “Shaping Peace Together” with different activities all over the world marking the Peace Day, which in essence entails that every day should be a peace day.
There is no doubt that peace is the highest, noblest and greatest of life’s accomplishments and it is through it that the best is ever achieved. The significance of peace can be appreciated by contrasting it with its opposites, which are conflict, war, violence, strife, disorder, chaos, anarchy and all the undesirable psychological, social, political and cultural disturbances that one can conjure. Peace is the ultimate because where peace is light, war is darkness; and where peace is freedom, violence is bondage. If there is anything that is worth devoting one’s life to, it is peace, because it is through peace that development, security and everything good are established.
There are many conceptions of peace from the philosophical, sociological, political, cognitive and psychological to the religious perspectives. However, the one that holds a special appeal for me now is the religious, given that human beings by nature are religious. The truth is that we are not only homo sapiens (human being) but are also homo religiousus (religious being), the latter being a phrase coined by Sociologist Mircea Eliade. According to Eliade, the “homo religiousus always believes that there is an absolute reality, the sacred, which transcends this world but manifests itself in this world, thereby sanctifying it and making it real.”
From this religious perspective, peace is the ubatory level of calm, the state of mind that opens people’s perceptions to a higher reality of existence, manifesting in the balanced adjustments of appetites and desires that characterize a reasoning soul. In the words of St. Augustine, this peace manifests “in the harmonious correspondence of conduct and conviction; the peace of the body and soul taken together, in the well-ordered life and health of the living whole.”
Apart from Islam being rooted in “peace” or “salaam”, with one of the attributes of God Himself being “As Salaam” (Peace), the Qur’an emphasizes that “Allah calls to the home of peace” (Q10:25) through taking the divine guidance which is “the path of peace” (Q.5:16) and orders Muslims to “disturb not the peace of earth after the fair ordering therefore by Allah” (Q7:56). The Prophet (PBUH) himself was a man of peace and conciliation. He urged his followers to “do good to those who harm you” (At-Tirmidhi) and described a Muslim as one “from whose tongue and hands people are safe; a believer is one from whom people know that their wealth and lives are safe” (Mukhari, Muslim).
It goes without saying that it is when peace is engrained in the guided heart as the subject and object of life that it can grow and yield fruits that will benefit the society. I once quoted Naraginti Reddy, though the words are also credited to Confucius, in this regard in my contribution to the second Youth Summit of the Nigeria Inter-religious Council (NIREC) on November 24, 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria. According to the philosopher, “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”
In the spirit of the International Peace Day, there is an urgent need to restore order to the soul and the society so that we can build peace together in the world. There can be no social order without soul order. The order of the soul concerns feeding it with righteous and positive energy, with all their deliverables including truthfulness, honesty, sincerity, love and goodness. The order of the soul (or self) concerns ridding it of greed, selfishness and corruption to achieve beauty. That is the kind of beauty that defines the soul of the Irish billionaire, Chuck Feeney, whose philosophy of “Giving While Living” made him to give away all his $8 billion life earnings to charities, universities and organizations via his Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies.
When the soul order is established, then from individuals, peacefulness and positivity will radiate the society as everyone appreciates that peace is everything and without peace there is nothing. The essence of life as the harmonious awareness of God, self and others thereby resonates in conduct that promotes consciousness, conscientiousness, cooperation, collaboration, conciliation and compromise. With the beauty of the soul and sincerity to others and the society at large, the missing ribs of the world will be found.
Shaping Peace Together
As the greatest good ever, peace is the summum bonum of life, meaning an end in itself which at the same time contains all other goods and no negative results. Given this importance, shaping peace is everyone’s responsibility through words and works, speeches and actions that entrench, promote and engender peace in the society. In shaping peace together for everyone, there are two rules that should dominate personal, social, political and global morality or ethics. These are the Golden and Silver Rules.
The Golden Rule, which simply states that you should do to others as you would want them do to you, finds expression in many religious traditions, from Traditional Religions and Buddhism to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The idea is that putting yourself in others’ shoes would make you empathize with them and see them as friends and collaborators, not fiends and competitors. The bane of the world is that those who wish peace and development for themselves desire instability and destruction for others through their meddlesomeness.
The Silver Rule is the inversion of the Golden Rule and it states that you do not do unto others as you would not want done to you. You don’t want war, don’t take it elsewhere. You don’t want chaos, don’t create it elsewhere through imposition and arrogance. Don’t give what you won’t like to receive.
Ultimately, living by the precepts of the Golden and Silver Rules make us restore order and shape peace together in our world being led by those who think they are wise but are rather otherwise.