Table of Contents
Think Peace: One Planet
From the Editor
Nonviolence and tolerance are not new concepts. As a student in India, I learned that the pages of our history have refreshing, peaceful turning points such as the ones below:
In the 3rd century B.C.E., Emperor Ashoka, became a Buddhist after winning the fierce Kaling War, which he had launched to conquer more land. He saw the futility of war, after hundreds of thousands deaths on both sides, and he vowed never to fight another war!
Ashoka instead sent spiritual teachers and messengers of peace all over Asia. That's one reason why Buddhism has spread to China, Japan, Myanmar and other Asian countries. Today, the Indian flag and the official seal both show the Ashok Wheel, the Wheel of Dharma.
Moslem Emperor Akbar ruled India from 1556 to 1605, with fairness to all, irrespective of their religions. He had Hindus in high posts, and he married a Hindu princess. He was an illiterate man, yet he encouraged tolerance and equality for all and promoted arts and education.
Mahatma Gandhi, who was born in India in 1869, studied law in England and later practiced it in South Africa. He had studied all religions and respected each one of them. He moved back to India after developing nonviolent ways to protest racial discrimination and injustices in South Africa.
Gandhi used Satyagraha (insistence for truth), which is nonviolent refusal to cooperate with injustices, successfully to free India from the mighty British Empire.
Gandhi's nonviolent methods respect the opponents but do not give in to their unjust laws or practices. They have been adapted by many movements during the last fifty years in places such as Czechosklovakia, Eastern Europe, and South Africa. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., César Chávez and the Dalai Lama are among the many great leaders who have carried the torch of truth.
For 40 years, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet has shown us that peace, love and nonviolence is the only way, even when we're pained by loss of life and suffering due to violent and unjust actions.
Perhaps, you will learn about some of the nonviolent social and political changes that have been implemented in the world.
You'll discover that when changes are brought about by accepting the truth and responding with love and compassion, they last longer. Violence and weapons of distruction can neither kill the human spirit, nor bring lasting peace. Recognizing this, President Mandela's government in South Africa set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to heal the deep wounds of racial crimes and discrimination from the country's long apartheid era. And, in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi (below) continues her nonviolent struggle for democracy despite her decade-long house arrest by the military rulers.
Since September 11th, Skipping Stones has received over 50 communications suggesting peaceful solutions to the world crises. In the following pages, we've excerpted some of them. We hope that the leaders will address the root causes of violence and injustice to bring true peace.
May your hearts be showered with peace and happiness!
Arun Narayan Toke'
Danger and Opportunity
I believe that we are all connected on this Earth, by the air we breathe, the water we drink, the children we bear and the spirit we share. We are all created from the same stuff, but we happen to have been born into different societies. Look at the way strangers are pulling together because of this crisis. What is this telling us?
The opportunity I see here is to recognize that the greatest, strongest and most privileged nation on Earth now has the opportunity to practice the peacemaking we ask other nations to embrace. If we find we don't have the will to do it here, how can we ever hope that the long histories of violence and retaliation in the Middle East, Ireland, Africa or Southeast Asia can possibly change?
If we aren't free enough to respond to this atrocity with anything other than conditioned reflex, then there is no true freedom, and our human interconnectedness will make itself evident, endlessly, only in the torment we cause each other. If we only stuggle to defend ourselves instead of healing, we will waste our wealth, freedom, spirit and energy for generations to come.
What if this great nation were to start making amends for its political mistakes and economic injustices? What if we were to start asking humbly for the forgiveness of others? What if we supported the vital interests of humanity everywhere, as opposed to only narrow American interests? Certainly there would be tremendous resistance within our country, but with strong leadership it could happen.
This is not a plea to let the perpetrators go free. We must seek to contain the violence and seek justice for criminal acts. But how can we, having experienced the pain inflicted when innocent civilians become the target of someone's desire to get even, believe that there is ever a way for suffering to be made "even" through retaliation?
I have little hope that our current administration will be able to understand this, or even listen to it, unless there is a groundswell of support from the people. I'm the people. You are the people. Do we want a peaceful world for our children? What are we willing to give for it? Are we willing to seek healing instead of vengeance? Are we willing to learn how to forgive?
Give this opportunity your voice. Make a new vision part of your conversations with others, part of your letters, part of your prayers. Pass this message on, and add your hopes to it. Tell your legislators. As poet Leonard Cohen observed, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."
The terrorist attack on the United States gives us an opportunity to literally turn around world history. President Bush could very well establish himself as the most important leader in history by moving forward from a position of strength rather than reacting with a posture of power. World peace and prosperity should be our goals.
The United States is the sole superpower in the world. We are in a wonderful position to show the world our generosity, goodness and leadership. We should seize this chance for genuine leadership. Instead of wasting our great wealth for revenge through military power, we should extend the hand of friendship and help to all of the most impoverished (and therefore the most dangerous) areas of the world. We could use just a little of our wealth to build schools, hospitals, desalinization plants or whatever is most needed. Through such a bold plan for alleviation of misery we could find true security and peace. With goodwill, respect and admiration from the entire world, who would oppose us?
An unending cycle of hate, violence and revenge is not the answer. Christianity is not alone in requiring us to love our enemies. All religions have this same command, including Islam. Let us show the world that we are serious about our beliefs. What an example of true leadership that would be.
Bill Hessling, educator,
My Dreams of Peace on Earth
When I close my eyes I see a world full of flowers and decorations, a world without wars and violence. I see in the diversity of our world a magical, beautiful harmony and order. Humanity is a rainbow of different cultures and races. Every people must have its color and lifestyle. Big cities show me magical and mysterious signs by their nighttime lights, but it gives me great pleasure to be in villages as well. Culture and nature can exist in harmony.
