Our children are living and growing up with one of the greatest challenges societies face today, diversity. In a world where cultures increasingly converge and intermingle with each other, teaching the values and skills of ‘learning to live together’, has become a priority issue for education.
From a Culture of War and Conflict to a Culture of Peace and Acceptance
Human civilization over time has created immemorial settlements of groups of people living together. We are only familiar with the last three and a half thousand years. It is interesting to note that calculations based on the surviving written historical records reveal, that out of these three and a half thousand years, only two hundred and fifty were peaceful. In other words, the history of civilization is a history of constant warfare, destruction, conquest, and violence, and not of prosperity, peace, and development.
The twentieth century surpassed all the previous centuries in terms of the magnitude of violence and cruelty. Thus, the twenty-first century has put humanity into a dilemma. Either it will become an age of a culture of peace and tolerance, or it will be the last century in the history of civilization. In the last century, the culture of war and unacceptance, in all its manifestations, became one of the greatest evils for humankind. Two World Wars, more than 200 large-scale wars and armed conflicts, the violence of totalitarian and anti-democratic regimes, the struggle for power, and genocide, all a result of the culture of war, have claimed up to 300 million lives. The creation, improvement, and spread of weapons of mass destruction are an indication of an increased risk of using those weapons.
The unacceptant domestic political strife and social upheavals in many countries with racism, genocide, and war indicate that the spread of ideas of peace and tolerance and the
formation of such a culture is of paramount importance for the life of every human being, family, organization, state, and society. The salvation of mankind lies in the establishment of a culture of peace and tolerance. The culture of war and intolerance takes humanity to a common grave.
Examining the history of civilization in this light, we come to the following unequivocal conclusion: humankind has to make a transition from the culture of war and violence to a culture of peace and harmony. A culture of peace must be developed as a result of this transition as a process of spiritual enrichment of every single individual and the entire society. As a result, the existing ideas of peace will become the personal moral and spiritual values of each and every individual, they will form his or her thinking and mentality, direct his or her creative forces and capabilities and all other activities. Only through this culture will it be possible to prevent the destruction of civilization, the darkness and chaos, and to achieve peace and harmony, and create conditions for the development of mankind.
Both present and future generations have the right to live in peace. We have a moral responsibility to bequeath to future generations a culture of peace and tolerance. As the UNESCO Declaration on the Responsibilities of Present Generations towards Future Generations states, “the present generation should ensure that both the present and future generations learn to live together in peace, security, respect for international law, human rights and fundamental freedoms”. Moreover, the same declaration claims, “the present generation should spare future generations the scourge of war. To that end, they should avoid exposing future generations to the harmful consequences of armed conflicts as well as all other forms of aggression and use of weapons, contrary to humanitarian principles.”
Note to our Readers
This text is part of an educational package for public secondary schools aiming at teaching schoolchildren about the culture of peace and tolerance. For more information or inquiries please contact the IBCR Programme on Children Affected by Armed Conflict, 1185 Saint-Mathieu, Montreal, Quebec H3H 2P7, Canada; tel: (+514) 932-7656 (ext. 222), fax: (+514) 932-9453, e-mail: email@example.com
Note About the Authors
Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Agius is a Professor at the University of Malta, Faculty of Theology, la Valletta, Malta.
Dr. Jolanta Ambrosewicz is a researcher at the Center for European Studies at the Jagellonian University in Krakow, Poland.
Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
By Emmanuel Agius and