Peace Conference in Salt Lake City
By Caru Das
Though we are busy preparing for not one, but two major events, Krishna Janmastami on Sept. 2 and Festival of India September 15th, I agreed to attend the Salt Lake City Peace Conference for one day. The organizers wanted all invitees and panelists to attend for three days, but in my case they compromised on only one day. It was held at the Marriot Residency at University of Utah.
The guest of honor was Shabana Azmi, five times Indian Best Actress Award recipient, and noted social activist. Some of the other panelists were: Martin Almada (uncoverer of “Archives of Terror’) of Paraguay, Tenzin Tethong of Tibet, Roy Bhaskar (Center for Critical Realism) of UK, Robert Hatch (Filmmaker), Oliver Van de Mille (Founder George Wythe College), Michael Mendizza, Brian Farr, and Kathy Headlee (Mothers without Borders) of USA, Li Yinhe and Ma Huidi of China, Madina Magomadova of Chechnya, Rajiv Malhotra, Amarjit Singh, Siddhartha, George Joseph, and Ruth Manorama of India.
I chose to visit a morning Panel called Community, Kinship, and Societal Change. The three panelists were Farooq Hassan of Pakistan, Merekaraka Caesar of New Zealand, and Margaret Ellwanger (Pillows for Peace) of Israel. All three were very impressive personalities. I chatted several times during the breaks with Farooq, who has a vita as long as your arm: Oxford, United Nations, syndicated columnist in Pakistani papers, Supreme Court Advocate, etc. I put out about a dozen free hardback Gitas on the registration table along with temple flyers. He was among those who took advantage.
In the afternoon I had been assigned as panelist for War, Peace and Militarism, or should I say, misassigned, as the entire time was earmarked for Nabhil Abuznaid to heartfeltedly plead the case for a separate Palestinian state on the West Bank. Neither I nor the other panelist, Kevin Brien (author and professor at Washington College) said ten words for the first two hours. Just before the recess I was asked to break my silence and spoke for five minutes, a la Srila Prabhupada, about the flags proliferating on the United Nations Building. When more nations are being created all the time, where is the question of United Nations? Factually there is only one nation, one planet, which all belongs to God. We haven’t the right to divide up His property among ourselves because it does not belong to us in the first place. Having created these illicit divisions, we then turn around and talk about peace and morality. Several people came up to say they appreciated the comments.
I think my feelings about the success of the conference were capsulated when we went down to the lobby at the end of the day where the “Gandhi Peace Dinner” was served out. I was pleased to see Dinesh and Kalpana there who were the sponsors of the dinner. We all three looked with disappointment at the several ’meat’ offerings in the name of “Gandhi Peace Dinner.”
“We pray on Sundays that we may have light
to guide our footsteps on the path we tread.
We are sick of war, we don’t want to fight.
And yet we gorge ourselves upon the dead,
How can you hope for peace
when your bodies are the graves
of murdered beasts.
Cruelty begets its offspring – war.”
George Bernard Shaw