Peace talks: Does religion help or hurt?
Mideast peace talks resume this week, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveling to Egypt and Israel for negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Is religion helping or hurting the attempt to forge peace between the Jewish state and the Palestinians?
There is no getting away from religion in the Middle East. Conflicts in the region have arisen in the name of religion. And, I question if it is the religious beliefs. My understanding is that at the core Christianity, Judaism and Islam are about peace. So it must be something beyond the core beliefs, where the differences are perceived to be. Something related to the religious identity? History? Or the external expression of the religions.
Today, the Mid East issues have become the problems primarily of the Abrahamic faiths. As a Hindu, I have often wondered if including the practical spirituality of the Dharmic (eastern) traditions would help or hinder the process? What if the Dalai Lama was included in the dialogues? What if the Hindu spiritual leaders were consulted? What would they say about peace and its practice at the ground level?
I understand Ahimsa, non-violence in all aspects, is the first value of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. Having just organized a national Yogathon in the nation with the Hindu temples, and working with many spiritual leaders, I see that Yoga has crossed many lines of religions and cultures, not only in America, but across the globe.
The powerful Vedic Hindu statement – Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah – Non-violence is the foremost duty to the extent that it supersedes all other duties, was repeatedly emphasized by Mahatma Gandhi during India’s struggle for independence. Coincidentally, Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement started in South Africa, on September 11,1906, the launch of the modern Non-Violent Resistance Movement, which inspired America’s Civil Rights movement. Thoughts have no boundaries.
Could and should these invoked values of Ahimsa (non-violence) and Shanti (peace) be sustained? Could these Yogic values of the Hindu and eastern Dharmic faiths (Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh) beneficially augment the attempt to forge peace between the Jewish state and the Palestinians?
I think they would!!! They must!!!