Peace and Harmony as the Choice for Mankind
——The significance of peace and harmony
The wave of globalization has been connecting all the countries of the world into a community to an unprecedented extent, which implies that a mankind society in its true sense is taking shape. In the meantime, the significance of peace and harmony is being recognized by more and more far-sighted people for the following reasons:
Peace and harmony is a basic prerequisite. Peace and harmony can bring a peaceful and stable order to society, and they are a necessary condition for the survival and development of mankind. A world deprived of peace and harmony certainly will fall apart and return to the jungle era in which the strong prey on the weak.
Peace and harmony is an essential benefit. Peace and harmony are enjoyed and possessed jointly by mankind, which is a base for the full realization of the creativity potential of individuals, the sustainable development of the economy and culture of nations, and a true security for the long lasting prosperity of mankind society.
Peace and harmony is an ideal path. Peace and harmony mean dealing with disputes and resolving conflicts fairly and properly with neutralization and Middle Way principles to further the welfare of each individual as well as the wellbeing of mankind as a whole.
Peace and harmony is long lasting value. Ever since the emergence of mankind, numerous cultures have been produced, among which most vanished as soon as they appeared and were forgotten in history for being partial to certain aspect or limited to certain period. Among those thoughts which have been handed down to the present and continuing to have important influence, peace and harmony occupy the most dominating position.
Peace and harmony is high wisdom. It is the height of wisdom that determines the breadth of vision, the depth of exploration, the extent of progress and the limit of transcendence. None of the current major religions and major cultural traditions of the world does not love peace or pursue harmony. History shows that all the thoughts that are against peace and harmony are against the will of the people and shall perish by themselves.
The content of peace and harmony
Peace and harmony of the mankind society should be integral and compressive. They consist of the following six areas:
I. An international political order that embodies equality and mutual trust, maintaining security and justice jointly by political cooperation;
II. A world economy system that fully embodies balance and mutual benefit, eliminating discrepancy between rich and poor as well as regional imbalance;
III. A global cultural atmosphere that fully embodies diversity and integration, conducting dialogues and exchanges to consolidate and enhance friendship and dissolve historical prejudice;
IV. A natural and ecological ethics that fully embodies coexistence and common prosperity, actively fulfilling the responsibility of improvement and resolving environmental crisis by ecological protection;
V. Scientific and technological improvement that fully embodies human nature and humanity, prompting scientific and technological fruits to ultimately benefit the long-term welfare of mankind;
VI. Spiritual and mental state that fully embodies health and morality, helping each individual obtain physical and mental serenity, harmony and happiness through traditional wisdom.
Among the areas mentioned above, cultural peace and harmony occupy a fundamental position. All in all, culture is a value system and the collection of its correspondent codes of conduct. There is no normal activity of a human society that is not the actual manifestation of its value. A culture with peace and harmony as its mainstream value will certainly implement peace and harmony in all the areas of social life. Historical experience has shown that a society can obtain continuous and steady development only when it truly loves peace and place importance upon harmony.
Path to the realization of peace and harmony
Ever since the 21st century, cultural problems have aroused world-wide concern. It has been deeply realized by those who have insight that without global cultural harmony, mutual political trust and economical benefit are mere theory or become mere formality, not to mention forming effective international cooperation when confronted with global challenges. Therefore, an integration of global cultures at in-depth level is of pressing urgency to human society. Thus I would like to raise three points:
I. The organic integration of overall diversity and regional diversity.
With exchanges becoming increasingly frequent, diversity is not only a description of the status of the world as a whole; it is also a reflection of the reality of most countries. It can be foreseen that cultural diversity of the world as a whole in the future will take root in the cultural diversities of each region. In some places, because people pursue unitary domination with once-sided approach and fail to achieve diversity and mutual integration, a great number of confrontations among ethnic groups and social conflicts are created which not only affect their only stability, but also produce elements of instability in neighboring regions. If the ethical requirements of a particular cultural tradition are taken arbitrarily to judge the normal living styles of other cultural traditions, some conducts which are irrelevant to ethics at all will also be colored as right, wrong, virtuous or evil, which will certainly result in false value judgments and even ultra emotional reactions. Therefore, every cultural tradition should exercise tolerance and reconciliation, and resolve the over tension within society with mutual sincerity. If every region can realize diversity and mutual integration, then the diversity and mutual integration of the world as a whole will be achieved as a matter of course.
