“We live in a world where violence is not only rampant; it is normative. War as a staple of foreign policy; violence against women; the often-invisible violence of poverty, racism, and all forms of discrimination; political and religious polarization with demonization of ‘the other;’ a dehumanizing penal system; the degradation of the environment; and the glorification of violence in movies, films, television, music, and video games are taken for granted as just the way things are. It doesn’t have to be like this. We can do better.
We stand at a critical choice point in human evolution – do we continue down this path or choose another way to be together in this one planet we all call home? Around the world, many are choosing the peace path, and working at the very foundations of society to change basic assumptions, norms, and behaviors, and to build new institutions, methodologies, and alliances– in short, to build a culture of peace.
The United Nations declared the years 2001-2010 as the UN Decade of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World. As we near the end of this decade, we have the opportunity to accelerate our efforts on behalf of this mission. But first we must know, ‘What is a culture of peace? What are we trying to establish?’
A working definition of peace will help with this quest. In The Peace Book: 108 Ways to Create a More Peaceful World, (The Peace Company; adapted from pp. xvi-xvii) I have written:
Peace is more than the absence of war, violence, or conflict, though that is an important first step. Peace is a presence–the presence of connection.
Inner peace is about connection with our true and natural self, and a sense of being part of something larger. This connection gives rise to serenity, balance, and a feeling of well-being. [We connect to the living spirit of life itself that allows us to know all people as our brothers and sisters, and every living being – including the earth – a relative.]
Peace with others is about our connection with the open heart, through which we remember our shared humanness. This brings us to the practice of conflict resolution, forgiveness, and reconciliation. [We connect to the power of love that transcends fear, anger, sorrow, and aggression, and leads us to compassion and a desire to end the suffering of all.]
Peace in our communities and in the world requires a connection to respect for our multiple differences, and for the right of all people to justice, freedom, and dignity. This leads to trust, community, and co-existence. [We understand we are all in this together, that all people have the same basic needs and desires, and so we act for the common good rather than for the benefit of a few.]
Peace is a state of mind and a path of action. It is a concept, a goal, an experience, a path. Peace is an ideal. It is both intangible and concrete; complex and simple; exciting and calming. Peace is personal and political; it is spiritual and practical; local and global. It is a process and an outcome, and, above all, a way of being.“