By Tarzie Vittachi | 1990-06-01 12:00:00


THE KREMLIN, JAN. 18-The majestic hall is packed with 1000 people. Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Chief Executive of All the Russias, successor to Lenin, heir to Karl Marx's dictum "religion is the opium of the people," is seated on the rostrum. Flanking him are a smiling Eduard Shevardnadze, the Foreign Minister who succeeded the grim Gromyko, and Archbishop Pitirim, Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church, his off-white mitre matching his waist-length magnificently brushed beard.

Below, on the second deck of the historical dais, stands a Hindu Sadhu, a hermit-priest from India in saffron robes, the red tilak mark blurred by the ash on his fbrehead. He raises his right hand and, in the silence, the sound of the mantra OM resonates in the chamber. He encourages us all to join.

OOOHM, we chant. Gorbachev joins in. Darting a look at him, Shevardnadze joins OOHM. Metropolitan Pitirim's heard moves. He is chanting OOOHM. The Very Reverend James Morton, Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, who takes it all in, chants OOOHM. I look around for Father Theodore Hesburgh, President Emeritus of Notre Dame University. His mouth is an 0. Rabbi Soentendorf of Holland and his wife are chanting OOOHM. Buddhists from Japan and Sri Lanka are chanting OOOHM with eyes devoutly closed. I cannot see his face but the Grand Mufli of Syria seems to be saying OOOHM too. I observe the back of the heads of U.S. Senators Claiborne Pell, Timothy Wirth and Albert Gore. They have a way of abstaining to avoid embarrassment but they bow their heads respectfully and the Press must guess whethcr they said OOOHM. Never mind whether they did or not. Everybody said OOHM aloud or in their hearts. Who would miss such a marvelously ironic, ecstatic moment when, for the first time since 1917, a religious utterance was heard in the Kremlin-not as sotto voce plea for protection but as a superb affirmation of the spirit?

FOR A WEEK, spiritual leaders and parliamentarians of 83 countries, journalists, scientists and development activists had talked about the survival of all sentient things. The planet, they realized, would survive as a bit of cosmic debris, but living things would not, unless humans changed their ways.

The sense of the end of a millennium was present. The Grand Mufti of Syria, Elie Wiesel, Carl Sagan, Dr. Evgenij Velikhov, and Arne Fjortoff were speaking of the possible end of our world unless we repented our sins PDQ, in the same tone of apocalyptic foreboding as the Essenes must have used at the end of another millennium. But it was by no means all breast-beating and hand-wringing.

There were two "products" of Forum: One, the expected Moscow Declaration and Plan of Action, which places ti;e pledges squarely in people's courts so that they can be held publicly accountable. Two, the extraordinary inner transformation which most people seemed to experience.

Prior: Supreme Court Denies Hearing

OTTAWA-The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected Dr. Jerilynn Prior's request to argue her case for alternative service of her military taxes. She and her lawyer are considering appealing this decision to the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

The decision will force some Conscientious Objectors (C.O.s) into civil disobedience to obey a higher law their own conscience.

The "floodgates" argument weighed heavily in the court's decision. The crown has argued that allowing C.O.s to have their taxes do alternative service will lead to a host of problems in the taxation system. They ig

nore the fact that C.O.s never have challenged the government's right to tax.

Conscience Canada Newslelter, No.41, Spring 1990.

Of Canadian taxes, 12.6% goes to military purposes

Some Expenditures by Canada in 1988-89

Department of National Defence $11,025,000,000.

Military portion of the national debt, est. $5,043,170,000

Defence Industry Productivity Program $248,583,000

Atomic Energy of Canada $203,077,000

Canadian Security Intelligence $157,821,000

Atomic Energy Control Board $24,804,000.

Canadian Commercial Corporation $15,297,000.

Total military expenditures $16,717,752,000.

Total Fed. Government expenditures $132,715,000,000.

12.6% of Canada's budget was spent on military in 1988-89.

(Debt. not included 1987-88: 9.0%. 86-87: 9.1%. 85-86: 8.7%. 84-85: 9.0%.)

Source The percentage of mildary spending was calculated using figures from the Public Accounts of Canada 1988-89, available at local libraries and from the federal government. The Public Accounts are the actual spending figures of the Government of Canada for the year ended March 31, 1980. Departments and agencies reported are those which have defence schehies, as released under the Freedom of Information Act Military portion of the debt was estimated by assuming 30% of tederal eupenditure debt-related, and multiplying by the military portion of the remaining budget (ie 3x (8.8-7) x total expenditures). Conscience Canada Newsletter, No.41, Spring 1990, p.2.

Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1990

Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1990, page 28. Some rights reserved.

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