An article by Dev Raj Dahal on Peace Movements in Nepal is much more than an analysis of conflict issues in Nepal. It addresses the relationship between global civilizations, between secular knowledge and religious knowledge, and the history of Eastern and Western approaches to human social organization. Dehal explores how these relationships impact human coexistence, and the search for peace in a world of division. We are divided by culture, class, and power, he argues.

There is a extensive exploration of Hinduism and Buddhism as they relate to Nepalese values and institutions. Rarely have I seen such a courageous and sympathetic integration of Eastern and Western thinking in solving the fundamental challenges of peaceful human existence. I do not agree with every characterization of or generalization about the many religions addressed in this important essay. In general the author, who has an ingrained sense of intellectual pluralism, tends to be very generous with world religions. I would not characterize them as positively. He is tough on contemporary ideologies and a tad too easy on traditional religions, both East and West. But that is his point, he is trying to build something new out of all this old human wisdom. So I suggest reading it as a creative synthesis of human thinking by Dahal rather than a scientific analysis of, for example, Hinduism–or Kant.

Finally, Dahal cites an important quote from John Paul Lederach’s The Moral Imagination, where he states, “…rebuilding what has fallen apart is centrally the process of rebuilding relational spaces that hold things together….”

This is very profound, and it raises, in my view, a basic question for every society that wants to live in peace, ‘What holds us together?’ Everyone in the Middle East must ask themselves not only how can Jews and Arabs live together, or share Jerusalem, or divide Jerusalem. They must ask what is going to hold them together in a compact of peace? Now Lederach comes out of a framework of reconciliation, restorative justice, and how you restore what has been lost in terms of societal harmony. This derives from classic cultural Christian origins of the imperative to restore what is lost occasionally due to conflict in basically homogenous communities with strong ethnic and religious ties. But it begs an important question: What do you do with creating societies that have never existed? What if there IS no precedent for Jews and Palestinians, or Jews, Christians and Muslims, living AS EQUALS in the Holy Land? What if there is no precedent for women and men living AS EQUALS in any number of global cultures?

The grand experiment on today’s planet is not only about restoration, it is about creation, creation of the new out of nothing. This is demanding, and requires of us to stretch our minds as never before, a stretch that certainly includes Dehal’s creative attempt at the synthesis of human wisdom, as well as Lederach’s exploration of the moral imagination.

Dehal concludes:

All conflicts between groups are capable of solution through negotiation and compromise if they are dissolved into a representative framework acceptable to all. Peace can be achieved by changing the root causes of conflicts. Integrated framework of peace building requires the ability of people to generate social capital so that they can face the future with great confidence. And accordingly, “rebuilding what has fallen apart is centrally the process of rebuilding relational spaces that hold things together” (Lederach, 2005:75). Since the cause and effect relationships are often irreversible only the elimination of root causes can make a critical dent on the conflict system. Integration of concept between peace education and peace action requires the establishment of joint civil society and NGOs in crisis zone, strengthening the connectors of society, building their capacity and doing activities there including early warning and early response to conflicts seeking a new social order. If religious framework of ethics disappears from the society, the rationalistic and scientific tradition of competition alone would not be able to offer resolution.

© Marc Gopin