A Peace Army is a Service Army

–by Vinoba Bhave (Jul 3, 2014)

DC_give-your-life-awayIf it is not possible to dissolve the army today, we must at least be agreed that we shall dissolve it tomorrow. But so long as you do not give up reliance on arms, this is not going to be. We should, therefore, build the structures of nonviolence in the country. If we can at least show that we do not need police or an army for maintaining internal peace in the country, we shall have some idea of how to introduce nonviolence in international relations. […]

We need a Shanti Sena, a Peace Army, which can inspire confidence among people in its ability to safeguard peace. Progressively then it will become less necessary to maintain a police for the maintenance of law and order. In course of time the need for an army will also go. The first requirement is, therefore, the formation of a Shanti Sena.

This was Bapu’s dream [Gandhi’s dream] of Shanti Sena. The groundwork for it is to deploy a Seva Sena –Service Army– all over the country. Without a Service Army, a Peace Army would not be possible.

In the long run the Peace Army will itself be only a Service Army. It will always keep itself engaged in the work of service, it will familiarize itself with the conditions and when there are disorders it will try to curb them. […]

Only he can be a soldier of Peace Army, who serves all this like a mother. We serve with the love of a mother and when a bond of affection subsists between us and the people, we shall not consider our life too precious when faced with a difficult situation. Sacrifice will be natural. We shall not consider it a sacrifice at all. It will seem an act of love. The Peace Army will, therefore, always be a Service Army. […]

It will not be enough if we are compassionate and desirous of serving. When I become a soldier of the Peace Army, I would like to work for all. But if I work without the consent of all, I shall gain no accretion of strength. We do not aspire simply to go amongst the people and die. We also want to see peace established. We want that our presence among the people should inspire in them the sentiment of peace. So it is not merely a question of the right to serve. Those, who aspire after the power to make a moral impact on the people, must secure a measure of consent from the people –the willingness on their part to accept service from us and to do what little we expect them to do. […]

One thing must be borne in mind. It would be untruth to think that the Peace Army will be able to provide a sense of security to the people in the way the military does. Even if this notion promotes a measure of security, it will not be self-secured. And so long as this situation remains, real peace will not come. Peace in a town or village is ultimately the responsibility of those who live in that town or village. It is the responsibility of the soldier of the Peace Army only in so far as she is a resident of that town or village. A Peace Army should, therefore, be systematically organized in every town, every village, every residential area. […]

In short, the purpose of the Peace Army is to make the people feel secure, but self-protected. The purpose of the Peace Army cannot be served by the police or the army, but only by an organization of the people. We have to free our civic life from the grip of the police and the army. We must patiently explain the idea to the people and inspire them to make the desired effort. […]

If disorders occur, the Shanti Sena must be ready to sacrifice itself in the attempt to restore peace. Soldiers in this Peace Army with love in their hearts must then go amongst the unruly and must, even if it should cost them their life, persuade them to desist. Absence of malice is not enough. There has to be love in their heart and that for all the warring elements. […]

In the Peace Army women can play a more important role than men. In a Shanti Sena every woman can make her contribution. In general, women are more compassionate than men, they are more gentle of heart. Brutal killing does not fall in their province. In the Peace Army the quality called for is love.


–Vinoba Bhave in Vinoba On Gandhi, chapter Imperishable Seed: Shanti Sena, compilation by Kanti Shah. [Creative comic above by Dharma Comics ;-)]



About pancho

To live in radical joyous shared servanthood to unify the Earth family.
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1 Response to A Peace Army is a Service Army

  1. Additional reflections
    As you all shared your wonderful reflections at Awaking last Friday I realized how much could be said about this text! One thing that stood out for me was the comments that it can be hard to believe in something like a peace army. It sounds ‘radical’, I heard. And it sure is! In a culture where we are talking about ‘just war’ and where we invent stories about ‘weapons of mass destruction’ to invade a country(Iraq) it is quite radical to think about forming a peace army! BUT it is happening already! And that is what I wanted to bring to your awareness, because what we need is new information that can support us in our longing for peace. I wish for people to fully step into this longing, that will make you see with different eyes. And to develop new ears to hear about peace not as a possibility, or utopia, but as a reality!

    We discussed one example of a peace army and I want to give three more contemporary examples: the organizations ‘Peace Brigade International’, ‘Nonviolent Peaceforce’ and the ‘Christian Peacemaker Team’, that are all NGOs working in different parts of the world. I myself have been personally in contact with people belonging to the Christian Peacemaker Team in the part of the planet that some people prefer to call Israel, and others Palestine (or ‘Falasteen’ in Arabic). They are doing some powerful work in the city called Hebron (or ‘El Khalil’ in Arabic), where Jewish people have taken over a part of the inner city, as they believe the have a rightful claim to it since there is the Tomb of Abraham and Sarah, the patriarch and matriarch of Judaeism, Christianity and Islam. These settlers eventually want to have all the Palestinians out of the city and sometimes there are violent clashes between them and the Hebronites. Children are also involved in this. When I spoke to them in 2008 the Christian Peacemaker Team was walking Palestinian children to their schools, to prevent attacks from the Jewish children (and ocassionally adults). The woman that I spoke to was in her seventies and got kicked in her back in one such accompanyments. El Khalil is a very volatile city where the work of CPT is very important, as well as of course that of Palestinian organizations. Just recently three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed there, which was a widely published event, but in reality not an isolated happening but rather ‘an episode’ in the continuous violence that marks all of the West Bank (as well as Gaza of course).

    The example Pancho discussed was Badsha Khan (whose story is described in ‘Nonviolent Soldier of Islam’), Gandhi’s friend from the region that is now Pakistan-Afganisthan (but used to be India) who started the first Peace Amry called ‘Khudai Khidmatgar’ (Servants of God) in the 1930s. He had reqruited about 100,000 people, who took an oath not to use violence. They first operated mainly locally involving with schools and other community projects and later became part of the larger Indian independence movement against the British.

    Pancho mentioned how Badsha Khan was challenging four assumptions: that nonviolence is a weapon for the weak, that Nonviolence is accepted in Hinduism and Budhism (but not Islam), that nonviolence only works against weak opposition, not brutal remgimes and that nonviolence cannot be used in or instead of war. I want to add, or clarify, something about the first point: Badsha Khan did not only counter this idea because he was strong and his army was composed of strong fit warriors. The experiment of a nonviolent army made it clear that a lot of discipline is needed to remain nonviolent in the face of violence, and it needs a lot of inner strenght and courage to be willing to confront violent people and stick to your principles.

    Another piece of information that we are lacking are stories about nonviolent movements that have brought about change in both democratic and nondemocratic societies. However, that is a very long topic that I will not explore here with you, but just want to point out as a possibility for further investigation if you are interested. (For example one could investigate the Green Belt movement in Keny in the 1070s, the fall of Pinochet’s regime in Chile 1985-1988, the Otpor movement in Serbia 1998-2000, or the fall of Mubharak’s regime in Egypt 2011).
    I hope this was supporting you in your journeys towards inner and outer peace!

    May peace be with(in) you,

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