This content is part of ‘Our World’ (February 2018).

There is an old saying that time and tide waits for no man. Yet, there are some who flow with time, a few who stand up to it and there are others who have the ability to change it. People look towards leaders to bring about this change. Every new year they wish for a better life and a better society to be in.

Consciously or unconsciously, people hold the leaders responsible for the state that they are in. Whereas often, leaders feel that they are not in control of the factors contributing to their challenges. And there goes the blame game. In this ping-pong of responsibilities, both leaders, and the society are at a loss. What to do in this situation, is a question that weighs heavily on one’s mind. While greed of a few and unethical practices have caused economic turmoil in the world; the arms and the pharmaceuticals lobbies are further fueling unrest and compromising peace. Egotistic attitude of power-hungry people has caused destruction for decades and has inflicted immense suffering in the lives of millions. Here, the political parties, media houses, business enterprises, and faith-based organizations, have a great role to play. They can make a big impact, either positive or negative, on the human psyche. However, some political leaders thrive on creating alarm. A few religious zealots prey on guilt. Negative bias in society is further instigated by a section of media selling sensationalism. Short-sighted and profit-hungry business approaches compromise sustainable and inclusive growth. In this divisive and self-serving atmosphere, there are very few who are striving to uplift the human spirit. It is hardly surprising then, that our population is reeling in depression and the opioid crisis – the two foremost challenges facing us this decade.  With this bleak picture around, the onus of bringing hope lies on the leaders. A leader has to maintain high levels of enthusiasm and conviction to pull people out of misery and offer new possibilities. This is indeed an uphill task.  Leaders can only do this, if they can tap into their inner strength. There are many ways of doing so and I would say making yoga and meditation part of one’s routine is one of the most effective. This will help one to start each day with a clean slate, drop pre-conceived impressions, enhance intuitive awareness and strengthen resilience.

Mahatma Gandhi had envisioned “Ram Rajya” – a society that is just and equitable. Education in human values, faith in non-violence, and creating a more humane society are integral to realizing this. So, can we still hold onto such a vision in the current scenario? Can a stress-free violence-free society become a reality?  Yes, the very goal of democracy is to provide that hope – to provide a platform to create a just, prosperous and happy society.  For this to happen, the four pillars of democracy, politics, media, business and faith-based organizations all have to work together in collaboration, with the broader social interest in mind. They all have to stay at arm’s length and be strong pillars to hold the roof called democracy. When all these four pillars stand tall and firm, “Ram Rajya” is within reach.  There is another burning issue today – immigration. Though, we live in an increasingly globalized world, connected by technological advances, we seem to live in isolation of culture and civilization. Unlike in middle ages, when immigrants wiped out the host culture; today immigrants have to adapt, while preserving their roots. They cannot become a threat to society.  Terrorism is yet another problem the world is facing, which is ideology and theology driven. It needs to be countered by a joint effort of political and religious leaders. Force alone is not sufficient in combatting terrorism. Many times, a soft approach has proven to be more effective.

In my travels around the world and interactions with people across diverse cultures, religions and languages, I see a lot of goodness in society. The number of service projects undertaken by faith-based organizations, NGOs and the public is a testimony to this fact. It is our responsibility as the global leadership community to inspire, support and accelerate these efforts.

I see our volunteers in 155 countries, engaged in serving society selflessly.

I remain optimistic and hopeful for the times to come.