All over the world, a culture of peace is taking root

Douglas Roche

PEACEMAKING TODAY

February 8, 2016

On the Peace Tower of Canada's Parliament building is etched in stone the words of Proverbs 29.18: "Where there is no vision, the people perish." This is a moment when we desperately need to find and implement a vision of peace in the world. A culture of peace represents that vision.

But people are discouraged about the possibility of peace because what they see mostly in the mainstream media are terrorist violence, squabbling politicians and the misery of countless numbers of refugees.

Despite the negative news, the vision of a culture of peace is gradually being built in the world. We need to focus on what is actually being done to build a culture of peace - and citing positive achievements would be a way of rebuilding hope in the world.

The vision of a culture of peace to overcome - in a non-violent way - the culture of war is strongly promoted by UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations. UNESCO says a culture of peace is an approach to life that seeks to transform the cultural tendencies toward war and violence into a culture where dialogue, respect and fairness govern social relations. The culture of peace is, at its core, an ethical approach to life.

Are these just nice words at the theoretical level? Not at all. Here is how I see this vision expressed in concrete terms today.

Rejection of violence. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela all showed how the evils of colonialism and racial discrimination could be overcome by non-violent means. There are many groups around the world now promoting non-violence.

Eradicating poverty. The new UN Sustainable Development Goals aim to eradicate the worst forms of hunger and poverty by 2030. Based on the success of the Millennium Development Goals, there's a good chance of achieving this target.

The United Nations. The vast system of the UN, promoting economic and social development, environmental protection, arms control and disarmament, and human rights is making life better for billions of people.

Peacekeeping. Sixteen UN peacekeeping missions are now at work in strategic locations. Peacekeeping has become a more robust operation in recent years.

Global warming. The recent Paris agreement to curb carbon emissions is the tip of the iceberg of the environmental movement that has raised consciousness of the need to protect the planet. A sustainable environment is a direct step to peace.

CATASTROPHIC CONSEQUENCES

Nuclear disarmament. Though the nuclear powers are digging in their heals, a humanitarian movement showing the catastrophic consequences of using nuclear weapons is gaining ground. Discussions are starting about how to create a legal prohibition against them.

Inter-faith Cooperation. Inter-faith work to implement the full agenda of human rights is at an all-time high. The Alliance of Civilizations is showing that Muslims, Christians and Jews have common ground in working to strengthen humanity.

Women's Rights. In governments all over the world (perhaps not in Saudi Arabia), women are playing stronger roles than ever in peacemaking activities. Look for a woman to be selected as secretary-general of the UN this year.

Peace Education. Though not as pronounced as it should be, there is more peace education than in previous years. Courses in conflict prevention are becoming popular. The immense activities of civil society groups are themselves a form of peace education.

Governments look outward

Global governance. The human security issues are no longer the preserve of national governments. International standards are coming into place, and these changes reflect the outward look of governments, which now realize that the big problems require global governance. This is by no means world government, rather recognition that cooperation is necessary for global survival.

The items I have cited above show forward movement by the world community towards peace. You might call this list "10 steps to peace."

The transformation of the world from a culture of war, which has dominated humanity for centuries, to a culture of peace cannot be accomplished overnight. It might take 200 years to achieve. Who knows? The point is that all these items reflect a vision of peace in operation today.

We might "see" this vision more clearly if we stepped back from the daily barrage of TV violence.

So, to those who have lost hope in the modern world, I say: look around you. There are genuine improvements taking place that need better political support and financing to truly blossom. Already, they provide hope for the world.