THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS AT THE FACE OF HOSTILITY

Light of truth

Question: C.T.Devassia

We are living with hostilities, how must we live with the other who could be your enemy, it may be with a hostile country or hostile neighbour or a hostile religion. Is our solution a war, what do we achieve by war?

Answer: Saji Mathew Kanayankal CST

The questions on hostilities and our relationship with the neighbour, whether it may be a person, family or country, become relevant today, especially when we hear a lot of rumours about terrorism, attack, revenge and war. It is a sad reality that our world becomes narrower and our sights become shorter than expected. After the end of the cold war we shared a dream that the hostility between nations would come to an end and with the propagation of globalisation, there was a high expectation of the emergence of ‘a global village’ with mutual respect of each other’s culture, nationality, heritage and religion. However, the recent events such as Brexit, building up of wall in the US, various separatist movements within different nations and the terrorist attacks in the different parts of the world give us a gloomier picture. On the other hand, the growth of ultra-nationalism that promotes the ideas of separatisms, majoritarianism and tyranny shatters the dreams and hopes of a fraternal musing of different nations, faiths and culture. With the growing intolerance among persons, societies and nations, we hear stories of hatred, distrust and abomination. In the contemporary India, it becomes almost impossible to live in solidarity with another person who has a different cultural, political or religious frame. After the Pulwama attack, many are in favour of the total annihilation of the enemy, even with a war if necessary.

Is War the Only Solution?
It is true that the attack of the terrorist on the troops of the Indian army and death of our brave soldiers is a shocking news and a matter of grave concern for all the Indians. Indeed, such an attack is also a challenge to the sovereignty of our nation and a great loss especially for their families. I can totally agree that the terrorism is to be eradicated from the earth and we have the right to live peacefully, without any fear of attack. How should we proceed? Is a war the only solution?

Traditionally, war is defined as a violent and armed meeting between different states of the nation. It can be of two types, either aggressive which is fought for the domination over other nation or defensive which is a military action that is fought in order to repel an actual aggression of an enemy. Whatever be the type, fundamentally, war is an evil, which causes a lot of harm to the people, land and the whole creation. According to Mahatma Gandhi, ‘war is wrong, is an unmitigated evil.’ It is the denial of the demand of human worth that brings sorrow to persons, families, society and the entire nation. As Pope Francis points out, “there is the great calamity of today’s wars, where the price of the party is paid by the weak, the poor, children, and those who have no resources to carry on.” For him, “war is irrational; its only plan is to bring destruction: it seeks to grow by destroying.” It is a madness that ruins everything, even the bonds between brothers with its worst outcomes such as hatred, selfishness, pride, greed, revenge, vendetta and death.

The history provides us the sad pictures and statistics of many wars, the lessons of loss, sorrows and annihilations. In Thirty Years of War (1618-48), Germany alone lost twelve million inhabitants. French revolutionary and Napoleonic War (1792- 1815) has taken the life of over ten million French men and in the American Civil War (1861-65) almost nine lakhs people lost their lives. During the First World War (1914-18) ten to thirteen million combatants were killed, over fourteen million people were injured and tens and thousands of people lost their lives through diseases, exposures, malnutrition, starvation, bombardments etc. The cost of the Second World War (1939-45), which was fought with many uncontrolled uses of sophisticated weapons, is beyond calculations. It is estimated that around fifty five million people died, more than twenty one million buildings were destroyed, tens of millions of people were deprived of shelter and property. Pope Benedict XVI, then the pontiff called it as a ‘useless slaughter.’ During the war, the world has also witnessed on the violation of fundamental rights of the individuals and the annihilation of many agricultural and industrial resources. As a result, many countries were divided, people of the same family were separated and forced into displacement. Even now, several regions of the world bleed! After the war there was a drastic increase in the competition of different nations for the rearmament without limits and the sale of arms and weapon became one of the leading business in the international realm. For many years, especially during the time of the cold war, the entire world was under the threat of the emergence of a third world war. As it stands today, since India and Pakistan are the members of the ‘nuclear power club,’ the effects of a war will be unpredicted.

