The Journey to World Peace: What History Teaches Young People about Peace
2nd Prize in 18-21 age group
by Alawode, Oluwafeyikemi Marvellous from Nigeria
To understand the past, properly navigate the present, and create better plans for the future, the study of history is very important. According to Albert Einstein, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results”. In order not to repeat mistakes that have been made in the past, young people must learn from history. This also applies to the pursuit of world peace. From the First World War to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian war, there are many ‘simple’ lessons that young people can learn on conflict resolution and the attainment of peace.
One of the lessons to be learnt from history is that there is no true peace without dialogue. Achieving peace is great, but the nature of the peace achieved is more important. With negative peace, there is a strained relationship and silent hostility, despite the end of the conflict. As a result, the peace is only temporary. However, with true peace comes long-lasting friendly relations. Military strategies, force, power play, armistices, and so on can never lead to true, long-lasting peace, but effective dialogue can.
The Oxford Dictionary defines dialogue as “taking part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem”. Simply put, in the context of peace, dialogue means discussions by opposing parties on how to resolve a conflict. It was through the dialogues had in the Potsdam and Yalta conferences, and the Paris Treaties that lasting peace was achieved after the deadliest International war (World War II).
The Russo-Georgian War of 2008, the Nigerian civil war, and the high tension due to Iran’s nuclear program are some examples of dialogue-resolved conflicts.
Dialogue and negotiations give leaders, and people in general, an opportunity to address grievances, resolve disputes, and work towards a mutual agreement on how to avert prospective conflicts.
However, mere dialogue is not what is required, but an efficacious one. This is evident as, in the past, dialogue has been used to resolve the Russo-Ukrainian and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, yet they are at war now. So what is effective dialogue, and how can it be achieved for long-lasting peace?
For effective dialogue to be achieved, it is important to not just hear the other side, but truly listen to them. This is an important lesson that young people must learn. During dialogue are you really listening to the other party? Active listening helps us see issues from the perspective of others, understand their feelings, and what influences their decisions. Most importantly, through active listening, we can empathize with others. When there is empathy on both sides, conflict resolution will be a breeze.
Another important aspect of effective dialogue is how our thoughts are framed and communicated. In Proverbs chapter fifteen verse one (Proverbs 15:1), the Bible says that “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” During dialogue, it is very important to speak kindly, not harshly. The result of this would be a peaceful resolution of the conflict, and even a friendly relationship afterwards. It is easy to speak kindly during conflict when there is empathy, and empathy is achieved when active listening is practised.
Another important lesson that young people must learn is that there is no true peace without compromise. In the words of Malala Yousafzai, “in true dialogue, both sides are willing to change.” Equity may sometimes need to take preeminence over equality. They do not always complement each other. As stated by Mahatma Gandhi “an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”. Many times, retaliation and a battle for the “right side” and equality heightens conflict. When both parties are earnestly seeking to make compromises for each other, peace is inevitable. This must be practised by governments, state actors, young people, and everyone in society for true and long-lasting peace.
As long as human beings co-exist in any setting, dispute is inevitable. As a result, young people should strive to gain soft skills that are important for effective dialogue, and peaceful resolutions. Some of these skills include active listening, effective communication, empathy, emotional intelligence, compassion, perspective-taking, and so on.
With these skills, peace would not just be the absence of war, but the presence of harmony, camaraderie, and friendly relations. To make this easy and accessible to all, young people and parents should clamour for governments to include these skills as compulsory courses in the curriculum of schools.
Finally, young people should cultivate an interest in learning their local history and world history. When studying about the past, they will be able to learn from it. Young persons and parents should also clamour for the inclusion of history studies in the curriculum of schools.
Armed with this knowledge and skills, young people would become emotionally intelligent, fine leaders who would act for peace at local and international levels.
In conclusion, there are so many lessons that young people must learn from the past, so that negative history will not be repeated. At the end of every war, conferences are held for the warring parties to dialogue. Rather than wait until after hostility festers and results in destructive conflict, we must learn to seek peaceful resolution from the early stages of any dispute. The importance of dialogue to effective conflict resolution cannot be overemphasized. For this to be attained, compromise, active listening, empathy, perspective-taking, effective communication, compassion, and other soft skills must be prioritised and learnt by not just young people, but all persons and governments. Finally, the critical study and analysis of history should also be prioritised. These may seem like simple lessons, however, if they were practised in the past many wars would have been avoided, and numerous lives and properties, saved.