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Last Updated: 12/10/2013
Awakening to Our Role in Human Rights and Global Peace
Surya Nath Prasad, Ph. D.

Dr Prasad comments on peace education for the protection of human rights and global peace on the occasion of UN Human Rights Day, emphasizing the role of the rich and powerful of society to leverage their privilege for the good of society and the necessity of each of us to awaken our best potential and serve the common good above selfish interests.

Human rights are inherent to the nature of all men and women. Assured and protected human rights build a just and non-violent society. Protection of these rights is conducive to all peace.

But knowledge, social status and money give power or authority to individual persons. The power, through which he or she dominates others - his or her own fellow-beings, makes him or her an oppressor, an exploiter and a tyrant. In this way, everyone aspires to have power, and everybody wishes to have the right to control his or her fellow human beings. The power-game is multi-polar and the resultant output of tyranny is more tyranny, which is bound to be greater than before. Domination is its central theme and exploitation is its main ethos – of men by men, of women by women, of women by men, of men by women, of weak by strong, of strong by weak, of age and sex groups by each other, of men by systems and of systems by men. While these things – knowledge, high rank and money – which he or she receives are at the cost of others or at the cost of his or her own fellow-beings.

Hence, his or her prime duty is to serve them, being trustees of these possessions, not masters of them. The dispossessed have rights on possessed. Have-nots have due on haves or poor on rich, illiterates on literates and learned, weak and handicapped on strong and healthy, patients on doctors, students on teachers, sons and daughters on parents, youth on elders, employees on employers, masses of people on leaders. This is because human beings are not physically, mentally, intellectually, socially, economically, emotionally, and even nationally equal, but spiritually, we are all equal, and on this basis, the sense of equity should be encouraged, enriched and flourished to the development and welfare of all mankind everywhere.

A great Indian National Saint Tukdoji Maharaj has told in his very popular epic Gramgeeta (Songs of Village), “Only human beings, neither rich nor poor, have come out from the house of God. The difference between rich and poor is the defect of social system. It is the creation of greedy men. All mankind are the sharers of wealth on the earth. Shares of others as deposits are to keep with one. If these are used by the trustee, it means, shares of others are embezzled by him.” This was the reason Mahatma Gandhi gave the idea of trusteeship for the development and peace to all. Gandhi’s trusteeship is need-based, distinct from an economy based on greed, and sought the creation of a non-exploitative, non-oppressive and non-violent society. Gandhi said that “haves” or the rich should hold their possessions, beyond the basic minimum necessities of life, in trust for the community. “The rich man,” according to Gandhi, “will be left in possession of [those things that he] reasonably requires for his personal needs and will act as a trustee for the remainder to be used for society”.

If a competent person fails to serve others, he or she creates a society which will certainly be violent. Therefore those in whose hands the power lies, whether it is government or business, corporations or institutions or individuals, should see themselves as keepers of a trust to be used for the benefit of all mankind, and not the selfish interest of one person, institution or nation.

Thus the nature of man (human beings) may be good or bad, it depends on his or her environment – social, cultural, religious, economic and political system. Apart from his or her basic needs being fulfilled, the man (human beings) wants power or authority within the group to control his or her fellow-members or he or she has to lose the authority to be controlled for his or own survival. Those groups may be family, school, religious institutions, other organizations and states within the nations. Men who do wrong are the victims of their own wrong system. So they need compensatory education or psychiatric help to become good and healthy. Till then they should be kept free from gaining authority or power in any institution. And good and sane persons should replace them, and these persons should also occupy berths in the offices of government, public, business, corporations or institutions. In the Mahabharat period of ancient India, King Bharat (on whose name the name of the Indian country is known) discarded his own sons from being his own successors as king because they were not fit for the post. A great teacher in ancient India in the Fourth Century B.C., Chanakya-Kautilya (originally a professor of economics and political science at the ancient Takshashila University and author of ‘Arthashastra’, India’s first book on political philosophy, principles and practice), with the help of his followers, dethroned King Dhananand from the State of Magadha, who was bad for his subjects, intellectuals and advisors, and installed the righteous and healthy young Chandragupta as the King of Magadha in Ancient India.

Centuries ago, Plato, whose teacher Socrates was poisoned to death by the order of unhealthy persons in the government of the State of Athens, warned us saying this, “The penalty good men pay for refusing to take part in government is to live in the government of bad men”. Hence good men must accept and enter every post of governmental and non-governmental institutions. Because human needs and human rights will guide the policy of nations in a politically stable and just community. But these rights are increasingly under attack due to the authority being in the hands of insane personalities.

Merely knowledge about human rights cannot bring peace unless it is practiced. Rights of the dispossessed have been robbed by the possessed or by those who have authority, power and high rank. There are several reports which reveal that the rights of have-nots have been systematically violated by haves. Although United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been accepted by all the UN Member States, all most all of the signatory States are violators of human rights.

In fact, not any government or system or institution or organization or any ism can give freedom, justice and peace to mankind. Only people’s own conscientization, awareness or awakening about their social, political and economic surroundings can make them free, provide them justice and lead them to peace.

Truly democracy, justice, equity, trusteeship, nonviolence and altruism are the foundations of real protection of human rights of all irrespective of any discrimination. But these values are products of peace education, which is man-making education. Peace education. Peace education is to be in all educations, it is also beyond all educations, and it will continue till the end of life each individual man and woman to make them man (human beings). Peace education, therefore, must be included in all educations, which is missing, for learning mutual protection of human rights for peace – individual, national and global.

Thus knowledge with awareness about human rights and practice for their protection makes both – violators of these rights and those whose rights are violated – free from committing exploitation and being exploited. And this job of conscientization to the citizens and people of the different nations of the world about their rights can be done very successfully through the knowledge and practice of peace education leading to global peace.

Surya Nath Prasad is M. Phil. in Nonviolence and Peace Studies and PhD. in Education. He is Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Peace Education: An International Journal. He is Former Visiting Professor of Peace Studies, Kyung Hee University, Republic of Korea. He is Former President and currently Executive Vice President of International Association of Educators for World Peace (IAEWP). He may be contacted at: