Editorial, Star of the East, Sept. 1986

We as humanity in the world are living in times of real crisis where we are faced with great perils as well as great opportunities. Both the perils and opportunities stem from the giant strides we have made in technology which create high yield stakes. Nuclear technology can be used for creating economical and safe energy or for destroying the world many times over. Fibre can be used for making the world a single global village through instant communication or for making the world a wired cage in which all of us and all life can be electrocuted to extinction by flick of a single button (the star wars). 

The Pope has called for an inter-religious prayer meeting in Assissi for peace in October. Prof. Carl Fredrich von Weizaecker, a Protestant leader in W. Germany, has called for a peace council. The nations of the world have their own peace council in the United Nations. The Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev has taken bold steps towards peace by proclaiming unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests by withdrawing six divisions of troops from Afghanistan, by settling border disputes with China, and by constantly calling for a World Disarmament Conference. The western powers drag their feet and seem to have a vested interest in increasing military tensions. South Africa remains a tinder box with many sparks flying about it. Nicaragua, a small nation of three million people, lives in constant dread of direct military intervention and collapse of the economy. There are as yet no signs of satisfactory Middle East settlement or of a permanent cease fire between Iran and Iraq. The newspaper publicity about an imminent US attack on Libya now appears to have been a contrived false rumour to create conditions for an internal attempt at a coup and the assassination of Colonel Gaddafi. Terrorism continues to take its toll in India as also in the west.

Despite all these largely negative factors, the prospects for world peace look slightly better than before. The US Congress rejection of Presidential veto against South African Sanctions, the partly successful efforts of the American Churches to give as much support to Sandinistas in Nicaragua as their Government would give to the contras, the specific proposals for nuclear arms reduction forthcoming from the US government, a Gorbachev-Reagan meeting in Reykjavik-- all these symptoms add up to a spark of hope.

This is no time for sitting back in comfort. Rather the signs of hope should be an incentive to more intense prayer and renewed effort from all those who want life to go on here on earth.


Few people seem to have reflected on the connection between greater insecurity and faster growth of fundamentalism. That relation has both a positive aspect and a negative one.

The positive aspect-- in all religions, especially Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian religions-- lies in the shift from an easy going and this-worldly liberalism to a more sacrificial and transcendent-oriented religious commitment. There is a noticeable growth in religious loyalty in all these religions. When hope recedes about peace and prosperity in this world, human minds are drawn either to the gloom and despair of unbelief or to a deepened and transcendent faith. This can be good, though not necessarily always.

On the negative side, we see the rise of fanaticism and irrationalism, even on the part of the highly educated. What is worse is that fundamentalist fanaticism thrives on an unqualified hatred of an imagined enemy. In the case of America’s moral majority it is the ‘Soviet threat.’ For many fundamentalist Muslims the enemy may be Christian, Jews or Hindus. For Buddhists in Sri Lanka it may be Tamils, and vice versa. For Hindu fundamentalists, it may be the west or the Christian and Muslim minorities in India, and so on.

In this present frenzied and insecure world, sane counsel and hatred-facing heroic love (such as Gandhi and Jesus showed) seem to be called for.

Vitality seems to be gradually going out of the Christian ecumenical movement. Is there a greater vitality visible in the growing inter-religious movement? One gets that impression; but that movement is still in a rather embryonic stage. Of course, several small inter-religious movements have come into being, but none yet that promises to go beyond influencing the few. And in any case, if we want peace in the world, the inter-religious movement must be concerned also with those professing a secular commitment. Peace cannot be provided by religious groups working among themselves.

Is it too fond to hope that this growing inter-religious movement will also be able to find some kind of inoculation against the fundamentalist virus. That seems to be well within their possibility, and they should perhaps give more attention to it. Fulminations against fundamentalism can hardly hope to bring immunity. We need to open up that difficult integral relationship between a deep religious commitment and a wide open concern for the whole of humanity.