World peace seems like an abstract concept; something that we all strive for, yet seems quite immense to tackle. I think that in some way, all of us want the world to be a peaceful place to live; a peaceful place for our youth to grow in. Yet, how do we integrate that into our daily lives, and how do we achieve it? One possible way is quite simple: Our youth.
The Dalai Lama suggests we are able to achieve peace through transforming human attitudes, something that can be achieved through education. It can begin with our youth.
The International Day of Peace was celebrated globally on September 21 and is a day dedicated to peace and the absence of war and violence. Recently, the International Day of Peace shifted to a dedication of peace education, and the key preventive means to reduce violence and war sustainably.
It was a day to reflect upon how we lead our lives and how our actions can lead to a more peaceful existence. The Western New York Coalition of Peace-Nonviolence Advocates sponsored an event held at Saint Mary’s School for the Deaf and brought together a compilation of youth choirs, dance performances, poetry readings, art projects and open mic time to foster discussion on peace in our community. The opening prayer touched on an important concept: accepting peace as a responsibility, and that everyone has a duty and responsibility to promote peace.
Victoria Ross, Interim Executive Director of the WNY Peace Center states that “Non- violence is how we get the peace we want. Our divisions are based on nothing, so it’s about realization and putting our words into actions”.
The WNY Peace Center hopes to continue its growth and is currently collaborating with a total of 88 co-sponsors, and it will continue to tirelessly campaign for nonviolence. Our local celebration is just one of many small growing movements around the globe to open dialogue on peace.
The “blue scarf movement,” which was demonstrated at the local celebration for the International Day of Peace, is represented by wearing a blue piece of cloth around your neck or wrist, which symbolizes the expansive blue sky everyone shares, and has become a global symbol for togetherness and unity.
The blue scarf helps remind people that we are in this together and that the “only choice is to care for one another and to protect and share our world and her resources.” This symbol is said to transcend any particular group or interpretation.
The movement originated with a brave group of women from Afghanistan who wanted to express their solidarity as global citizens for a better world. In 2008, these women gathered in war torn Khandahar, Afghanistan, wearing blue scarves to publicly pray for peace and justice in Afghanistan. The movement has grown and helped foster similar movements, including the ‘Friends without borders’ project. This project approaches world peace in a new and simple way. It spearheaded the largest peace movement in India and Pakistan’s joint history, igniting a historic campaign called “Aman ki Asha”.
Tens of thousands of school children in India have written heartfelt letters to school children in Pakistan, making connections and forming friendships. The children in Pakistan responded to the letters. The idea is that children recognizing their similarities with children from other countries fosters positive conceptions of those whom they may believe were very different. Recognizing these similarities is likely to changing attitudes and breeding tolerance and acceptance rather than hate for those who are different.
Such movements shed light on the importance of educating our youth, the importance of non-violence and utilizing peaceful conflict resolution skills. It’s no secret that the cost of violence is high. Not only paid in lives, but in 2015, the Global Peace Index reports that the impact of violence on the global economy reached 14.3 trillion U.S .dollars, or 13.4% of the world GDP.
Violence will continue to cost the world more than lives if changes are not made to global attitudes and perceptions of one another.