Peace and Social Institutions

Peace and Social Institutions
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This section attempts to highlight the typology of the existing social institutions, which is comprised of the family, education, political life, economy and religion from the sociological perspective and linked to the issue of peace. Though not exhaustively done, but it is a starting point for sustaining peace and preventing conflict.

Definition of Social Institution

Institution is an established order comprising rule-bound and standardized behaviour patterns. The term is widely acknowledged to be used in variety of ways, and hence often ambiguous.

Social institution refers to arrangements involving large numbers of people whose behaviours are guided by norms and roles.

In Functionalist theory, the concept of institution is linked to that of functional prerequisites or functional imperatives.

Institutionalization refers to the process whereby the norm and roles expected in various social settings are developed and learned. In sociological literature, however, social institution is made up the following:

(i) The family
(ii) Education
(iii) Political life
(iv) Economy and work, and
(v) Religion

An attempt will be made to link the various forms or types of social institutions and peace.

Peace and Family

The family, a basic social group united through bonds of kinship or marriage, is present in all societies. It provides its members with protection, companionship, security and socialisation. The norms that govern family relations can vary greatly and its functions differ from one society to another depending on the specific point in time. All of these facts indicate that the family is not a fixed and unchanging social arrangement, but that it can and does change.

In some instance, the family has been said to shape and influence the rest of the society. It is however usually the family that is often shaped and changed by the rest of the institutions of the society. For this reason, the family is appropriately called an adaptive institution. Thus, the family typically adapts or makes adaptive changes, when some other part of the society changes.

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It is a well know fact that conflict (direct violence) occurs in the family and some families even see violence as an acceptable way to deal with family problem. Almost all parents recognize the responsibility of teaching their children the skills necessary to get along in life. To have a peaceful family, the family must first believe in peace. To communicate and reinforce the values of peace, teaching and keeping peace with relationships that are fully respected must be created in the family environment.

Values are not taught to children by talking about them. Research on development confirms the integration of values through relationship, observations and demonstration. Children learn to be nice by having someone being nice to them. They learn to be peaceful and non-violent by having other people demonstrate what it is to be peaceful. It is within the home (family) that the most important value(s) is/are taught.

Peace and harmony increase among all family members when the family values are cherished by all children, and not confused when they understand and know what is most important, respect what is most important and feel respected. Family can create an atmosphere of peace by:

Keeping communication open
Letting each person state his/her opinions openly, and making sure everyone listens more than passing judgement. Listening encourages talking and talking lets everyone know what is important and valued.
Teaching kindness by being kind
Respecting relationship i.e. also respecting children as people.

Children learn respect as people. Children learn respect by demonstrations and observations. Hence, communicating peace in the family helps in creating a culture of peace among young persons, hoping that the skills they acquire will be useful for life.

Peace and Education

Children and young persons have often been used as instrument to fight wars for reasons which they have very little knowledge about in countries such as Angola, Liberia, Sudan, Libya and Sierra Leone. In fact, children soldiering became a menace, hence the need to tackle it squarely. It is this fight against the menace that calls for the need for peace education.

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Peace education is the deliberate attempt to educate children and adults on the dynamics of conflict and the promotion of peace-making skills in homes, schools, communities etc. throughout the world.

Peace education introduces the concepts of human dignity and human rights with specific reference to such values as economic equity, political participation, ecological balance, and particularly the formative principles fundament to international human rights standard. Holistically, peace education openly acknowledges its purpose as education to facilitate the achievement of peace and related sets of social values, largely through learning to recognize conflict and practising alternative multiple forms of violence.

Peace and Political Life

Politically, peace entails political order, that is, the institutionalization of political structures. Thus, institutionalization means that political structures acquire values and stability, and in the absence of this, there is a primacy of politics, and when there is a primacy of politics every group uses its unique endowments to pursue and enforce its interests, i.e. mob riot, students demonstration, workers strike and soldiers coup. To create peace, politics must be mediated by stable structures and secular culture. By secular culture, citizens become involved rationalizing, evaluating and participating in politics and imbibing political values like tolerance, bargaining and negotiation as a norm. In this context, peace is seen as a contractual pact to be respected and recognized by each other, especially in the nation state.

Again, peace can also be a way of perpetrating and perpetuating oppression of the under privileged by the privileged classes. This is so because behind the appearance of peace and orderliness, is the domination of one social class (the weak) by another (the powerful); the later may view their privileges, comfort and dominance as order, and any challenge to change this status quo is viewed to undermine peace, yet, sometimes it is good for an existing order to be over thrown so that lasting peace can be established. A good example is the revolution of today’s Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

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Peace and Economy

The economy is the social institution involved in the production and exchange of a wide range of goods and services. These activities include businesses, industries, corporations, market for goods, labour markets, the banking system, labour unions, relevant government agencies and several other occupations.

It is often said that there can be no development without peace, and peace without development. Coupled with other social institutions, the economy of any society is a strong factor and strategy for peace-building, if resources are equitably distributed. The current state of resource distribution in Nigeria (especially in the Niger-Delta) has been the bane of insecurity in the country. This trend also manifests in most other countries in Africa.

In Cote D’Ivoire, for example, it was argued that notwithstanding the crisis of citizenship, the economic decline of the 1990s following the collapse in the world market prices of coffee is germane to the ethno-regional violence that has polarized the state and civil society.

Peace and Religion

Religion can be used as a veritable tool for peace. Peace is entrenched in most world religious Holy Books (e.g. Bible and the Koran), because they teach and promote the virtues of peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, love, respect for life and other values that promote non-violent change.

However, these same religions have also been known to have created an atmosphere of hatred and violence among young persons. This aspect of socializing and indoctrinating young persons to hate and be violent has created a global trend of terrorism, which has impaired world peace.

Nigeria is currently experiencing her share of this unfortunate trend in places that, hitherto, were peaceful, like Jos, Borno, Gombe, Nassarawa, Oyo, Niger states, to mention but a few, and even in the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), where Christians have been pitched against the Moslems for no reasons documented in the Holy Books.

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