“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” This quote from Mother Teresa is one of the best illustrations of what striving for peace can be. Those who protest wars are not always looking for peace. Striving for peace goes beyond just being against a certain armed conflict. Even when armed conflict is stopped, it does not necessarily bring peace. Peace is a life style that does not come and go according to one’s convenience. Many turn to politics to obtain peace when at times it is the same politics that brought the armed conflict in the first place. Some of the greatest figures of peace have not been politicians. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and Mohandas K. Gandhi are just a few that never had official state titles. Peace can and does transcend politics.
Peace is a subject that is often confused. Many times peace and politics are used synonymously when in fact they are not. That is not to say that politics has no place in peace, but politics is what often is being fought to bring peace. And yes, peace is something that you fight for, but not in the way one may think. Gandhi was quoted as saying “Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.” The word conquer is generally attributed to violence. However, Gandhi was able to conquer injustice with love. When fighting injustice, it can be done with one’s mind and heart rather than with one’s firearm. Individuals like King, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Mandela were fighters of injustice who used peaceful means to accomplish their goals. When politics try to dispel injustice it usually involves two options: To resort or not resort to armed conflict. Peace goes beyond that. Peace not only refrains from violence but it tries to find a solution to the problem of injustice. For King, peace was not the time between armed conflicts. Peace was King’s weapon of choice.
True peace is when all people involved can come together for a common goal. Peace is simply not satisfying the people who are deemed to have suffered the most injustice. Gandhi was infamous in using the law of his oppressors to illustrate his point. Gandhi wanted his oppressors to see the injustice through their own eyes and not just through his. Nelson Mandela stated that “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” When Nelson Mandela was elected to President of South Africa after 27 years in jail, many thought the oppressors would be ousted from the land. Although Mandela’s oppressors were an extreme minority in the country and were discriminatory against the indigenous South Africans, Mandela knew that simply ousting his oppressors would not necessarily bring his country peace. True peace is showing love to your enemies. True peace is not getting revenge but rather moving forward.
Peace is at times put aside in a plea of self-defense. I do not think that anyone would argue that a person deserves the right to defend themselves when there is immediate danger to themselves or other innocent people around them. But sometimes self-defense is claimed when there is no immediate danger. In fact, self-defense is claimed when in fact it is retaliation. “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon. When Mandela said this statement, it was said in regards to those who had put him in jail and oppressed his people. Peace cannot be a one-sided affair. Peace does not claim just one victor. Peace should be a victory for everyone. Just imagine King’s vision of peace not including the largest population in the United States of America at the time. People of peace realize that justice is a right of all people, not just those of the oppressed. Peace cannot be realized when you sway the balance of justice from one end to the other. Peace needs to be balanced and fair.
There is no doubt that the greatest figures of peace have their flaws. People of peace are not perfect and peace can often not be perfect as well. Peace is not the end to all means but rather a process. Since peace cannot be perfected it cannot be applied to a situation and left alone. For it to be successful it has to always be a work in progress. Benjamin Franklin may have said it best when he said “There never was a good war, or a bad peace.” Peace is the success of humanity and war a failure of humanity.
Edited by Randa Hassan Awada