Monday, 18 September 2000


    Attached is my talk at the Festival of Peace held in Ottawa, September 16,  2000, which very much reflects the message of the Doukhobor movement for a  world without war. The event was sponsored by the Coalition To Oppose the Arms Race.

Notes by Koozma J. Tarasoff for a talk at
Ottawa, Ontario September 16, 2000

    In preparing for this gathering, I asked myself, why this talk, at this time, for this audience, and why me?
    The National Capital Air Show or more properly the War Show which we witness today sends the wrong message to us and our children. Yes, technology is fascinating, but let us not forget what kind of tools are displayed. The nonverbal messages of heavy bombers, fast missile-carrying planes and guns  are closely related to mass murder, wars, and violence. Are they not morally wrong?
    We are living in the year 2000, a new Millennium,  which the United Nations designated as the International Year of Culture and Peace. A few days ago, the biggest gathering of world leaders in history took place at the UN when more than 160 countries committed themselves to the UN Charter which was formulated in 1945 "to get rid of the scourge of war."
    As concerned citizens, we need to remind ourselves and the wider public about the fundamentals of  peace-making.  A.J. Muste, the renowned American pacifist, once stated: "The way to peace is peace."  Gandhi earlier said: "If we are to have peace we must begin with the children." Today, we need to question the role of the gun,  the bomb, the war plane, the land mine, the use of children for war, and the  idea of the National Missile Defense program.
    I come from many generations of pacifists. Over one hundred years ago, my grandparents along with  7500 Russian peasants called Spirit Wrestlers or Doukhobors came to North America and settled in western Canada. Before  they left, on  Easter of 1895 in Transcaucasia (the area between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea), eleven Doukhobors threw down their guns while training in a reserve battalion. They stated that war and Christianity were incompatible. The result was they were sent to disciplinary battalion and exile.
    Then one of the most striking events in pacifist history happened at the end of June 1895 when 7000 Doukhobors in three settlements burnt their firearms in a mass demonstration against the institution of militarism and war. They argued that because there is a spirit of love, beauty, and God in every person,  it is wrong to kill another human.  As the embers glowed and the people sang psalms of toil and peaceful life, the Tsarist state and church reacted swiftly with severe beatings, floggings, and exile. In fact, these dissidents -- my ancestors -- were doomed to be stamped out if it wasn¹t for the power of the pen from Russian writer and philosopher Lev N. Tolstoy, along with aid from Russian intellectuals  and the Quakers.
     That remarkable 1895 event continues to glow in the hearts of many of my countrymen and women. Perhaps some people here may say that getting rid of guns is naive. Is it? Is it naive  to be highjacked by the glorification of wars in the history of our schools that assumes that war is inevitable? Is it normal to allow the great waste of human carnage and suffering -- the slaughter of 110 million killed in the last century? Is it not saner to divert our human and natural resources to the important task of feeding, clothing, housing, healing, and educating the citizens of our planet earth? Is it?
    Perhaps this gathering is a wake-up call in the new Millennium to consider a drastic change in our thinking towards those powerful   concepts of co-operation, conciliation, love, peace-making, bridge-building, non-violence, and respect for the environment as well as for the human spirit regardless of race, colour or creed. In brief, is it not time for us to work towards what scientists call a paradigm shift in thinking from war to a new vision of peace; from hate to love, from destruction to building a saner society? 
    Yes, I believe in the human being. I believe in the creativity of humans to  achieve peace. As well I believe in the will of humans to take away the occasion for war.  As concerned citizens here and across the country and the world, I believe we have the power of our minds, our hearts, and our hands to create this very important and urgent transformation in our world community. 

Note: In celebrating peace, life, creativity and the environment, The Festival of Peace was co-ordinated by Richard Sanders of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT). This is the fourth year that the Coalition has focussed a campaign on the so-called "National Capital Air Show". The "air show" used WAR planes as a source of entertrainment. Among the "performers" were many of the world¹s fastest and most deadly fighter and bomber aircraft ever built (including nuclear weapons delivery systems).

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Best wishes,
Koozma J. Tarasoff
[Doukhobor historian/author/activitst]

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