What Is Peace?
Peace is the concept of harmonious well-being and freedom from hostile aggression. In a social sense, peace is commonly used to mean a lack of conflict (such as war) and freedom from fear of violence between individuals or heterogeneous (relatively foreign or distinct) [[social group|groups].
Throughout history some of the most extraordinary and benevolent leaders have used peace talks to establish a certain type of behavioral restraint that has resulted in the establishment of regional peace or economic growth through various forms of agreements or peace treaties. Such behavioral restraint has often resulted in de-escalation of rhetorical and physical conflicts, greater economic interactivity, and consequently substantial prosperity. The avoidance of war or violent hostility can be the result of thoughtful active listening and communication that enables greater genuine mutual understanding and therefore compromise. Leaders often benefit tremendously from the prestige of peace talks and treaties that can result in substantially enhanced popularity.
“Psychological peace” (such as a peaceful thinking and emotions) is perhaps less well defined yet often a necessary precursor to establishing “behavioral peace.” Peaceful behavior sometimes results from a “peaceful inner disposition.” Some have expressed the belief that peace can be initiated with a certain quality of inner tranquility that does not depend upon the uncertainties of daily life for its existence. The acquisition of such a “peaceful internal disposition” for oneself and others can contribute to resolving of otherwise seemingly irreconcilable competing interests.
Because psychological peace can be important to Behavioral peace, leaders sometimes de-escalate conflicts through compliments and generosity. Small gestures of rhetorical and actual generosity have been shown in psychological research to often result in larger levels of reciprocal generosity (and even virtuous circles of generosity). Such benevolent selfless behavior can eventually become a pattern that may become a lasting basis for improved relations between individuals and groups of people. Peace talks often start without preconditions and preconceived notions, because they are more than just negotiating opportunities. They place attention on peace itself over and above what may have been previously perceived as the competing needs or interests of separate individuals or parties to elicit peaceful feelings and therefore produce benevolent behavioral results. Peace talks are sometimes also uniquely important learning opportunities for the individuals or parties involved.
The term-‘peace’ originates most recently from the Anglo-French pes, and the Old French pais, meaning “peace, reconciliation, silence, agreement” (11th century). But, Pes itself comes from the Latin pax, meaning “peace, compact, agreement, treaty of peace, tranquility, absence of hostility, harmony.” The English word came into use in various personal greetings from c.1300 as a translation of the Hebrew word shalom, which, according to Jewish theology, comes from a Hebrew verb meaning ‘to be complete, whole’. Although ‘peace’ is the usual translation, however, it is an incomplete one, because ‘shalom,’ which is also cognate with the Arabic salaam, has multiple other meanings in addition to peace, including justice, good health, safety, well-being, prosperity, equity, security, good fortune, and friendliness, as well as simply the greetings, “hello” and “goodbye”. At a personal level, peaceful behaviors are kind, considerate, respectful, just, and tolerant of others’ beliefs and behaviors — tending to manifest goodwill.
This latter understanding of peace can also pertain to an individual’s introspective sense or concept of her/himself, as in being “at peace” in one’s own mind, as found in European references from c.1200. The early English term is also used in the sense of “quiet”, reflecting calm, serene, and meditative approaches to family or group relationships that avoid quarreling and seek tranquility — an absence of disturbance or agitation.
In many languages, the word for peace is also used as a greeting or a farewell, for example the Hawaiian word aloha, as well as the Arabic word salaam. In English the word peace is occasionally used as a farewell, especially for the dead, as in the phrase rest in peace.
Wolfgang Dietrich in his research project which led to the book The Palgrave International Handbook of Peace Studies (2011) maps the different meanings of peace in different languages and from different regions across the world. Later, in his Interpretations of Peace in History and Culture (2012), he groups the different meanings of peace into five peace families: Energetic/Harmony, Moral/Justice, Modern/Security, Postmodern/Truth, and Transrational, a synthesis of the positive sides of the four previous families and the society.
