EDITOR'S NOTE: The International Day of Peace is observed around the world, each year on September 21. The United Nations General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
A friend and colleague recently wrote me and asked if I, an advocate for peace, was discouraged by the avalanche of violence that seems to be engulfing mankind. It’s certainly easy to get discouraged, or even to abandon the notion that peace is possible, given the new status quo in Ukraine, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Nigeria, Ferguson, Missouri, Mexico, Syria, Gaza, Somalia and so on.
Against this backdrop, the annual commemoration of the International Day of Peace on September 21 seemed futile — like holding a storm awareness seminar in the middle of a category five hurricane.
Yes, the big picture seems awful. But it’s not the only picture. That’s why I choose to look instead at a number of other pictures that show peace breaking out all around the globe.
Several examples of these peace outbreaks can be found in the September 2014 edition of “Building Peace,” a semi-annual publication produced by the Alliance for Peacebuilding that serves to highlight current peace initiatives and conflict resolution processes from around the world. One peace outbreak spotlighted in the latest issue is occurring in the Republic of Congo:
“Since 2010, a local Congolese organization, Fondation Chirezi (FOCHI), has taken an innovative approach to [accountability, justice, and peacebuilding]. FOCHI’s primary focus is to ensure swift, accessible, and free justice to rural village populations. Staff and volunteers work with local communities and within traditional structures to establish community peace courts called barazas.”
Another highlighted peace project is connecting Middle Easterners:
“The Peace Factory is a nonprofit organization promoting peace in the Middle East by making connections between people on Facebook. The Peace Factory initially encouraged people to post a simple message of love from Israelis to Iranians. The campaign quickly expanded to other conflicted pairs (Palestine-Israel, Morocco-Iran, Pakistan-Israel, America-Iran, and so on).”
There are many such successful peacebuilding efforts. I have witnessed many of these efforts, myself. In northern Uganda; real, measurable reconciliation is occurring after a tragic 20-year civil war. In Uganda in 2011, radio journalists joined forces to ensure that they did not fuel violence during the presidential election. The same occurred in Kenya in 2013. I’ve witnessed productive, cross border dialogue among journalists in Cyprus. I’ve even seen Lebanese politicians from opposite ends of the political spectrum do what many believed was impossible — they actually sat behind a table together and agreed on several important policy positions.
Also, the number of organizations succeeding in promoting peace is impressive and increasing, and includes the Alliance for Peacebuilding, Seeds of Peace, the Search for Common Ground and, humbly, the Center for Global Peace Journalism.
So, to answer my friend’s question, while it’s easy to get discouraged by the deluge of bad news, there are nevertheless always plenty of examples of peace outbreaks around the globe. It is these outbreaks, these other pictures of the world, which should provide the encouragement and the impetus for us all to continue working for peace.
Steven L. Youngblood (email@example.com), syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the director of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University in Parkville, Mo.