ARTS & CULTURE | Global Peace: Can seven billion people stand together?

Kaeden Kirby carries Article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in a Peace Day walk with Discovery Montessori, Nanaimo, BC. Photo credit: Jennifer Borzel

By Jessica Kirby —

Over the next 100 days, let us stand with the millions of people across the world who are suffering the devastating impact of violence and conflict. Let us share ideas and plans for helping and supporting them in their time of dire need.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The world began preparing for the International Weekend of Peace nearly 100 days ago with Ban Ki-moon’ s declaration that we stand together with those suffering around the world. Standing together means listening, understanding, and expanding our notions of peace to include others’.

Can seven billion people stand together?

One way to think about peace is the absence of hostility, and the freedom from fear of violence. It extends to conscious actions towards reconciliation and healthy relationships, and delves (sometimes) into deeper, tangible concepts like improved socioeconomic, political, health, and interpersonal conditions.

I say “sometimes” because this is just one way to think about peace. Inherent to this definition is the implied focus on solutions and root causes, clearly identifying it as the global responsibility it is.

But even the simplicity of this definition can be interpreted differently between cultures and communities – the individualists will say peace relies on justice and fairness, while collectivists will turn to harmony and honour. Capitalists will says economic well-being will smooth the path to peace as the wealth trickles down, while community-focused political theorists will rally for collective equality. Some cultures will abhor violence until attacked; others will live to conquer and denounce pacifists as dissenters. There are millions of people who look to governments and schools to forward notions of peace and just as many who feel it is a matter of personal reflection and projection.

All things considered, Can seven billion people stand together?

Our flagship organizations work for political and socially just peacefulness with varying levels of struggle and success. The Global Peace Index measures 162 countries by assessing 22 indicators of peace and security focused on the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic or international conflict, and the degree of militarization. According to its 2014 index, the world has become less peaceful every year since 2008. Between 2013 and 2014, the decline was driven by conflicts in the Ukraine, Syria, and South Sudan and by increased “global terror.

Nelson Mandela, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbechev, Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King – These people will tell you with certainty, Seven billion people can indeed stand together.

As of last year, 500 million people live at risk of instability and conflict, and 200 million of those live beneath the poverty line. The cost of containing the violence affecting so many is $9.8 trillion US, or 11.3 per cent of the global GDP.

Under these conditions, How will seven billion people stand together?

In 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai changed the world when she survived a bullet from a Taliban gunman, which entered her head, neck, and shoulder. She was shot on a school bus among her friends, for her outspokenness about education and living conditions imposed by the Taliban in Pakistan. Prior to the attack she’d been awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the International Children’ s Peace Prize. Malala recovered from her injuries and has become a global leader for peace. One of her most recent campaign urges world leaders to cut military spending for eight days to give all children access to 12 years of free education.

Malala is just one person among thousands who have made strides in peace activism – Nelson Mandela, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbechev, Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King – These people will tell you with certainty, Seven billion people can indeed stand together.

September 21 was declared the International Day of Peace by the United Nations in 1981. Participation in Peace Day observances and celebrations has increased year over year ever since as awareness grows, the arms of conflict reach farther, and education begins at an earlier age.

This year’s theme is Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All. This means we have to listen, understand, and expand our notions of peace to include others’. In other words, we don’t necessarily have to change our ideas about peace. The individualists can go on in search of justice, and the community-focused economists can carry on equalizing the market place. The shift has to be in expanding our notions to include others’. Can the nationalist stretch his mind to understand the pacifist? Can the dissenter open her heart and let the war monger in?

Can seven billion people stand together? We absolutely must.

 

Ten years ago this Peace Day, I was blessed by a boy-child who brought peace to my mind and true love to my heart.

Happy birthday, Kaeden!

 

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