Stand up for peace

Margaret Mascarenhas


I knew Daniel Pearl briefly. That is to say, our paths crossed a couple of times while he was South Asia Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal. We discovered we had both gone to college in the San Francisco Bay Area—he at Stanford, me at Berkeley—around the same time. And here we were, fellow American pen-wielders, meeting in India 20 or so years later. I don’t recall too much detail about our meeting, which is mostly the case whenever I meet anyone for the first time in a social context on the Mumbai circuit--except that I liked him. We were ships passing in the night. But the fact that I didn’t know him well did nothing to diminish the anguish I felt when I learnt he had been brutally murdered by terrorists while on the job covering the Afghan crisis in Pakistan last year. And immediately after I saw the unmentionable video produced by the killers, I wanted to howl, tear my hair out and hit my head against a wall. The image I wish I had not seen imprinted itself ineradicably in my memory and, over a year later, continues to appear to me in my dreams on days when the global news is particularly noxious.


Both Daniel Pearl and his colleague and wife, Mariane, saw their role as journalists in terms of facilitating cross-cultural understanding. Shortly after the grisly details emerged about the death of her husband, Mariane issued a statement in the editorial pages of the WallStreet Journal on February 22, 2002. Here is an excerpt:


“I promise you that the terrorists did not defeat my husband no matter what they did to him, nor did they succeed in seizing his dignity or value as a human being. As his wife, I feel proud of Danny. I trust that our struggle will ultimately serve the greater purpose of resisting those evil people casting a shadow upon our world. This responsibility rests with each one of us no matter our age, our gender, our nationality, our religion. No individual alone will be able to fight terrorism. No state alone will be able to wage this battle. We need to overcome cultural and religious differences, motivating our governments to work hand in hand with each other, perhaps in an unprecedented way.”


I am astounded by her bravery and dignity. She serves as an example of higher consciousness to all those who would subscribe to a seemingly revitalised global culture of violence and retribution, and indeed, as an example to all of us.


Most of the people I know feel powerless and helpless, as do I, when they watch the world spinning so ferociously out of control. Most of the journalists and writers I know who report on, or write about, today’s main story, Terrorism, increasingly have moments when they look at their pens or computer screens and seriously question that old “pen is mightier than the sword” adage. So do I. But then we pick up our pens, sit down at the computer, and get back to work. We do it because we see our role in the larger scheme of things. We do it because, most of us still believe that if we succeed in altering even one person’s consciousness vis a vis the pure lunacy of the use of terror and oppression (be it state or group sponsored) to achieve political objectives, that’s one more mind illuminated, one more for our team. A small victory is better than none at all. We do it to keep our spirits intact. Because what’s the alternative? Burning the TV and joining the Hare Krishna movement? Buying an AK-47 and army fatigues? Checking into a loony bin?


Howard Zinn, the author of "A People's History of the United States," in a column for The Progressive writes:

“We need to engage in whatever non-violent actions appeal to us. There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at critical points to create a power that governments cannot suppress. We find ourselves today at one of those critical points.”

I have always been of the firm conviction that in extreme cases of social dilemma, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. That’s why I was happy when Ethel Da Costa, one of our home-turf firebrand journalists, informed me she’d taken the initiative to register with the Daniel Pearl Foundation which has launched a world-wide initiative, known as the Annual Daniel Pearl Music Day, to bring the global community together for peace. Bravo.


The Daniel Pearl Peace Concert will take place at the Panjim Municipal Garden at 6 pm on October 10, 2003, in sync with numerous other similar music events around the globe. Since the Daniel Pearl Foundation stipulates that the event be non-profit, musicians and bands from within and outside Goa, will perform free of charge. Ethel has also selected five women artists from Goa who will exhibit their paintings at the venue. People are encouraged to bring their own food and drink and share it at the venue. The Corporation of the City of Panjim has sanctioned the use of the garden and provided infrastructural support at no cost to the organisers. Well-wishers have contributed a thousand balloons and schoolchildren from local schools will write messages of peace and harmony and brotherhood which will be fixed to the balloons and sent up into the evening sky. I encourage you all to attend, to bring your friends and family, and to stand together in solidarity for peace, in remembrance of Daniel Pearl and of all those who have lost their lives to war and terror.