Why do we still have conflicts in the world today centuries after colonization? What are our governments doing to secure lasting peace? These are very pertinent questions that any concerned person should be asking. The ever increasing cases of insecurity, high costs of living, limited opportunities for employment and many other issues are causing agitation from various quarters. Poor governance, poor service delivery, unfair and distribution of resources, divergent views and beliefs are increasingly becoming catalysts for conflict and thereby leading to lack of peace. The big question is, “Where do the young people stand in all these and how are the contributing to the attainment of peace or the lack of it thereof? Are youth part of the problem or part of the solution?”
Youth in the Modern World
According to statistics 17% of the world’s seven billion population comprises of young people aged between 15 and 24 years. This figure comes to over 1.2 billion excluding the others aged 15 to 35 years. The population constitutes a formidable force of energetic and potentially impactful mass. Over the years there has been a rising youth bulge across the world. We have seen youth lead revolutions to fight against injustices and hold governments and leaders to account. The greatest challenge these governments and world leaders is how to harness and utilize the immense potential in these youth amidst the numerous challenges they face.
What do we mean by Peace?
The concept of peace can be defined in many ways. According to the Scout Movement peace encompasses three different dimensions: the personal dimension – harmony, justice and equality; the community dimension – peace as opposed to hostility or violent conflict and relationships between humankind and its environment – security, social and economic welfare and relationship with the environment.
Societies comprise of people with different characteristics, abilities, cultures, religions and beliefs. Despite these differences we are all unified by a common fact – that we are all human. These differences are meant to create amongst us a variety of things that we can find interesting and enjoyable in each other; and not as lines along which we should segregate ourselves. In order to coexist harmoniously we need to find our commonalities and appreciate them.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said that; “we do not have peace because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Peace therefore is about building harmonious and mutually respectful relationships with each other based on shared values regardless of any differences that may exist.
Role of Youth in World Peace
It is often said that youth are the custodians of the prosperity of future generations. And as such youth have a great responsibility in taking a leading role in promoting a culture of peace. The world is becoming more and more connected and therefore the need to appreciate the diversity is becoming even greater too in the achievement of mutual understanding and global peace.
Owing to the fact that youth are more dynamic it is easier to achieve greater sense of unity in diversity if they took up the role of creating awareness among their peers, using the various media platforms as tools for promoting peace. This can be reinforced by exchanges that allow them to travel and gain firsthand experience of different cultural diversities.
Education is the greatest tool for fighting cultural and religious prejudices and stereotypes that undermine peace. It gives one a chance to learn the correct information and make decisions based on facts. Media on the other hand offers accessible channels for communicating information in various forms. Social media for instance, which is most common among youth is the world’s most powerful communication channel today. Migration gives one an opportunity to personally explore various realities and challenge their perceptions.
Even more concretely, youth can actively engage in creating aware of global issues and finding alternative ways or solutions to the challenges of lack of peace. Enhancing local and global cooperation and mutual understanding among youths and other stakeholders across diverse cultures by building interactive global citizenship also has the potential to offer solutions to the many conflicts we are witnessing in the modern world.
Many issues concerning peace and stability within communities relate to communication with one another. Young people wishing to mediate in their own communities and spread the message of peace efficiently need to strengthen their skills of dialogue to listen actively and assess needs, as well as to propose and implement solutions that impact positively in society.
These actions if well applied, and driven by the energy and enthusiasm that the youth possess, have the power to unite the world in unprecedented ways. It is for this reason that young people need to take charge and use them to promote diversity and world peace.
Amidst all the challenges the youth face in the world today, they still cannot run away from the fact that they bare great responsibility, if not the greatest, on the future on the world. Working towards a peaceful world is one of those tasks that need much effort, energy, creativity and collaboration. It calls for strong leadership, great commitment, respect for life and humanity to be able to achieve lasting peace. If the youth cannot take up this role, then who will?
Nelson Ochieng Opany
National Messengers of Peace Coordinator // Kenya Scouts Association
Nairobi, 16th June 2014