The International Day of Peace

Article written by: Johannes Motshegoa

Our diversity is often our biggest adversary, but it has the potential to be our greatest ally. Only when we choose to treat other people with respect, and dignity, making them feel safe around us, can we achieve peace.

The International Day of Peace is held each year on 21 September. This year the National Assembly has declared and devoted this day to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and people. The theme for this year is: “Together for Peace, Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”

Any of the aspects mentioned above could not materialise or succeed without the spirit of togetherness, and that is why the global initiative to promote peace, is anchored in therein.

When one looks at the word ‘peace’, one of the questions to ask, is: “what does it mean?” My take on the meaning of the word is that peace must start at home with each and every individual. In my experience with facilitating diversity and inclusion workshops, I’ve noticed that the people struggle to make peace with the person next to them, is those who are not at peace with themselves, only once they’ve accepted themselves, can they accept others for who they are as well.

The next question that we face and one of the reasons there is an International Day of Peace, is where does the hunger to have power at all cost and be better than the next person come from? The answer, I believe, once again lies in not being at peace with oneself.

I believe that being truly at peace with oneself will stop people from seeing themselves as better than others. One of the reasons why there is instability in the world is because some people want to have power and control over others. That sometimes leads to antagonism which could result in civil war or war by one country over another. In my opinion, this stems from individuals not being at peace with themselves.

Looking back at our history and where the discord we have in the world at this moment, is because some believe that they should control others, dictating how they should think and feel. We have leaders who cling to power because they believe that they are the best person to lead, yet cannot make peace with the fact that others could be better leaders than what they are. Nations are not listening to other nations because they can not make peace with the fact that someone other than themselves can have solutions to the problems we all face. There is still a stigma attached to the different ways of we view the world – from the east to the west and Africa. This also contributes to the problems the world is currently facing.

But, here is the simplicity of the situation; no matter your circumstances, your history, your difficulties, they are the contributing factors to the person you have become. If you do not like who you are, you can change, if you like who you’ve become, if you can tell your story, without shame, then you are truly at peace with yourself. We are all created in the same Image, and in the eyes of The Creator, we are all the same. It is our humanity that unites us, and that is something we all have in common. Only when we choose to treat other people with respect, and dignity, making them feel safe around us, can we achieve peace.

One of the things that come between people and nations is the otherness of individuals who interpret the world differently. Our diversity is often our biggest adversary, but it has the potential to be our greatest ally. As humans, we focus on our differences and are divided by them often forgetting that we are similar in other ways. We allow our differences to polarise us, we allow political discourse to isolate us with terms like ‘us’ and ‘them’, and it leads to a lack of respect for others. In the 18 years, I’ve been facilitating the Diversity and Inclusion workshops; I’ve noticed the words we use have an impact. It leads to non-acceptance, discriminations, and thoughts of superiority. But by just adjusting our language, making it more inclusive, we can change behaviour.

War, whether between countries of the one raging in your heart can have a massive impact. The world, big as it is, has become smaller, more connected. Technology allows us to do business and connect with other countries, and that opens up different avenues of communication and learning. But we also face a refugee crisis, with people fleeing their own country because of war, but the big question is how they are treated when they get to those countries? Are they treated with respect and dignity as fellow human beings? Do they feel safe and accepted when they get to those countries, and if the answer is no, then all of us have the responsibility to make them feel respected, safe, accepted, and treated with dignity because first and foremost, they are human beings like all of us.

The next questions require some introspection, and I challenge you to think about it: What role do I as an individual play in all of this? Am I making the world a better world for all human being to live in, i.e. in a dignified, respectful manner, or am I also contributing negatively to where the world finds itself? If your footprint is a negative one, then please consider how you would do things differently, because, despite our differences, dignity is a fundamental human right. Leaving the world as a better place for future generations should be our legacy. We can create a world that stands ‘Together for Peace, Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.’

In conclusion, I believe that all of us need to collectively, lead and play our part in bringing peace and stability to the world and that it all starts by collectively holding our leaders to account.