Today we celebrate the International Day of Peace. It is a day established by the United Nations in 1981 when all nations commit to peace above all differences and contribute to building a culture of peace. It is a day to come together as the human race and condemn with the most emphatic terms possible all kinds of violence in the world. As the theme of this year’s events states, we are the ones to shape this world together.
We celebrate this day this year, however, in not a so a peaceful time. With a virus ravaging the world and destroying the lives of millions across the globe, extremist groups causing havoc and destruction in the Middle East and in the Eastern and Western parts of Africa, broader and other conflicts between nations like what we have between India and China, the North China Sea issues, the India and Nepal border conflicts, and the control of the Nile waters between Ethiopia, the Sudan and Egypt. We can also not forget to mention the migration crisis and what is happening in Belarus, Mali and the Black Lives movement in the USA. These are just some of the difficult circumstances that we have to grapple with at this time.
But I have been juggling something in my mind for sometimes now; what do we mean when we talk of world peace? Is it the absence of war, or is there something more to it? Some tend to describe a peaceful world as this utopian place where no one carries a gun; there are no military or police departments, or where we all love each other and live with on violence what’s ever. But is this really what we mean when we say we are striving for world peace
The best definition of world peace, which I think we should all try and aim for, is the one by Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams. She describes world peace as a sustainable peace with justice and equality. It is a sustainable peace in which most people on the planet have access to enough resources to live a dignified life where people have access to education and health care to live in freedom from want and fear. We will never gain world peace by amassing weapons of mass destruction and forming alliances with our friends. It is about using those resources to build a more sustainable life for ourselves. It is using money to tackle climate change or developing machines that can digest plastic waste.
However, most people will say that this is not possible that man is naturally violent and thus must engage in war. Some will even quote Charles Darwin and say that it is always a struggle for the fittest. I want to deconstruct this narrative and sate that human beings are naturally peaceful and are only trained or forced by circumstance to be violent.
If you are walking down the streets then suddenly, a bulldog or some stranger with a machete is running towards you, what will be your first instinct? For most people, their first instinct will be to free the seen. This is because you would lather leave the situation unharmed instead of fighting where you can get injured or even to the extreme losing your life. In the military, the world over time immemorial, the grates problem for the generals is getting their troops prepared to die and kill in battle. Nobody wants to lose their life. But they still go to war. Why do you think this happens? Some may say it’s because they are getting paid to go, but that is not the case. I don’t think anybody in the military or even just the general public can trade their life for money. Going back to my previous example of you walking down the streets. If this time around, you are walking your little brother or child down the same road then the same bulldog or the stranger is running towards you with a machete, what would be your first instinct? Runaway or fight to protect your loved one? In this, the answer drastically changes, most people would choose to confront the enemy to make sure that their loved ones are safe even if that means losing their life in the proses.
This is the same principle that the military uses; you will see them creating brotherhood cells whose members are just like family to each other. It ensures that each member will fight and kill or get killed for his brothers. This is where the slogans like “having each other’s back” or “no one is left behind” cames from. It is also what the Hitlers of this world use to manipulate us to fight their battles. They will tell you that you are fighting for your country and that your life is dispensible provided your sacrifice guarantees a better experience for your family and county men.
We are always forced to believe that to have peace, there must be war. And therefore, we must increase our military strength, so we appear strong, and nobody will attack us, but this is not true; actually, the more robust you appear, the more enemies you create. It also creates a competition of who is stronger than the other or can destroy the other in the shortest time. This is what we had in the cold war—and continuing even today with different countries doing military drills all over the place these days.
However, to achieve real-world peace, we must be ready to break down all the barriers and stereotypes that history has instilled into us and accept that we are all one. Whether you are from Siberia in Russia, Caracas in Mexico or Nanyuki Kenya, we are fundamentally the same. We all have similar needs and aspirations; we all want to see our kids grow to become the best they can and make a life for themselves. After breaking all the barriers, we must then forge a general unified identity that defines who we are not as the back people or the whites, not as the Muslims, Christians, Buddhists or Hindu but as a human race.
We must also learn to acknowledge that all human life is precious and sacred, and we should treat it with dignity. We should recognize that no one has the right to take someone’s life at all costs. If we all believe in this, then no one will have to die of hunger when someone else foodstuffs are expiring in the fridge. No one is going to die of cancer since they could not afford the treatment.
We should also build systems where the authority comes from the people, where they have a right to decide whom to lead them and who not to. This will prevent some dictator coming to power and manipulating us the way he may like. These systems should also have strong independent institutions which act as a deterrent to any demagogic leader who tries to take advantage of the masses.
This is, therefore, a call to action for all of us to take part in this movement to rewrite history. If we as a people are not going to rise and end this cycle of violence and world wars, no one else will. We must all start to be proactive and think introspectively asking our selves at an individual level what we can do to foster more peace in the world. You can start by saying hi to that neighbour whom you think is from an evil religion or is not from your race. They may not appreciate it at first, but soon they will come to enjoy it. It was Robert F Kennedy, an American politician and lawyer who was the 64thUnited States Attorney General, who ones said that “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve many others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring those ripples to build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Let us Celebrate this day by propagating kindness, compassion, and hope in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stand together with the UN against attempts to use the virus to promote discrimination or hatred.
If each of us commits to being less violent and loves their neighbour, then I believe the ripples that we are going to create will not only topple down the walls of oppression and resistance but also this virus of cyclic violence in the world.
*This is original work of Vincent Kamau – a Kectil 2020 Colleagues.
Vincent Kamau Minjire is a final year Kenyan graduate student taking IT and majoring in Computer Networks. He is also a self-taught video and graphic designer, which he practices as an online freelancer. Currently, being away from school due to the Covid-19 he has taken up a volunteering job at the UN online volunteering platform where he is working for Social Development international; an NGO in Cameroon, as the team leader of the video team.
Vincent is proud to say Kectil is one of the best things that happened to him in 2020. From the thought trigging assignment to providing a platform where he can meet with youth from all parts of the world. He has learnt a lot. The Kectil Program made him think more critically about his life and what he wants to do with it when they were asked to draft a eulogy speech that would be read in their funnel. This changed his life drastically, and he has never been the same again. He was also named as the nominee of Kectil Kenya Regional Group for the Best Overall Submission for his thought-provoking assignment on Kectil Ten Point of Leadership.
From his interactions with other Kectil Colleagues from different parts of this world, he has realised that we, as the human race, are all fundamentally the same. We have the same challenges, hopes and aspirations despite our culture, religion or geographical location. This has made him breakdown all the barriers and stereotypes that he had about peoples from other parts of the world and endeavoured to be unity and peace greatest mobiliser.