1138 GMT August 14, 2020
Peace, sometimes defined as the absence of war, is more accurately understood as a dynamic process involving all individual and communal relationships.
As anyone involved in that process knows, peacemaking requires at least as much courage, imagination, patience, and strategic planning as war-making, with infinitely more positive results. Its goal is nonviolent relations not only between nations but also between states and their citizens and between human beings and their environments. Achieving that goal requires day-to-day peacebuilding in our families, schools, media, sports, and other associations. The role of religions and their views related to peace and coexistence with different religions and beliefs is thus vital in this construct.
The culture of peace reflects new ways of looking at and thinking about old problems and new ways of resolving them - and the interreligious perspective is one of its main platforms for building this culture.
According to Federico Mayor, former director-general of the UNESCO, it is a vision “linked to the pursuit of social and economic justice” in which everyone plays an active part. Its purpose is “to provide the needed solidarity, both intellectual and moral to unite people working around the world for justice and peace and to inspire hope and persistence for the common task.”
The formulation of the culture of peace is deliberately broad, in order to include all the ends and means appropriate to the full range of non-governmental organizations working for peace and justice. It is, at the same time, “a very specific concept”, Mayor has noted.
It is “both a product of this particular moment of history and an appropriate vision for the future that is in our power to create.” It states an everyday attitude of nonviolent rebellion, of peaceful dissent, a firm determination to defend human rights and human dignity” (Preface to David Adams, ed., UNESCO and Culture of Peace: Promoting a Global Movement, UNESCO, Paris, 1995).
The Culture of Peace goals, vision and plan of action was established as an international document through the UN Resolution A/RES/53/243 October 6th 1999 and it is a basic document all states, organizations and civil society movements as well as churches need to know for developing programs towards intercultural understanding, interreligious perspectives and mutual cooperation in the creation of a world better for all.
The six principal components of the program include the common goals and methods associated with the various groups involved.
(i) Power is defined not in terms of violence or force, but of active nonviolence. This component builds upon the experience of active nonviolence as a means of social change and its proven success during the twentieth century. Using nonviolence as a means and strategy, social movements contribute to the establishment of new institutions consistent with the other components of a culture peace.
(ii) People are mobilized not in order to defeat an enemy but in order to build understanding, tolerance, and solidarity.
This component, corresponding to the central tenets of nonviolence developed by Gandhi, King, and Mandela, emphasizes the need for liberating the oppressor as well as the oppressed, and places strategies for developing unity at the center of deliberation and action.
(iii) The hierarchical, vertical authority which characterizes the culture of violence and war is replaced by a culture of peace, characterized by a democratic process, in which people participate on a continuing basis in making decisions that affect their lives. This approach represents both a tactical means and a strategic end, engaging people in decision-making at all levels, involving them, and empowering them through the victories achieved.
(iv) Secrecy and control of information by those in power is replaced by the free flow and sharing of information among everyone involved. The accessibility of information undermines authoritarianism and encourages social change. It is necessary basis for real, participatory democracy, both in the process of social change and in the new institutions resulting from it.
(v) The male-dominated culture of violence and war is replaced by a culture based upon power-sharing between men and women, especially the caring and nurturing capabilities traditionally associated with and developed by women. This strategy - and goal- places the engagement and empowerment of women at the centre of the process of peace-building, as well as in the new institutions emerging from it.
(vi) Finally, the exploitation that has characterized the culture of violence and war (slavery, colonialism, and economic exploitation) is replaced by cooperation and sustainable development for all. This component distinguishes the culture of peace from static conceptions of peace that perpetuate the violence of the status quo, and links it intrinsically with social justice and the changes necessary to attain and preserve it.
Since each of the six points listed above is essential to a culture of peace, none must be hidden or weakened.
I believe the same have to occur when implementing interreligious perspectives in our thinking, work, education and actions. Point six, replacing exploitation with development for all, and point five, emphasizing shared power - for example - are essential in mobilizing and unifying movements for social justice and equality for all kind of population.
Here - again - the role of religions and their beliefs in this field is basic in the creation of better conditions for all related to their religious practices. Similarly point two, replacing divisiveness with democratic decision-making, which is essential to ensure that freethinking practices and participation are consistent with the final goal of culture of peace principles.
Particularly relevant and useful to researchers, teachers, and educators is the culture of peace proposal outlined at the 1994 International Conference for Education.
These guidelines for educational institutions recommend: (a) training in conflict resolution and mediation among teachers and students, extending to the wider community; (b) linking school and community activities that promote everyone’s participation in culture and development and particularly those activities strengthening intercultural and interreligious practices and ways of living ; (c) incorporating information into curricula about movements for liberation and peace; (d) extending a sense of community not only to all people, but also to all forms of life, in order to preserve the earth’s ecology; and (e) reviewing and renovating the teaching of history to give as much emphasis to the role of women as of men and to nonviolence movements as to military campaigns.
Violence and war are not inevitable. Like peace and nonviolence, they are choices made by people to achieve specific goals. Peace exists only if it is “made” by individuals and governmental and non-governmental organizations that persist in their efforts to build it.
I propose a list of questions here in order to lead our reflections and exchange on this important theme,
a) What is the relationship between Democracy, citizenship and religions?
b) How do you link and relate these concepts aiming at the construction of a Culture of Peace?
d) Are intra-religious dialogue, interreligious dialogue, social dialogue and the dialogue between religions and beliefs part of the construction of a Culture of Peace in the present world?
e) What do you believe is the best way to manage discrimination and intolerance as the main obstacles to the construction of multicultural understanding, interreligious dialogue and a Culture of Peace?
Based on answers and reflections to these questions, I hope the present education systems can offer a vision, a concrete response and specific proposals for education alternatives to a deeper dialogue and understanding on interreligious and multicultural learning.
Societies in the whole world wait for a clear message on the possibilities and richness the religious dialogue and the cultural diversity have for building a sustainable Culture of Peace everywhere.
In Bogotá / September 16, 2019
International Peace Bureau - IPB Berlin / Germany
International Association of Teachers for Peace - AIEP / France
Global Campaign for Peace Education - GCPE - NYC / USA
Latin American Institute for Peace and Citizenship / Buenos Aires - Panama
Foundation Believe in Peace - Bogotá / Colombia