We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Slowly, Slowly, A More Peaceful World

Flag of the Karen National Union
Various commentators and studies note that slowly the world seems to be becoming a more peaceful place.  Especially since the end of the Cold War, the statistics of international violence have been declining, and in various parts of the world the guns of war are falling silent.  Not all commentators are convinced, of course, that the world really is becoming more peaceful, but recent events in Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar) suggest there is some hope.  Until recently, Burma had seethed with armed revolution and bloody repression for all of the long decades since its independence in 1948.  It is only very recently that Burma's newly elected civilian government has been pursuing a policy of political, social, and economic reform and reconciliation aimed at bringing Burma back into the family of nations.  These reforms have led the U.S. government to agree to reestablish full diplomatic relations with Burma.

Notable among the peaceful changes taking place in Burma is a recent ceasefire between the government and the Karen National Union, representing the Karen tribal people of Burma.  The KNU has fought the oldest and largest of the ethnic wars against the Burmese government, and the declaration of a ceasefire is potentially very good and important news.  Burma's Karen have paid a long, heavy price for war with tens of thousands of refugees living in camps inside Thailand.  The Burmese military's repression of the Karen people has been particularly bloody and brutal.

The war isn't over yet.  No final agreement has been signed.  Still, the prospect of an end to what is considered to be the longest running war on Earth is welcome news indeed.  All eyes turn now to the nations of  western Asia and the hope that the people's revolts of the Arab Spring will take us, eventually, still a little further down the road to a more peaceful, just world.  Peace, we are often reminded, is more than the mere absence of war, and while that is true we'd settle for awhile with a world "merely" absent of war, yes we would.  Amen.