So this post is going to be a little different because I have been thinking a lot about the idea of peace and religion. It is not really something that is focused on in the US; we tend to be a country that promotes 'Freedom" but not necessarily "Peace".
Something that Shanti Ashram is currently working on is called "The Peace Festival" which gathers the community and city of Coimbatore together to promote peace. It's going to be held August 9th because that is around the time that Hiroshima was bombed by the US. Now maybe my school education is seriously lacking, but we never seemed to really focus on the results of Hiroshima. Actually, I can't really remember talking about Hiroshima much past middle school and we certainly don't acknowledge when it happened. When we do talk about it, we generally talk about how "we ended the war early" by bombing Japan and little else. I know that some people made the paper cranes to commemorate it, etc. etc. I think we know the general effect that the bombing had, but we don't really like to think or talk about it. However, among the people I have met from here and from other countries, Hiroshima is an important symbol of the effects of war and the need for peace. Life is something that is very precious and must never be taken. However, Hiroshima took many lives and left the remaining ones to slowly die....even if the war ended quickly.
Part of the idea of this push for peace is that we should get all the governments to not only get rid of their nuclear weapons, but all weapons (including fire arms) in order to promote a more peaceful society world-wide. Another part of this idea is inter-religious acceptance and understanding. We need to have an open mind about others' beliefs and try to understand instead of judge and/or discriminate. Shanti Ashram has been part of an alliance with many different organizations, both religious and non-governmental, world-wide. These organizations got signatures from people in every country saying they support peace and called each country to get rid of their weapons.
Over 50 million signatures were obtained and submitted to the UN. Japan alone raised 10 million and the US had less than 200,000. Now, maybe there were differences in the way the NGOs went about getting the signatures; however, I do think it's interesting that a country the size of the US only got such a small amount to support peace. But I guess it's not that big of a surprise when you think about the debate on the rights associated with holding/owning weapons. The majority of Americans are not willing to give up that right, and feel no need to turn in their weapons before their enemies turn in theirs.
I'm still not 100% sure where I stand on this subject. On the subject of inter-religious peace, yes, I completely agree. And that's also something that is waning in the US. We say that everyone has the right to religion, but when you live in an area where the majority is Christians it doesn't seem that hard. I wonder what people would think about the right to religion if they heard a Muslim prayer call 5 times a day, or if their Hindu neighbors smeared cow dung on the driveway/sidewalk. My neighborhood would complain to the city without a moment's hesitation. I think that we still have a long way to go in the US before we have true "inter-religious peace". On the subject of firearms and weapons, though I certainly don't agree with war, I do think that the right to have weapons is important (and this may be my American upbringing shining through). But the more I see what people do with weapons the more I think it's a good idea that nobody has them. Unfortunately, I also don't think that's realistic though it would be nice. Anyway, there's some food for thought about the ideas of peace and religion.