Religious beliefs often seek to identify and address the basic problems of human life, including the conflicts between, among, and within persons and societies. In ancient Greek-speaking areas the virtue of peace was personified as the goddess Eirene, and in Latin-speaking areas as the goddess Pax. Her image was typically represented by ancient sculptors as that of a full-grown woman, usually with a horn of plenty and scepter and sometimes with a torch or olive leaves.
Christians, who believe Jesus of Nazareth to be the Jewish Messiah called Christ (meaning Anointed One), interpret Isaiah 9:6 as a messianic prophecy of Jesus in which he is called the “Prince of Peace.” In the Gospel of Luke, Zechariah celebrates his son John: And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Numerous pontifical documents on the Holy Rosary document a continuity of views of the Popes to have confidence in the Holy Rosary as a means to foster peace. Subsequently, to the Encyclical Mense maio, 1965, in which he urged the practice of the Holy Rosary, “the prayer so dear to the Virgin and so much recommended by the Supreme Pontiffs,” and as reaffirmed in the encyclical Christi Matri, 1966, to implore peace, Pope Paul VI stated in the apostolic Recurrens mensis, October 1969, that the Rosary is a prayer that favors the great gift of peace.
Islam derived from the root word salam which literally means peace. Muslims are called followers of Islam. Quran clearly stated “Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah, hearts are assured” and stated “O you who have believed, when you are told, “Space yourselves” in assemblies, then make space; Allah will make space for you. And when you are told, “Arise,” then arise; Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do.”
Buddhists believe that peace can be attained once all suffering ends. They regard all suffering as stemming from cravings (in the extreme, greed), aversions (fears), or delusions. To eliminate such suffering and achieve personal peace, followers in the path of the Buddha adhere to a set of teachings called the Four Noble Truths — a central tenet in Buddhist philosophy.
Hindu texts contain the following passages:
May there be peace in the heavens, peace in the atmosphere, peace on the earth. Let there be coolness in the water, healing in the herbs and peace radiating from the trees. Let there be harmony in the planets and in the stars, and perfection in eternal knowledge. May everything in the universe be at peace. Let peace pervade everywhere, at all times. May I experience that peace within my own heart.— Yajur Veda 36.17)
Let us not concord with our own people, and concord with people who are strangers to us. Celestial Twins, create between us and the strangers a unity of hearts. May we unite in our minds, unite in our purposes, and not fight against the heavenly spirit within us. Let not the battle-cry rise amidst many slain, nor the arrows of the war-god fall with the break of day— Yajur Veda 7.52
A superior being does not render evil for evil. This is a maxim one should observe… One should never harm the wicked or the good or even animals meriting death. A noble soul will exercise compassion even towards those who enjoy injuring others or cruel deeds… Who is without fault?— Valmiki, Ramayana
The chariot that leads to victory is of another kind.
- Valour and fortitude are its wheels;
- Truthfulness and virtuous conduct are its banner;
- Strength, discretion, self-restraint and benevolence are its four horses,
- Harnessed with the cords of forgiveness, compassion and equanimity…
- Whoever has this righteous chariot, has no enemy to conquer anywhere.— Valmiki, Ramayana
Inner peace, meditation and prayerfulness
Main article: Inner peace
Psychological or inner peace (i.e. peace of mind) refers to a state of being internally or spiritually at peace, with sufficient knowledge and understanding to keep oneself calm in the face of apparent discord or stress. Being internally “at peace” is considered by many to be a healthy mental state, or homeostasis and to be the opposite of feeling stressful, mentally anxious, or emotionally unstable. Within the meditative traditions, the psychological or inward achievement of “peace of mind” is often associated with bliss and happiness.
Peace of mind, serenity, and calmness are descriptions of a disposition free from the effects of stress. In some meditative traditions, inner peace is believed to be a state of consciousness or enlightenment that may be cultivated by various types of meditation, prayer, t’ai chi ch’uan (太极拳, tàijíquán), yoga, or other various types of mental or physical disciplines. Many such practices refer to this peace as an experience of knowing oneself. An emphasis on finding one’s inner peace is often associated with traditions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and some traditional Christian contemplative practices such as monasticism, as well as with the New Age movement.