I don't understand why people are in conflict with one another. The reasons behind all wars seem absurd and insignificant to me. Conflicts destroy harmony and cause intolerance and distrust. Distrust becomes barriers and limitations between people and cultures. Culture is the bridge and path of spiritual exchange for kind and beautiful ideas, deeds and endeavors. No one should be isolated from kindness. No one should think that they can't change the world.
With kindness from all of us, we can find the harmony and peace to make our planet a happy home for all humanity. This home should have a place for great and small, new and old, strong and weak. I imagine the people on Earth as a marvelous field full of multicolored flowers. Every nation is a living flower with a unique color and smell. Together these flowers can give us real harmony in diversity.
Since I was five years old, I've been collecting my innermost ideas and my little living observations. I wish to share some of my personal vocabulary and my definitions of different notions:
Beauty: Where all things are in order.
Eva Ionesova, 10
America's Truth and Lies
I invite you to take a look at the world through the eyes of a young black man in America. Racism is not confined to hate groups and an offensive word. It is assuming the worst about a person you might not even know for something that s/he can't control. Does racism still exist in America? I want you to examine this question after reading these examples.
A man is shot 41 times on his front steps in the middle of the night. He was trying to take out his wallet to prove he was innocent. His killers were supposedly men of the law. They walked free. America is supposed to be the "land of the free and the home of the brave." Well it doesn't seem like freedom to me. And are enforcers of the law "brave" when they shoot an innocent man on his front steps? I don't want anybody who is willing to kill an innocent man working for my law enforcement agency, which is supposed to protect me. The victim could have been my father, or my grandfather, or a family friend reaching for his wallet-a man being a good citizen. But he was a black man, and so the police assumed he was reaching for a weapon and presumed him to be dangerous.
I also don't think enforcers of the law should have the right to pull an innocent man over just because of the color of his skin. Should the police start pulling over people just because of the color of their hair or eyes? How about because of their height? Does anyone presume that blondes, or people with green eyes, or short people are somehow inherently dangerous? Here's another example: four innocent girls were killed and many others injured when a grown man felt the need to bomb a church in Birmingham. The worshippers, who don't look so different from girls who go to my church, were in Sunday school at the time. What's even more intolerable is that these killers were found innocent. So while the bombers live long lives, those girls will forever be teenagers.
Do you think America's youth is not racist? When I was nine years old at summer camp, I was called a name that has degraded my race for centuries. I was called that name because I laughed at a joke about somebody's lunch. I again encountered racism in the third grade. I overheard somebody saying to one of my friends that if she and I ever had a child it would be "messed up" because it would be half black and half white. The racists I have encountered in my life have been well-educated, Northern suburbanites. These are people who laugh and joke with me on the bus, people who sit in classrooms in a school full of privileged youth.
My mother told me once, "Paul, if you ever get pulled over by a police officer, keep both hands on the wheel. Do not speak unless you are spoken to. Be polite, and try not to disagree with the officer." She also taught me not to take toys into a store with me; it will be assumed that I stole them.
The truth of my America looks different from other people's. I see America through different eyes, and it sees me differently. I feel that we'll never truly get over the racial barrier, and it saddens me greatly.
Paul Washington, 7th grade
Germantown Academy, Landsdale, Pennsylvania.
Sometimes, when the entire world is cringing in horror, it is the most important time to keep your eyes wide open. Though it may be comforting to know that the entire nation is tuning into the same story, I ask you to think about which stories aren't being told. The mainstream media has been providing a suspiciously "unified" (i.e., one-sided) point of view.
Consider which questions the reporters aren't asking and how they effect your opinions of current events. What makes a person an enemy? Is anyone purely evil, and how do we know? What are the good and bad points about unified opinions and unanimous decisions? Where does diversity fit into that scheme? Is it okay for the roles of government and religion to co-mingle? What do "freedom" and "justice" mean, and how are they truly attained?
In your search for the truth, please continue to question everything. Look past the propaganda. Read between the lines. Communicate with each other by discussing what you see and what you read. Continue to study history and gather information. What are the major issues in the Middle East? What kind of recent foreign interventions has the U.S. had and with what results? Talk to your teachers, to your friends, to neighbors and parents. Go to the library.
Tough issues like the ones we now face are the growing pains of humanity. We can use our hurt, confusion and outrage as motivation and as a learning tool for becoming a brighter, more compassionate and content world. I urge you not to accept simple black and white answers. Keep an open mind and try to find the most accurate truth. Keep putting your ideas out there and learning from one another. Follow your hearts and speak your minds.
Skipping Stones Stew: Poems of Peace
The Gift Wrap
Garden of Posterity
Young Beans: A Seed Project
We started this project during our summer vacation (May-June). We had many bean seeds in our garden. We decided to sell them because we could not plant all the seeds. We could also earn some pocket money.
First, we decided our project's name, Young Bean Garden. We chose this name because we are young, and we use fresh, young beans for packing. Beans can be grown very easily and produce a big harvest. We also learned from our father that beans are good for the soil. We grew two kinds of beans this season, winged beans and sword beans.
We designed the seed packets with help from our mom. But we make the packets by ourselves. Sometimes it is very hard to make them. We made some mistakes in the beginning, but we still work every day on Young Bean Garden. So far we've sold about 20 packets. We hope many people will buy our seeds.
Shantonu, 9, & Manosi, 7
Chatterjee, Bose Pukur Kasba, Calcutta, India
Skipping Stones Magazine