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2 Oct, 2014

What if every hotel room in the world displayed this “Poster of Peace”?

What if every hotel room in the world were to display this multi-lingual “Poster of Peace”?

I pose this question in this special dispatch on Oct 2, universally marked as a Day of Non-Violence in commemoration of the birth anniversary of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, whose Ahimsa philosophy of non-violent resistance was at the core of one of the greatest anti-colonial revolutions in history.


I photographed this Poster of Peace (left, first pix on top) on Aug 11, 2014, in “The Room of Silence” at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The German capital is marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War, which eventually led to the reunification of the formerly divided city and country.

Today, as another form of Cold War begins to resurface, along with a number of mini-Hot Wars, it appears that the world has still not learned the lessons of history. The old cycles are repeating themselves, albeit in different guises.

If travel & tourism claims to be an industry of peace, then its legions of roughly three billion international and domestic tourists should be well-placed to become a force for peace and crusaders for Gandhi’s philosophy of Ahimsa non-violence.

At the moment, they are not getting this potent message.

“The Room of Silence” is just a small little space located at the foot of Brandenburg gate, also described as a Gate of Peace. Unfortunately, hardly anyone knows it exists. Millions of visitors tour the Gate and its neighbouring structures, such as the German Bundestag building, but very few bother to spend even a few moments in The Room of Silence.

Those who do, take a few minutes to value the peace and quiet and reflect (as my wife and I did) on the Prayer of the United Nations at the bottom of the Poster of Peace:

“Oh Lord, our planet is only a small star in space. It is our duty to transform it into a planet whose creatures are no longer tormented by war, hunger and fear, no longer senselessly divided by race, colour and ideology. Give us the courage and the strength to begin this task today so that our children and children’s children shall one day carry the name of Man with pride.”

I have never seen this message being invoked at any travel & tourism industry forum. The German capital hosts the world’s largest trade show, the ITB Berlin, but I don’t think anyone in its organising company Messe Berlin even knows that a Room of Silence exists, leave aside the commanding message it imparts.

Berlin, Germany and Europe have all seen dozens of conflicts over the years. Today, they are benefitting from some semblance from peace, but are again on the verge of repeating their past mistakes.

Industry leaders are driven by the forces of realpolitik and their decisions influenced by diplomatic niceties and protocol. Not so, the people at large who, in equal measure, enjoy the benefit of good leadership decisions and pay the price of bad ones.

Either way, people must be able to exercise their right to reward good decisions and punish bad ones.

To be so empowered, they must realise their own collective status as a force for peace.

To be consistently and persistently reminded of this power, in the best tradition of Ahimsa, will be a huge step in the right direction.

Hence, placing this multi-lingual message of peace in every hotel room in the world will ensure that visitors know that they are neither “tourists” nor “travellers” nor “high-spending cash-cows” but critical components of a global peace movement.

Preserving the peace benefits them, their children and their children’s children.

The Poster of Peace resonated deeply in my conscience because my wife and I have just become grandparents. Like people everywhere, we all seek a world free of “war, hunger and fear, no longer senselessly divided by race, colour and ideology.”

Which is why we call upon global hotel owners and managers who share that goal to step up to the plate and affix this Poster of Peace not just in the rooms but at appropriate places in hotel lobbies and other public areas.

If hoteliers, probably the largest employers in the travel & tourism sector, take the lead, others will follow. Soon, every airport, convention centre, travel agency, tour coach, museum, restaurant, art gallery and cruise ship will display this message.

Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy gained freedom for India from British colonialism. The Berlin wall came down because people rose up against communist dictatorships.

Today, another such peaceful revolution is needed against the military-industrial complex, warmongering political leaders and the chaotic conflicts they are spawning in pursuit of power and profit.

The 145th birth anniversary of the Mahatma would be a good time to muster “the courage and the strength to begin this task today.”