Deep within, we aspire for that which is our true nature and everybody wishes to be happy and joyful. Yet, the world is caught in the grip of violence. Nearly every nation is affected by violence and terrorism today. In order to bring peace to our world, we have to understand what the root causes of violence are. When our joyful nature gets covered with stress, our thoughts, speech and eventually our actions are distorted. In extreme cases, this distortion becomes a disorder.

Most of the incidents of shootings that we hear , including suicides, involve people with such a disorder. The need today is the methods to relieve stress from society and many studies indicate that yoga and meditation can help. Apart from individual incidents of violence, another kind of violence happens on a larger, more organized scale, which arises out of religious fanaticism.

They are not open to any dialogue and violence is their only tool. To restrain this ideology, puritanism among religious leaders must be shunned. Instead, they must play a role in imparting multi-religious and multicultural education. When people are given a healthy exposure to the wisdom in other religions, especially from a young age, they will not harbour prejudices against them.

The third kind of violence involves rebel groups fighting for independence or other rights. Wherever there is a lack of social justice and humane leadership, there is rebellion in society. It begins with a mission, a cause but eventually erupts as terrorism and terrorism is blind. It has led neither to economic progress nor to justice anywhere in the world. However, these so-called extremists are full of passion, sincerity and a fierce sense of sacrifice.

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Their readiness to put their life on the line for a cause is commendable. I have met several extremist groups over the years with the intention of bringing them back to the mainstream. Our experience has been that if these people are approached with an open mind, they are willing to engage in dialogue and share their side of the story. When they gain confidence in the justice and humanness in society, they can turn around and contribute a lot to society. Their rehabilitation and re-integration in the mainstream are quicker and more effective if the establishment supports it, like in the case of FARC in Colombia.

For 50 years, a civil conflict raged on in Colombia between the government and rebel group FARC which claimed more than 220,000 lives. In June 2015, with consent from the then Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, I met top commanders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

After a three day long dialogue, FARC announced in a joint press conference by saying that they would adopt Gandhian ways of non-violence and announced a unilateral ceasefire within days which was never breached after and went on to become a milestone in the Colombian peace process. The Art of Living Foundation has continued to work with victims of both sides of the conflict. In September, The Art of Living facilitated a forgiveness meeting between FARC leaders and the families of 12 deputies who were kidnapped and finally killed by FARC. 

The number of people who cause violence in the world is proportionately very small. However, news about their activities dominates headlines. I would say the silence of good people is more responsible for this than the violence of the others. Those who are at peace within themselves have a responsibility to bring peace around them. Sensible people everywhere must get together and empower each other to take greater responsibility to better the world. If there is a will, it is possible to have peace at all levels, from individual to global. Never before has the collective will for peace in the world been stronger and never before have the means been so available. A world without violence is a dream worth making every effort for.