II. The organic integration of consensus thinking and diversity modes.
Regarding values, we should help the major cultural traditions reach certain universal consensus under the precondition of mutual respect. Although varying living environments have produced varying cultural traditions, among them there should still be many common concepts which have common spirit. We need to make such common thinking cohere into consensus thinking that has universal meaning and become the common spiritual wealth of all human beings.
Concerning the mode of practice, we should encourage all the cultural traditions to adopt diverse and localized methods for practice in respect of such consensus thinking in accordance with their own needs and circumstances. Whichever cultural tradition is formed by long-term exploration and endeavors in their adapting to living environments, therefore it is a unique manifestation of the common thinking of mankind. Thus, there does not exist a best cultural mode that can fit all situations. As a matter of fact, the more common a concept is, the more proper mode of practice need to be selected in accordance with specific causes and conditions of specific time and space.
III. Organic integration of absorption value and contribution value.
Absorption value is comprehensively examining the existence of other cultures as reference and turning the advantages of other cultures into resources that are beneficial to perfecting one's own culture. It is because different cultures complement each other remarkably that conducting dialogue among each other becomes highly necessary. During such a process, each culture should be established on its own position and enlarge its vision, enrich its content and elevate its state by understanding and learning the excellent fruit of other cultures.
Contribution value refers to making in-depth summary of the positive values of the existence of one culture contributes to other cultures and making appropriate constructive suggestions to other cultures. The more positive values a culture contributes to other cultures, the more it can be respected and recognized by other cultures, and the more it can make great contribution to the whole human culture. The underlying driving force of the improvement and progress of human culture comes from the gathering and integration of the positive value of all the cultures.
The prospect of peace and harmony
Peace and harmony of all the human beings mean peace and harmony among all the nations, ethnic groups and religions. Meanwhile, it is peace and harmony of each nation, ethnic group and religion that constitute peace and harmony of all the human beings. The "Harmony Culture", an excellent tradition of Chinese civilization, has lasted for thousands of years and made tremendous contribution to promoting the harmonious coexistence of various ethnic groups and the convergence and fusion of religious cultures, thus it has immeasurable enlightening significance to the peace and harmony of mankind in our age.
Religious culture epitomizes the achievement of culture and wisdom of mankind, and all the major religions regard selfless great love as their fundamental tenet. Promoting peace and harmony of all the human beings is the common noble mission and great cause of all the religions. May the leaders of all religions make a concerted effort to transcend the limits of religions and religious sects, jointly shoulder the moral obligation of concern for the world and concern for mankind, and guide and prompt all the human beings to join hands to ultimately realize peace and harmony to a supremely good state with the peace and harmony of religions.
Education for peace and respect for human rights is particularly important in this period, if we compare the values this education promotes with the daily violence, the horrors of war and the gradual destruction of values such as solidarity, cooperation and respect for others: all of them problems that assault us every day.
Indiscriminate persecution, massacres and ethnic cleansing are difficult to explain when our shocked and surprised students ask us about them; perhaps they are even incomprehensible in the context of education. It is harder still to clarify these processes when the possible solution for acts such as these is, in fact, the continued bombing of cities and of a desperate civilian population.
We also come across extreme everyday situations when we analyse the inequality and injustice of our socio-economic surroundings and the brutal violence of our “ideal” modern societies… in which it is the state itself that attacks the population, where individualism and self interest are promoted and where whatever is considered “different” becomes “dangerous”. These are all wars, of a different type, but with the same ingredients of injustice, violence and destruction.
Here the responses of educators become drained of content and their explanations no longer work. The practice of building knowledge through research, reading, the analysis of information, interviews, genesis of conflicts, systematisation of what has been learnt, the development of critical thinking, etc, should lead us to rethink the educational model applied until now. This model is perhaps slightly naive, despite its apparent progressive pedagogical nature, and it is one with which educators ourselves have come to be unhappy.
I believe that Peace Education, although considered a transversal element in many educational curriculum models around the world, has in fact been conceived as a secondary matter. Something necessary but accidental, important but not essential, present but “absent”. A view of the curriculum which dignifies it without modifying it, without designing new alternatives for a humanitarian, ethical, civic education — something increasingly necessary in the world we live in.
