Developing a Culture of Peace


Developing a culture of peace
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One of the world’s most sought after commodity – apart from the various economic quest for development – is the desire for peace. The importance of peace to any nation development cannot be over-emphasized. That no meaningful development can take place in an environment of rancour is stating the obvious.

The World Development Report 2011 reported that over 20 million children have been denied access to food due to crises. As in this case, many African countries have been bedeviled with one form of crisis or the other, and Nigeria is not an exception from such experiences, ranging from the various incessant ethno-religious crises, the post-election crises, and the recent incidence of the Boko Haram crises.

Peace and prosperity are nearly inseparable. When one is absent, the other is at risk. Violence and war rob people of the chance to better their lives through hard work, and when a society struggles with poverty and unemployment, it sets the stage for unrest. At the same time, peace and prosperity can form a vicious circle.

A peaceful community is one in which people have choices about their future. Prosperity helps ensure that people have a stake in society, eliminating many of the underlyıng causes of conflict.

This topic seeks to achieve the following,

  • Understand the concept of Peace and the culture of peace
  • Acquire a broad and well balanced knowledge of the theories of peace
  • Develop appreciation of the importance of peace in contemporary global affairs and national development
  • Know how to develop a peace culture and the need for peace, and
  • Have insight in cultivating the culture of peace.
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What is Peace?

Peace in most instances has been defined generally as the absence of war. However, the absence of war is the most generally used term which has made peace and war being two sides of the same coin. As such, if peace is the absence of war, it is logical for one to say that, war is the absence of peace.

This definition of peace is interesting and attractive but it is also inadequate for understanding the nature of peace because it does not really tell us the meaning of peace.

However, war is only one form of violence which is physical, open and direct. Other forms of violence which have to do with other social conditions include poverty, exclusion, intimidation, oppression, want, fear and many types of psychological pressures

Going by this definition, “peace – the absence of war,” can one really claim that there is peace in a country where there is no war but rather pervasive poverty, oppression of the poor by the rich, police brutality, intimidation of ordinary people by those in power, oppression of women, or monopolization of resources and power by some sections of the society?

It will still be wrong – in my opinion – to say that there is peace in such a country. Consequently, it is very possible not to have peace when there is no war. Peace, as a concept, is primarily concerned with the creation and the maintenance of a just order in society.The term peace has been sub-divided into six different meanings. Hence, peace is divisible into the following six components listed below:

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i. The absence of war (absence of direct violence)
ii. Justice and development (absence of structural violence)
iii. Respect and tolerance between people
iv. Harmony or balance in, and with, the ecosystem (ecosphere)
v. Tranquility or inner peace (spiritual peace), and
vi. “Wholeness and making whole” (being complete)

Besides the above six definitions or meanings of peace, another component of understanding peace is classified as negative and positive aspects of peace.

Peace is said to be negative when there is absence of direct violence, war, fear, and conflict amongst individuals, at the national, regional and internatonal levels. On the other hand, peace is positive when in addition to the above, also includes the absence of unjust structures, unequal relationships, justice and inner peace at the individual level. This is the real peace or complete peace, since it includes both the absence of war (direct violence) and the absence of unjust structures (indirect violence).

Sociologically, peace rerers to a condition of social harmony in which there are no social antagonisms. In other words, peace is a condition free of social conflict where individuals and groups are able to meet their needs and expectations. This is where the responses of Structural Functonalism and Dialectical Materialists come in. Structural Functionalism is a theoretical approach in which societies are conceptualized as social systems, and particular features of social structures are explained in terms of their contribution to the maintenance of these systems.

In other words, structural functionalism views the society as functions, and structure means any arrangements of elements into a definite pattern e.g. any institutionalized social arrangements (roles, organization etc.). It is a set of interrelated roles necessary for performing specific functions. Where structure performs their functions properly, there is order in society and society inherently moves in the direction of order and stability. Consequently, from a Structural-Functionalist perspective, peace is achieved where existing social structure perform their functions adequately, supported by the requisite culture, norms, and values.

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On the other hand, Dialectical Materialism is the consolidation of Marx and Engel’s main ideas as a scientific philosophy; it suggests that, to understand the society, we should look at the processes through which the society produces and distributes the means of its material existence and the struggles, usually among social classes, that are integral to the process.

Simply put, this perspective assumes that peace is not feasible as long as the society is divided into antagonistic classes and there is a persistence of objective, structural and revolutionary violence. In other words, peace is only feasible in societies in which classes are non-existent because the society produces enough to give to each according to his/her needs. In reality, however, such a society remains an aspiration in modern times and we have to go back to many centuries to find very simple societies that came close to this aspiration. Peace is a process involving activities that are directly or indirectly linked to increasing development and reducing conflict, both within specific societies and in wider international community.

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