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Does Peace Have a Chance?

Interview With Professor of University of Valencia

VALENCIA, Spain, AUG. 29, 2006 (Zenit) - Christianity is a religion of peace, says Jesús Ballesteros, author of the recently published "Rethinking Peace."

The professor of philosophy of law and political philosophy at the University of Valencia is an expert in human rights and intercultural dialogue.

In this interview with us, he comments on how world peace can be possible.

Q: You link family disintegration with the increase of violence. Is the world at war because the family has disintegrated?

Ballesteros: The uprooting of the family with the consequent loss of emotional bonds is the best breeding ground for the development of violence in its different forms, in as much as it eliminates the moral conscience, the conviction of obligations of life vis-ŕ-vis others, and facilitates the manipulation of different fanaticisms.

That is why all totalitarian ideologies have tried to reduce or do away with the family, insofar as ambit of formation of the personality.

However, we must take into account that the causes that lead to wars are related above all to the desire to control natural resources, to the profit motive and to eagerness for power.

Q: How do you replace the concept of "national security" with that of "human security" which you propose?

Ballesteros: We must be aware that by increasing our arms alone we don't produce a more secure society, given that the determinant factor for peace is the exclusion of hatred and of indifference to suffering of our neighbor.

It is a question of understanding that the problem of peace goes far beyond the demands of military defense.

It requires above all exertion to extend worthy conditions of life for all, eradicating poverty and protecting the environment.

Q: Is peace the way, as Gandhi suggested, or must we think of it as a goal?

Ballesteros: As Gandhi himself said, we cannot separate the means ("ahimsa," non-violence) from the end ("sathyagraha," strength of truth), given that "the means are like the seed and the end like the tree."

Peace must be in the means and the ends. Good ends, such as greater recognition of rights, can be perverted if there is recourse to violence to obtain them; on the other hand, peace cannot be attained by any means, for example, by paying a political price, denying legality, negotiating politically with terrorists, showing contempt for victims.

This would not be peace but abandonment of one's principles. And as Gandhi also said the coward is further away from true peace than the violent one.

Q: There still are conflicts which arise from misunderstandings between Christians, let us think of Northern Ireland. In what sense can Christianity eradicate the causes of violence?

Ballesteros: In general after the appearance of religious conflicts, conflicts are hidden which are based on economic and social inequalities, given that in principle religions are rather a factor of peace, in as much as they try to present the importance of trust in God and understanding of one's neighbor.

It is true that profound differences exist between religions. There are closed religions, which make every effort to achieve exclusively the internal solidarity of the group through social pressure, projecting guilt toward the exterior through recourse to scapegoats, always external to the group.

There are open religions, which propose universal love, without space-time limitations, as an exigency. Christianity is, undoubtedly, the paradigm of the open religion, given that it consists in the imitation of Christ, who takes on everyone's guilt, and forgives all.

Christianity therefore is perfect peace, total negation of violence. Another matter is the fact that, unfortunately, at times it has been lived ignoring its basic exigency.

Q: You criticize Islamic "Jihadism" and the excesses of the so-called "war on terrorism." How can this spiral of violence be counteracted which seems to be established in the world?

Ballesteros: The spiral of violence can only be stopped with the universal recognition of rights, which excludes in all cases the death of non-belligerents.

Human rights must be considered as something that has validity beyond the different cultures. It in turn must not be confused with ethno-centrism.

Institutions that arose in the West, such as the state of law, the distinction between religion and politics and representative democracy are important elements in the defense of those rights, but that does not mean that there are not also aspects to be corrected in the West, such as the lack of respect for human beings in their initial and final stage, and the indifference to conditions of poverty of millions of human beings.

The dialogue of cultures is indispensable, governed by the principle of reciprocity. It is all very well that mosques are built in the West, but one must demand that also in countries of Muslim majority, churches and cathedrals be opened.

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Keywords

Peace, War, Ballesteros, Rights, Freedom

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