All you need is Peace

Youth promoting peace as activists today

Winning Submission for Project Ploughshares contest for the 2009 Global Youth Assembly

Have you ever been at peace? Some believe peace is simply the absence of war. Yes, war is treacherous battle and conflict. But when there is no war, is there peace? Suffering continues; oppression, discrimination, disrespect and hatred still exist. This is not peace.

Do you think that those who live in a developed country, not at war in years, are at peace? You may be fortunate enough to live in a peaceful home with loving parents and more than enough food. But even within the most affluent communities lie conflict, greed, envy, and violent abuse.

There are societies where thousands will chant and cheer for a team to win a football game, but where none will do so to end genocide. We know there are terrible things occurring ever day – many choose to ignore this. But it is up to the youth of today to set standards and determine the level of peace for our future. Youth will be left with the problems of our current world leaders. Positive action must begin today. That is why we are called to ignite the power within ourselves to make change now.

Can we promote peace when we buy products that support a corporation’s use of child labour or degrade the environment? Challenging, but we can support alternatives like the Fair Trade movement. While there are many roadblocks to being a true peacemaker, change starts within each of us as individuals. It is possible to “fight” for peace without war. When we come together in peace, we are strong enough to make substantial change.

Overwhelming and daunting tasks of “changing the world” are presented to youth today. Many of us choose to avoid the call to action, simply because of the enormous size of the tasks to solve the world’s issues. However, these tasks can be approached from another level – by thinking globally but acting locally, we can more attainably move towards a better world. We must not give up when faced with challenges like providing nourishment to a village in Malawi, or sending 50 students to school in Colombia, or even protecting endangered species in Northern Canada. In fact, Anthropologist Margaret Mead made it very clear when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

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There are governments around the world that promise major action. There are multi-national corporations that commit to social responsibility. However for a true, sustainable, tangible difference, “we must be the change we wish to see in the world” as Gandhi so wisely stated. Many authoritative adults and powerful organizations can be doubtful and pessimistic. This has always been true. However, more damage will be done if we do not convince them to take necessary action, instead of waiting our turn in their position. We are the leaders, not only of tomorrow, but also of today.

Many youth crave the glamorous celebrity lifestyle – yet greed is a deterrent of peace. This need for more is known as affluenza. A video on “teenage affluenza” displays middle-class children being unsatisfied with everyday privileges. When compared to those who have less, however, these complaints seem utterly ridiculous – a boy complains about his outdated PlayStation 2, while another boy’s only toy is a brass bombshell casing; a girl is embarrassed by the 1980’s Toyota Corolla her mother drives her to school in, when a girl around the world leads her blind mother home on a dark road at night after a day of begging. For peace to be achieved, everything should be put into perspective.

In high school I had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic on an “exposure trip”. While most know this as a tropical vacation destination, I had the chance to experience what life is like in the developing world. Witnessing the joy within these people, despite their impoverished situations, allowed me to realize that peace and happiness do not come from having the latest technology, driving a luxury vehicle, or living in a classy condo.

Today’s youth must break the stereotype of being apathetic. There are plenty of young people taking action around the world today. From local community service to online campaigns to international volunteer trips, youth are making a difference right now. We begin spreading peace through simple actions of kindness and generosity. Now, it is our duty to participate and be examples of youth activists for other generations, as we come together to better the world through peace.

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