When Pope Francis, on his way back from Egypt this week suggested that, for example, Norway could help negotiate some solution in the North Korea situation, I felt quite flattered, being a Norwegian myself. The Pope must have taken up the issue since it is in the news now, as it has been for two generations, from the time of the Korean War (1950-53), when Russia and USA had already created the structural ‘justification’, the communist and capitalist Cold War, the political and economic blocs we got used to until it fended well over twenty years ago.

The cost of the Korean conflict is huge for the country, region and the world – not to speak of the overall, and never calculated, costs of the Cold War – not only in economic terms, but in human, social, psychological, and a myriad of other fields, indeed that our mind focus on destructive conflicts and wars rather than positive peaceful development. The world must be rich when we allow such irrational thinking! Or, it seems that the world’s leaders in our time, in all times, are off-track. The human mind follows the diverted thinking – while people suffer and all religions and moral philosophers teach us to live in peace and compassion for ourselves and others.

The post-war situation on the Korean Peninsula has not been solved because it wasn’t in the two winning superpowers’ interests, one by this time diminished and the other one diminishing, yet, both veil their power and long-term geopolitical visions of the area. Obviously, USA has long-term plans for the Korean Peninsula now, as it had 64 years ago, and for North East Asia, the whole of the area. China, the emerging superpower in the region and beyond, on the other end, doesn’t also not want a border with a ‘free’ North Korea, that is, another American controlled land on the peninsula and the region; better than have North Korea as a buffer. The issue about North Korea trying to develop a nuclear bomb, which American say is why they have the conflict with the country, is more a red herring than the real reason – and the world listens, our ears are full of a one-sided idea about North Korea. That is sad and costly to all parties; it also hinders North Koreans from prosperity, and we, the outsiders, are probably more to be blamed than the countries’ leaders; in many ways, we have created North Korea’s sad situation.

Can anyone change USA’s propaganda and North Korea’s situation for the better? I don’t know; I am also part of the thinking that the propaganda has taught all of us to have. The only hope may be unorthodox and daring ways; or, wishful thing, that the issue drifts away when the world doesn’t want to listen anymore, when other things become more important to us all? Maybe many of the Gordian Knots in politics have a good amount of the surrealistic to them? The Cold War ended miraculously; the more limited North-Korea situation, a symbol, too, of a gone-by time, can also end miraculously.

And then back to Norway, my world of origin: It is flattering for my land that the Pope thinks of it, and probably also other small, developed countries in Scandinavia and elsewhere, to be useful in helping to create peace in far-away corners in the world. Peace is what we want, we say, and I believe there is much truth in that, certainly for the small countries, although they are also usually in some form of alliance with large countries. The superpowers and major powers first look after their own interests, regionally and globally.

The big powers don’t consider the cost of conflict the same way as the small countries, and indeed not those affected by their control and expansionism; the big countries have long-term geopolitical plans and the smaller ones try to sit still and not be seen. The big powers in our time are USA, Russia, China, with other regional existing and emerging powers, including Western Europe, India, Iran, and others in regional groups.

The Pope on his side, though, would not only consider conflicts from an economic point of view and as for geopolitical influence, although he too would do that, since he would like people to live well and comfortable, receive education, health services and so on and not spend resources on military and war. He would like people to prosper in peaceful surroundings, focus their mind on caring for others, keep the commandments and duty as custodians of the creation, think and live positively for all – and give thanks to God.

It is always the parties to a conflict, and also their neighbours, that must initiate and search for final solutions. Outside parties can be useful as facilitators of talks and negotiations, but cannot do the actual job. Norway has played its role in several conflict situations, in the Israel-Palestine conflict, in Sri Lanka, and elsewhere, and recently in Colombia, where there seems to have been success, possibly thanks to Norway, Cuba and others who helped, but more to the parties in the internal conflict.

In Kashmir, and the large India-Pakistan situation, Norway has not done anything, although a few months ago, a former Norwegian Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, now head of the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights, visited Islamabad and Muzffarabad. He probably visited mainly for human rights and humanitarian reasons. Bondevik knows that without serious efforts from both India and Pakistan, outsiders’ help may only be for creating publicity, show concern, document issues, discuss future scenarios and alternatives, and help modestly in betterment of the everyday situation. The long-term situation can only be found and implemented by the parties, and that certainly include the Kashmiri people’s voice, their right to self-determination.

Today, since I focus on the costs of conflicts, I must remind us all that the sub-continent pays a terribly high price for the situation, succumbing to militaristic thinking, a mindset that is unproductive. We all get influenced and our thinking gets twisted away from peace. In addition to the enormous economic costs, we are denying people the fruits of development and a positive mindset of peace and harmony.

In the world as a whole, indeed now in a time of rearmament thinking in NATO and elsewhere, the costs are not only the high military costs, which are indefensible from fundamental economic as well as moral, religious and logical viewpoints, but the deeper costs it leads to in twisting of the human mind. We get forced to think about wars and conflicts, also in peaceful remote little lands like Norway, and in large countries like Pakistan, where most people are peaceful, but not always leaders. Yet, leaders as individuals are probably alright, it is the structures behind them that trap them into outdated, rusty chains. How can we begin to think about the many costs of conflicts, and actively search for peace and harmony? How can our schools, universities, media, civil society organisations, political parties, and all of us focus more on peace and conflict resolution? Why can we not break the chains and do what we should do – as Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and just as good human beings created in God’s image? Is our mindset frozen? And then, was that the deeper costs of conflicts in our time?