Posted: March 30th, 2022
After 52 years of violent conflict, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government of Colombia signed a peace treaty that transformed the country’s entire future. The treaty was not negotiated by the United States, or the United Nations, or any foreign state. On the contrary, it was facilitated by an Indian guru named Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. In a brief video interview with The Foundations TV, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar discusses briefly how he went about helping FARC and the government come to terms. Shankar claims that it had less to do with what he said than about how he said it. It was important to approach with an open heart and clear intentions, with love and deep respect. However, Shankar also noted that meditation practice helped. Through meditation, the opposing parties were able to open their own hearts and reach a point where they could no longer stand to perpetuate violence in their own country. With issues like social justice uppermost, the people who were parties to the treaty entered into the agreement solely of their own accord. It was not through bullying or insipid compromise, but through reaching points of mutual understanding.
Shankar’s work reflects the principles of interfaith dialogue, as well as the practice of multicultural education and diversity. In an interview with KPMG magazine, Shankar discusses how organizations can create a supportive work environment, which celebrates all people, sets a positive tone, and encourages trust and cooperation. People need to feel a sense of belonging to feel motivated, and be given the opportunity to perform to the best of their ability. Only by being genuinely inspired and intrinsically motivated are people willing to change. This is exactly how Shankar got FARC and their perceived enemy, the government, to come to terms. The two parties had to locate their desire for peace from within. Through meditation, they did realize their desire for peace and their ability to achieve it. Meditation is an interfaith practice, a practice that is humanitarian in its focus on promoting tolerance, love, and respect.
In his talk with KPMG, Shankar talks more in detail about diversity. Diversity is critical now more than ever because the global workforce is becoming increasingly migratory. As such, there is more interrelatedness among different people than ever before. This diversity needs to be a source of power and strength, encouraging all people to strive to reach their highest potential. “It is now a necessity, not an option,” Shankar claims (p. 2). Shankar points out that workplaces are now open to including meditation programs into their environments, whereas this would have been unheard of a generation ago. The same attitudes need to change in Islamic countries, where war and conflict proliferate. When asked about applying the same peacemaking principles to Muslim countries for resolving conflicts like terrorism and the Islamic State, Shankar said that it is always possible to work with people who have reason, but not when people lack reason.
Interfaith harmony and multicultural education are the keys to resolving the problem of fanaticism worldwide. This is as true for the United States as it is for Iran as it is for Colombia. Simply taking the time to understand, to break down barriers of communication, can help develop the compassion and love required to take the next step. The peace treaty in Colombia evolved because the parties were willing to look within and locate the place of love and peace they wanted to externalize in their country. If this same process were able to unfold in the Middle East, it may be possible to envision peace in the next generation. When there are legitimate gripes that can be resolved in peaceful ways, without resorting to violence, then the other party can come to see how it can cease using oppression as a tool to manipulate the public. Fanaticism often comes from a place of desperation. To understand that often does help resolve the conflict, but it also requires education and awareness.
“Excerpts of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s interview in KPMG magazine.”
“Sri Sri’s Role in Colombia’s Peace Agreement,” (2016). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqKuD8JQvzQ
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