Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Terrorism

The attacks in Paris are a shocking and horrifying for the whole world. This is a direct assault not only on the European way of life but on values that are common to all liberal societies. India has also suffered greatly due to terrorism over many years – the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai were carried out in very similar fashion as in Paris.

Today, we are seeing terrorism of two kinds in the world: one that arises out of ideological reasons and one arising due to religious fanaticism.

Many times people who feel very passionately for a cause feel justified in adopting violent means in its pursuit. These are not bad people but they end up making such choices due to circumstances or incorrect understanding. They are driven by a sense of righteousness, though misplaced and their commitment to their cause is commendable. They are willing to resolve differences through dialogue if approached in the right way. We have been able to successfully bring back many extremists from a life of violence and rehabilitate them in mainstream society. In fact, many of our free tribal schools in terrorist-affected regions inIndia are being run by former extremists. They were hostile in the beginning, threatening our volunteers but when they saw that these efforts were benefiting their own communities, they became volunteers themselves. Earlier this year, we had meetings with the Colombian rebel group, FARC as well. We impressed on them that in the five-decade-old conflict that they had been having with their government, both sides were victims and that non-violence was the only way towards social justice. They responded positively, immediately announcing that they would adopt the Gandhian way and soon declared ceasefire. The Colombian government also reciprocated with a ceasefire from their side.

However, the terrorism arising out of religious fanaticism is quite different. When people become utterly blinded by their beliefs, then instead of offering or seeking solutions, they see destruction as the only way. For them, violence is not a means to an end, violence is the means and the end. In their doctrine, people who think differently or do not believe in their scripture do not even have a right to exist. On my visit to Iraq in November, 2014, I offered to have a dialogue with the Islamic State group; they responded with a death threat! If even a small part of the world lives in such darkness, the world cannot be a safe place.

The real culprit is the indoctrination of hatred in the name of education. We have seen in numerous instances around the world that these attacks are carried out by youngsters, who have been brainwashed into this ideology of hatred. To counter this, religious leaders can play a big role in imparting a multi-religious education and an education in peace. There is a need to bring a shift from the idea of “sole ownership of heaven” to an ideology of “many paths to One Goal”. Diversity is an essential characteristic of our planet and it is through an education that honors this diversity that children can grow into responsible global citizens.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the attacks. Such incidents cause anger which can lead to polarisation based on ethnicity and religion, but the real polarisation is between open and narrow-mindedness. While a narrow fanatic outlook can only lead to differences that divide us, it requires wisdom and a broad vision to go past them and arrive at values that unite us. The world needs the latter a lot more than the former.

Courtsey : The Indian Express