Because Peace Education means developing a critical, serious and profound approach to the current situation of which we form a part and the historical epoch in which we find ourselves, an undeniable reality that does not always appear in the plans of the Ministries, of educational institutions nor of many principals and teachers.Peace Education has been conceived as a secondary matter; something necessary but accidental, important but not essential, present but “absent”
“Peace is not defined only by the absence of war and conflict, it is also a dynamic concept that needs to be grasped in positive terms, such as the presence of social justice and harmony, the possibility for human beings to fully realise their potential and respect for their right to live with dignity throughout their lives. Sustainable human development is not possible without peace. And without just, equitable, ongoing planning, peace cannot be maintained.”1
These concepts, particularly relevant in the context of the analysis we are currently trying to develop, should influence all imaginable pedagogical proposals for Peace Education, giving it a multidimensional character, able to reach into different areas.
We are witnessing today a reworking of our models and our vocabularies and we understand that there are major changes in the concept of peace, above all as it relates to the opposite term, “war”. This conceptual modification should be integrated, along with the methodology for teaching it, into the learning of teachers and students.
Indeed, after many years the idea of peace has evolved and a broader and more complex understanding of it now relates it to the concepts of fairness, justice, respect for human rights, the rights of peoples and tolerance. Alongside this process, teaching practices in Peace Education have also been modified, taking on a clear commitment to the principles of democratic participation along with the implementation of educational activities which include issues of nonviolence and conflict transformation by peaceful means, with a view to building a more compassionate, juster and fairer society.Peace, as an individual, social, national and international value must be analysed in depth from an interdisciplinary and multidimensional perspective
Armed conflicts in other parts of the world now make us more open to a cognitive, systematic and up to date treatment of the miseries and cruelties of war and also to the analysis of its terrible consequences, using the multiple resources that the media allow us, bringing it closer to us. Peace, as an individual, social, national and international value must be tested and analysed in depth from an interdisciplinary and multidimensional perspective.
The geographical and historical treatment of the subject is necessary but not sufficient. Concepts and issues such as nationalism, sovereignty and the state; the role of the UN in the world of today; the reality of different ethnicities and their complicated coexistence; intercultural dialogue; solutions and disagreements within conflicts; the situation of refugees and their terrible defencelessness before the attacks of “friends” and enemies; crime related to drugs and prostitution; the dangers of nuclear war; the arms race and the arms trade as a profitable global business are urgent and important issues.
All of these issues desperately need to be the subject of reflection, debate, research and criticism by both teachers and students in an ongoing exercise of deepening knowledge, developed both individually and collectively on the basis of obtaining information from many sources, promoting the exchange of different opinions, developing critical judgment and the respect for diversity2.
But even this is not enough if we isolate the international problems that distress us so much from the everyday “wars” of the society in which we live. Marginalisation, social exclusion, violence and persecution are not things that we can only find in news reports about Mexico, Colombia, Syria, Crimea, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan…An obligatory task of education is to link direct open conflicts with those “wars” which have other features
There are other “wars” much closer to home, right next to us. Social inequality, lack of vital resources for much of the population, unemployment and poverty create hopelessness and distrust of democratically elected governments. Authoritarian mechanisms, the control of information, crimes, delinquency and impunity are part of our political life.
In this sense, war is not so far away… and not only because of the globalisation of the arms trade or the information that we receive from the transnational media. It is a daily war to survive in terrible conditions of housing and health, of education and employment, of the insufficiency of essential public services and insecurity, with basic inherent principles of human dignity being trampled on every day in many countries and continents.
It is an obligatory task of education to link these two aspects: the direct open conflicts with those “wars” which have other features but are no less intense. Only through a comprehensive analysis of the roots of violence, its characteristics, forms and consequences can we make it possible to achieve a critical reflection, at the levels of both the individual and society, so as to generate possible changes that may lead towards a lasting peace in today’s world.
This is the great educational challenge for the coming years and for our pedagogical work in the field of Peace Education.Let us dare to face up to it.
1. Iglesias Díaz, Calo (2007). Educar pacificando: Una pedagogia de los conflictos, 1ª edición, Madrid, Fundación Cultura de Paz Editorial.
2 Bazán Campos, Domigo (2008). El oficio de pedagogo. Aportes para la construcción de una pràctica reflexiva en la escuela, Rosario, Argentina, Ed. Homo Sapiens.
Photography : United Nations Development Programme in Europe and CIS / CC BY / Desaturada.
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