Facts, Fiction and Fake!
In the postmodernity of the contemporary era, life became more complicated and majority of the population is fond of beliefs and ideologies than facts and truths. Along with it, the selfish attempts of the political leaders to make temporal gain in power and its maintenance, the lack of farsightedness and shallow vision reduce the moral and political will to find an ample solution in a conflicting situation. Even in the international scenario, political leaders do not pay due attention to the democratic means to maintain peace, rather boast of their military power to settle down issues that disturbs peace. As it is observed, “they often fail to realize the fact that violence erupts at the social level, commutes to the political level and seeking a resolution finally at the military level.” Rather than exploiting the situation for personal gains, our leaders fail to look for a long-term solution, analysing the whole history and the entire situation, respecting the different groups of people involved in various issues. Moreover, the technique of misinterpretation and fake news during the time of war or pre-war time, blind ourselves that may hinder our sight to see the truth and reality. As Pope Francis observes, “war is won by propaganda in the first place.” For example, the war against Iraq in 2003 was justified by the claim that Saddam Hussein possessed ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which later proved to be non-existent. However, in a speech in 2004, Tony Blair dodged the issue, saying: ‘I only know what I believe.’ Today, with the effect of social media and progress in information technology, there is a possibility of spreading misinformation and disrupt with abusive, hateful and insulting words or visuals with a certain calculated agenda that prevents rational conversation or arguments. The matters circulated through these gadgets may not necessarily fake, but contain biased or incomplete views of events in order to have a persuasive effect on the reader. It is a well-calculated, algorithmic or organized move to confuse and bamboozle everybody else by floating conspiracy theories, wherein the line between fact and fiction has been blurred critically. Here, truth, freedom, dignity and fairness are highly challenged and flouted. In the present context of India, many are afraid to speak of peace and dialogue, for it is easy that s/he will be branded as an anti-nationalist.

The Power of Non- violence and Forgiveness
It is to be remembered that the uprightness of India lies not on its economic strength and political supremacy or military power, rather it remains on the long-cherished spiritual heritage of our nation based on the principles of truthfulness, tolerance and nonviolence. These principles were epitomised by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation during the struggle for independence. According to Gandhi, “an eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” Our experience of different events in the history also proves its rationality. For last many years,different nations and military powers used numerous kinds of weapons to eradicate terrorism and in this process many lives are taken. But what is the net result? Can we eradicate hatred and animosity through military power? Or is it possible to end hostility with enmity, revenge and retaliation? If anyone wants to take revenge and feed the hate, s/he will never be satisfied, for revenge again generates hate and it continues.Only love can eradicate hate, not hate by itself. Gandhi objected violence because he considered it “as a clumsy weapon which created more problems than it solved, and left at rail of hatred and bitterness in which genuine reconciliation was almost impossible.” It was his firm conviction that nothing endure can built upon violence. As Pope Francis rightly points out, “the arms race, the extension of its zones of influence, the aggressive policies to the detriment of others will never bring stability.”

Sometimes people may think that forgiveness is a sign of the weakness. For Gandhi, “the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” According to him, since most often we are caught up with our egos and self-possessed ideals, one needs courage to forgive someone who does wrong to him/her and it is ‘taking a high road’ for the well-being of both. Gandhi incorporates the ideas of nonviolence, individual strength, soul force and forgiveness together. It is a road to peace and justice, eradicating even the feelings of hatred and violence. Sometimes, it may take longer time than expected, but the result will be long-lasting. This movement for peace and nonviolence is not a unilateral or one-dimensional effort. Rather, it should be a collective effort of many that has to be attained by a concrete, historical and political praxis with its multi facets, like social, ethnical, political, religious and cultural elements. This multifaceted approach will help us to bring the worsened situation into stability. It is a genuine search into the source of the conflict, a true analysis on the different events that has taken place in the past and a sincere approach to retrieve the evils of the past with certain corrective steps if necessary and an open invitation for dialogue without any prejudices. Most of the peace-making processes fail because of the political mimic behind the curtain. If there is a sincere attempt based on the conviction on the right and the truth, with the courage to resist injustice without rancour, but with firmness and gentleness, there is hope for peace, justice and unity. As Pope Francis has reminded at his historic visit at UAE, “only good can defeat evil and wickedness, only forgiveness can overcome resentment and revenge, only a fraternal embrace can disperse the hostility and fear of the other.”

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