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Nations at Peace

~ Fostering peace by teaching the ethics of peace

Feb 25, 2007

I believe that the majority of human beings around the world agree that all nations should live at peace. I also believe that most people reject the extreme and violent methods that totalitarians use to create “world peace.” Instead of the “peace of the grave” or the “peace of slavery,” I think that many people might be able to at least conceptually agree with the following premise:

Nations will live in peace when the overriding desire of each nation is to serve the citizens of all nations as true brothers and sisters, bound together by a common heart of love.

I’ve often reflected on the fact that a person’s decisions and actions are driven by their concepts, attitudes, and heart. When one approaches a city bureaucrat and asks for something, the answer often doesn’t depend on the “law” but on the official’s state of mind on that particular day (especially if the law is a bit vague). This is also why lawyers will make an effort to present their cases to judges who are favorably predisposed toward their particular issues. Laws and traditions can be changed as easily as they are made—if the humans in charge of them are willing.

If we look at the long span of human history and the attitudes that peoples and nations have had toward others, we can see how vital it is that we pay attention to what we are teaching our children in the twenty-first century. Do we want our children to grow up to become voters and leaders who are callous and bigoted, or do we want our children—and the children of the world—to espouse the viewpoint that all people are indeed brothers and sisters under a compassionate God of love?

Take Julius Caesar, for example. He was praised as a victor when he returned to Rome with spoils and slaves from his Gallic campaigns. Can you imagine a U.S. general returning from the “campaigns” in Germany, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, or Iraq, marching past the White House with thousands of slaves in tow, receiving cheers and praise from the American people? We would be horrified, and immediately lock the general up and return the “slaves” to their native lands. It must, of course, be noted that the United States did not enter those wars for the purpose of conquest, but had instead the goal of liberating people from tyranny. That in itself was a major change in the history of war.

Civilization is advancing and the zeitgeist of the world is becoming enlightened, however slowly or spottily. Human rights abuses still exist, communism still exists, tyrants still rule. Yet now, with the power of the Internet to propagate values and change human thought faster than ever before, our world has a real chance to evolve. Victor Hugo heralded the “idea whose time has come.” I believe that our struggle now is to win the hearts and minds of those who have not yet adopted the ethic that service toward others is the route to happiness.

One way to effect this change is to use the power of multiplication. The more we talk about the core values that are necessary for peace, the more conversations we start, the more we write and publicize these issues, the more impact we will have. Let the Internet bloggers get to work! The news media (and television and movies) should also do much more to take responsibility for this issue. We need to see far more news commentaries and stories about champions of peace and the efforts that are being made to achieve lasting world peace.

Schools around the world should take a much larger role in teaching each generation of children to adopt and actualize the ethics of peace, including the concept articulated by the statement “Nations will live in peace when the overriding desire of each nation is to serve the citizens of all nations as true brothers and sisters, bound together by a common heart of love.”

Imagine a high school that graduates a thousand teenagers who have all been inspired with that vision. Now imagine all the high schools and colleges everywhere, in all nations of the world, adopting that same value system and making it a priority in their educational curriculum. What an impact that would have! One might say that this is a pipe dream, but it’s really not. Look at how much the concepts of “PC” (politically correct) thought have impacted our educational institutions. Look at how monolithic and stultifying the education system has become in orthodox Muslim countries. It is certainly clear that we can teach values if we want to—it remains to be seen what values will win the day. I recommend that governments legislate that schools must teach students about the ethics of peace. It is at least as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Legislation might seem like a radical approach, or even a violation of church and state. I’m not recommending a state-sponsored religion. I’m simply advocating that governments codify a standard of universal ethics and civic duties that can be taught to all children. It will benefit everyone if children learn to be unselfish as a normal way of life.

Some people might feel that ethical education is not the purview of the government. They might point out that it’s the unity of church and state that has allowed human rights abuses to flourish in many Muslim countries. All valid arguments indeed. Some forward-thinking, unorthodox Muslims believe that Islamic governments should become secular, in order to safeguard human rights. I agree. My view is that all governments should allow complete religious freedom and should be functionally secular, but that all governments should also encourage unselfish, kind, and compassionate service toward the world. They should not ban texts that mention God or religion, as they apply to ethics, because both God and religion are historically relevant to the evolution of ethics.

Banishing all mention of God from the halls of schools and government is a disservice to the human race, and is as oppressive as a religious dictatorship.

In the text A History of the Modern World by R. R. Palmer, from Princeton University (Second Edition, Revised with the collaboration of Joel Colton, Duke University, 1956), the author states on page thirty-eight, “The chief accomplishment of Thomas Aquinas was his demonstration that faith and reason could not be in conflict.” Then on page thirty-nine, he continues:

In Thomas’s time, there were some who said that Aristotle and the Arabs were infidels, dangerous influences that must be silenced. Any reasoning about the faith, they warned, was a form of weakness. Thomas’s doctrine that faith could not be endangered by reason gave a freedom to thinkers to go on thinking. Here Latin Christendom may be contrasted with the Moslem world. It was ruled, in about the time of Thomas Aquinas, that valid interpretation of the Koran had ended with the Four Great Doctors of early Islam. As Moslems said, the Gate was closed. Arabic thought, so brilliant for several centuries, withered away.

I believe that our battle today is in the realm of ideas, centering upon the “God or No God” question, and then revolving around questions about the nature, intent, and motivations of God as they relate to unselfishness, love, and peace. All secular and religious people owe it to themselves and to each other to vigorously discuss these questions in an atmosphere of religious freedom and mutual respect. Can it be so hard to reach a consensus that respectful love and service toward all nations and peoples are the most powerful and universal virtues of the human race? For the world’s survival, we must make it so.

(Comments are moderated and must be approved.)
Peter Falkenberg Brown
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