“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: The World is One Family.”
As this age-old Sanskrit adage states, the world with all its differences and disagreements is one big family meant to live in peace and harmony. Living together in peace is all about accepting differences and having the ability to understand, recognize, respect and appreciate others.
In its resolution 72/130, the UN General Assembly declared 16 May as the International Day of Living Together in Peace. It was a means of regularly mobilizing the efforts of the international community to promote sustainable peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity. The UN encourages nations to promote reconciliation, forgiveness and compassion.
History behind the International Day of Living Together in Peace
Following the devastation of the Second World War, the United Nations was established to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to achieve international cooperation in solving conflicts. In 1997, the General-Assembly proclaimed - by its resolution 52/15 — the year 2000 as the "International Year for a Culture of Peace". In 1998, it proclaimed the period 2001-2010 as the "International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for Children of the World."
In the following year, the General-Assembly adopted, by resolution 53/243, the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, which serves as the universal mandate for the international community, particularly the United Nations system, to promote a culture of peace and non-violence that benefits all of humanity, including future generations.
Despite all these steps taken by the UN, unfortunate events such as war and conflicts continued to take place. The UN declaration, thus came about as a result of the long-held and cherished concept — contained within the Constitution of UNESCO — that "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed." The Declaration embraced the principle that peace is not merely the absence of conflict. It requires mutual understanding, dialogue and a participatory process.
The Declaration also recognizes that to fulfill such an aspiration, there is a need to eliminate all forms of discrimination and intolerance against differences. Difference is the very basis of our identities, as it defines what we are not. Our society needs to acknowledge difference instead of de-naturalize it by transforming it into otherness.
The International Day of Living Together in Peace is celebrated to encourage states and individuals to have an active role in bridge making and creating cohesive societies that at the same time preserve cultural legacy.
“If we are to live together in peace, we must come to know each other better.” - Lyndon B. Johnson
As history books reveal, the outcome of wars have never been peaceful for either side. War has never been, and never shall be, a part of the struggle towards achieving a sustainable and continued peace. The question that arises then is: what alternative is there to war? What can we as individuals do to throw light on the repercussions of conflict?
We may not all be statesmen or diplomats, but we are all humans. And as members of mankind we shall bear and nourish the future in our own way. Thus it becomes our duty to educate our children and condition them to be more understanding and accepting. Each time a debate or argument breaks out in front of them, it is our duty to settle matters in a considerate manner and set an example for them. Children are innocent and tend to understand things based on what they see. Teaching our children to accept others in their entirety could be from actions as simple as encouraging their friendships with children from different backgrounds, sharing their authentically differing lunch boxes, and viewing these differences to be beautiful and wholesome.
As a community, we must learn to not discriminate or stereotype. We must stop people from spreading communal hatred; or if required stand up against a friend following such a mindset. Racial differences need to be accepted by all rather than being merely tolerated. Today, in a world filled with people voicing out their opinions, it is not okay to remain passive and watch the course of actions taken under the influence of hate. Keeping quiet and not questioning people with racial intolerance is nearly as harmful as being racist. If you’re unsure what to do or say, be open to learning, listening, and becoming more aware. It is never too late to become knowledgeable and mend our ways as a society.
Only when we develop such habits and mindsets on an individual basis, will we be able to make an impact on a society or even a national level. As we have the power to influence people around us and steer conversations towards more peaceful thinking, it thus becomes our duty to conserve and promote peace and build a foundation against violence.
We believe it’s important to help those who are underserved and face discrimination whether that is due to race, ability, gender, or anything else. At the same time, this does not mean promoting “cancel culture”. This means opening up the dialogue between you and someone of an opposite or different opinion. Having patience and taking time to understand why they might be saying what they do and seeing if there is a way to also share why something may be harmful. By increasing our understanding of each other, we can start to break down barriers.
Let us know in the comments what your idea of living together in peace is.
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