Satyagraha (सत्याग्रह satyāgraha) is a philosophy and practice of nonviolent resistance developed by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He deployed satyagraha techniques in campaigns for Indian independence and also during his earlier struggles in South Africa.
The word satyagraha itself was coined through a public contest that Gandhi sponsored through the newspaper he published in South Africa, ‘Indian Opinion’, when he realized that neither the common, contemporary Hindu language nor the English language contained a word which fully expressed his own meanings and intentions when he talked about his nonviolent approaches to conflict. According to Gandhi’s autobiography, the contest winner was Maganlal Gandhi (presumably no relation), who submitted the entry ‘sadagraha’, which Gandhi then modified to ‘satyagraha’. Etymologically, this Hindic word means ‘truth-firmness’, and is commonly translated as ‘steadfastness in the truth’ or ‘truth-force’.
Satyagraha theory also influenced Martin Luther King Jr. during the campaigns he led during the civil rights movement in the United States. The theory of satyagraha sees means and ends as inseparable. Therefore, it is contradictory to try to use violence to obtain peace. As Gandhi wrote: “They say, ‘means are, after all, means’. I would say, ‘means are, after all, everything’. As the means so the end…” A contemporary quote sometimes attributed to Gandhi, but also to A. J. Muste, sums it up: ‘There is no way to peace; peace is the way.’
Justice and injustice
Since classical times, it has been noted that peace has sometimes been achieved by the victor over the vanquished by the imposition of ruthless measures. In his book Agricola the Roman historian Tacitus includes eloquent and vicious polemics against the rapacity and greed of Rome. One, that Tacitus says is by the Caledonian chieftain Calgacus, ends Auferre trucidare rapere falsis nominibus imperium, atque ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. (To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace. — Oxford Revised Translation).
Discussion of peace is therefore at the same time a discussion on the form of such peace. Is it simple absence of mass organized killing (war) or does peace require a particular morality and justice? (just peace). A peace must be seen at least in two forms:
- A simple silence of arms, absence of war.
- Absence of war accompanied by particular requirements for the mutual settlement of relations, which are characterized by terms such as justice, mutual respect, respect for law and good will.
More recently, advocates for radical reform in justice systems have called for a public policy adoption of non-punitive, non-violent Restorative Justice methods, and many of those studying the success of these methods, including a United Nations working group on Restorative Justice, have attempted to re-define justice in terms related to peace. From the late 2000s on, a Theory of Active Peace has been proposed which conceptually integrates justice into a larger peace theory.
Movements and activism
Main article: Pacifism
Pacifism is the categorical opposition to the behaviors of war or violence as a means of settling disputes or of gaining advantage. Pacifism covers a spectrum of views ranging from the belief that international disputes can and should all be resolved via peaceful behaviors; to calls for the abolition of various organizations which tend to institutionalize aggressive behaviors, such as the military, or arms manufacturers; to opposition to any organization of society that might rely in any way upon governmental force. Such groups which sometimes oppose the governmental use of force include anarchists and libertarians. Absolute pacifism opposes violent behavior under all circumstance, including defense of self and others.
Pacifism may be based on moral principles (a deontological view) or pragmatism (a consequentialist view). Principled pacifism holds that all forms of violent behavior are inappropriate responses to conflict, and are morally wrong. Pragmatic pacifism holds that the costs of war and inter-personal violence are so substantial that better ways of resolving disputes must be found. Pacifists in general reject theories of Just War. Pacifism tends to place its initial focus on the need for a “peaceful behavior” ahead of any focus on the need for a “peaceful inner disposition.”
Peace and conflict studies
Main article: Peace and conflict studies
Peace and conflict studies is an academic field which identifies and analyses violent and nonviolent behaviours, as well as the structural mechanisms attending violent and non-violent social conflicts. This is to better understand the processes leading to a more desirable human condition. One variation, Peace studies (irenology), is an interdisciplinary effort aiming at the prevention, de-escalation, and solution of conflicts. This contrasts with war studies (polemology), directed at the efficient attainment of victory in conflicts. Disciplines involved may include political science, geography, economics, psychology, sociology, international relations, history, anthropology, religious studies, and gender studies, as well as a variety of other disciplines.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia