17 July 2004

How 'Active Peace' can abolish war

By Andrew Boswell

It seems violence is everywhere. Never ending. Countless wars in the last 50 years. Women and children often suffering the most. Human created disasters are an icon of our time. Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, and the Sudan just the latest.

Yet the Seville Statement on Violence, published in 1986, by 20 leading scientists and states no gene, brain mechanism or pre-determined behaviour pattern has been found to suggest an innate violence in humanity.

So why doesn't peace break out? For the last 8000 years, a dominance culture has prevailed that values the 'masculine' over the 'feminine'. Our culture accepts waging war, perceiving it as dynamic, active and masculine - 'doing something'. Violent activity has prospered and become institutionalized. Just look around - excessively militarised societies, economies bankrolled by the huge global arms trade, and media obsessed with sensationalizing conflict.

As long as we accept this silently, we are passively colluding with this violence. Great practitioners of non-violent resistance to dominance, like Gandhi, have taught that peace is an active process. Now, the proliferation of atomic weapons demands that we all become practitioners of 'Active Peace'.

This means, first, waking up and weaning ourselves as individuals from the cultural grip of violence. Pervasive violence must then be transformed to dynamic peace from the local to the global, the individual to the species. As the Movement for the Abolition War (MAW) chair, Bruce Kent, says "I live in a fairly multiracial, turbulent area … but we manage to live together … and I believe that that image - of the small London street living together harmoniously - is the one we should try to transpose to the world community."

Around the world, this is what people want - a Culture of Peace. More than 1% of humanity, 75 million people, signed Manifesto 2000 and made the commitment to cultivate peace in their daily lives.

The 1999 UN Declaration on a Culture of Peace emphasised starting with children and peace education to address the cultural causes of violence. Children suffer an ever increasing pressure to be consumers and to become the cogs of future economic expansion. The essential space and time of childhood to touch and grow peace within must be cultivated rather than being eroded further. Urgently needed peace education can be simply learning to share, to listen and to understand others, helping to make conflict resolution a way of life from an early age.

The UK citizenship curriculum is a good step, but, Charles Clarke please note, it needs to be self development and exploration, rather than more study. The practical 'peace keys' in Manifesto 2000 provide a brilliant backbone for exploring citizenship - this needs to be given a much greater priority by our educators.

However, the primary cultural priority of endless economic growth leads to exploitation of people and nature alike. A future global society of real freedom, social justice, sustainable development, and human rights - the One World - can not be built for our children without an urgent change in mainstream values and corporate behaviour.

'Active Peace' requires that governments initiate high priority and challenging programmes in disarmament, environmental protection, poverty elimination, conflict resolution, peace building. Ministries for Peace" in Government, and independent Commissions for Peace, could oversee the necessary social and political transformations. We do not lack the skills - there are plenty experts to start this and train others. However, we urgently need a new political will, and much greater resources, to develop this to a working reality. The well established campaign in the UK (see http://www.ministryforpeace.org.uk/) has already included discussions in Parliament.

The aim is the abolition of War before it is too late. MAW has recently created an inspiring short video called 'War, No More', including our local Martin Bell, the broadcaster Jon Snow, and the Green MEP Caroline Lucas on this topic.

We are on the edge of the abyss, yet, the potential for 'Active Peace' has never been greater. As the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said "The 21st century is a green, beautiful hill with … all the wonders of life. Let us climb [this hill] … not as separate individuals … humans can live together in true harmony with each other and with nature, … as cells live together in the same body, all in a real spirit of democracy and equality."

Active Peace is thriving in Norfolk with an exhibition hosted by Norwich Cathedral, "From Hiroshima to World Peace - exploring many paths to peace", from August 4th to 17th.