Heroes of peace | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 05, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 05, 2009

Heroes of peace

For centuries, battles have been fought with kudos won for the war heroes. Violence has been condoned in declared wars, communal riots, religious crusades or hartals; use of arms in defence or offence has been justified. The war heroes have often been glorified along with the cause they defend, whether it is fundamentalism, capitalism, communism or any other ism that moves people to fight for their beliefs. Examples of such "courage and valour" expand in literature and in schools texts as inspirational stories for children.
Today at a time of heedless violence (and violence can only be heedless), let us search our memory for Heroes of Peace who gave their energy and life to resist violence. History has failed to record such examples. Instances of communal empathy during the 1947 Hindu-Muslim massacre when common people from either side went out of their way to help protect the others of different religious community are not remembered. Again in 1971, when similar courage was shown by Bengalis rescuing non-Bengalis and vice versa, we have not honoured these heroes of peace. The most eminent of such heroes is of course Mahatma Gandhi who fought for freedom against imperialism with peaceful ways of Satyargraha (his slogan "An eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind"). A trail of movements for peace exists all over the world (even to this day in Gandhi Ashram at Noakhali where Mahatma Gandhi spoke amidst violence in 1947).
In respect of the astounding courage of these Heroes of Peace, let us read a paragraph from Joan Baez' autobiography: "The problem is consensus. There is a consensus out that it's ok to kill. If you kill inside the country you get into trouble. If you kill outside the country, right time, right season, latest enemy, you get a medal."
Internecine wars take places to prove the superiority of one nation over the other...The offensive side thinks they are smarter than the vulnerable nation. Thus the winners are the declared heroes in this bloody game.
The war mongers think it is human nature to kill... the pacifist asks, "Then why do men have to go into training to learn how?"
As a pacifist, Joan Baez goes on to say, "The pacifist thinks there is only one tribe... the three billion members. They come first. We think killing any member of the family is a dumb idea. We think there are more decent and intelligent ways of settling differences and man had better start investigating these other possibilities because if he doesn't, then by mistake or by design he will probably kill off the whole human race...."
Joan Baez (born in 1941) in her charismatic songs is an example of a Heroine of Peace who lured with her voice, the greatest act of peace.
Let us inspire our children by including biographies of Heroes of Peace in school texts, so as to create a nation truly secular and democratic, that will tolerate dissent and advocate a peaceful resistance to violence.

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