What can Award-winning Activists teach us about Peace?

It is the utmost desire of every human being to live in peace. However, this basic human need is not always easy to achieve. Frequently we see wars and conflicts arising between people, nations, and races. So how do we stop these conflicts and help achieve peace? In this post, we’ll talk a bit about the way well-known activists talked about peace. Those who changed the world for the better with their ideas about peace and tolerance. From Mahatma Gandhi to Malala, here are some of the teachings that can help us establish peace, with our enemies and ourselves.

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Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi’s teachings were meant to bring peace not just to those who suffered injustice, but also to create a new way of life for the entire humanity, which they can use to live in peace and harmony. Gandhi teaches people to find ways to reconcile differences and live in harmony and respect for everyone, even those who are our enemies.

According to Gandhi, there are two types of power. One that relies on fear of punishment and the other that comes from the acts of love. The power based on love is a lot more effective and permanent. Mahatma Gandhi used this power of love to fight against the British Empire and to convince millions of people to join his nonviolent way of battling for the decolonization of India.

War should be avoided for all causes. Gandhi notices that regardless of whether you are fighting for dictatorship or liberty and democracy, war always brings pain and sorrow to others.
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is fraught under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?” he asks. That’s why justice, liberty, and democracy have to be achieved in a nonviolent way.

Gandhi believed in leading by example. His best-known quote “Be the change we want to see in the world,” implies that instead of making promises that you are not willing to keep and expecting others to sacrifice for the sake of the greater good, politicians and civilians alike should resort to self-sacrifice as a way of achieving peace. Mahatma Gandhi himself gave up a thriving law practice in South Africa, to fight for the rights of others. The strength that comes from sacrificing himself for the benefit of all, helped Gandhi win over the hearts and minds of his followers.

Mahatma Gandhi message on peace
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Via Gandhi Peace Foundation

Nelson Mandela

Human rights advocate and the first elected president of South Africa, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his tireless work on ending apartheid, achieving peace and reconciliation between previously conflicted groups. He advocated freedom for all and saw peace as a global effort. “Our freedom cannot be complete while others in the world are not free,” says one of his famous quotes. Mandela thought that we can grow and develop only in peace, calling peace the greatest “weapon of development that any person can have.” Talks and negotiations were seen as the best ways of achieving peace. 

According to Mandela in order to achieve peace, “you have to work with your enemy” and then instead of enemies, you become partners which is the first step toward reconciliation. Another important step is forgiving your enemy, as you will achieve more through acts of mercy than through acts of retribution. Mandela believed in education as a way of overcoming our differences and achieving peace and balance. Believing that no one is born hating another person, Mandela wrote in his book Long Walk to Freedom. “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

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Peace is not just the absence of conflict; peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish, regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, gender, class, caste, or any other social markers of difference. Religion, ethnicity, language, social and cultural practices are elements which enrich human civilisation, adding to the wealth of our diversity. Why should they be allowed to become a cause of division, and violence? We demean our common humanity by allowing that to happen. …

Nelson Mandela

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is another Nobel Peace Prize winner who emphasized the importance of education for achieving peace. Malala Yousafzai, a girl who was shot in the head for advocating education for girls in Pakistan, won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. She is known for her belief in the power of education to change the world and make things for the better. As one of her most famous quotes says “One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.” 

According to Malala, education is the best weapon for battling terrorism, and poverty. Instead of revenge, she believed that the mind of the Taliban could be changed through proper education available to them and their children. However, apart from educating our minds, we must also educate our “hearts and souls.” Knowledge and intelligence don’t equal morals. That’s why educating people about compassion, tolerance, and love is of the highest importance. “I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds, but our hearts and our souls,” she claims. 
Malala also highlights the importance of individual agency, as every voice counts. Her famous quote “If one man can destroy everything then why can’t one girl change everything.” portrays her belief in the power of individuals to change the planet. One person can never be too small and too meaningless to change the world. That is why we should all do what we can to achieve peace, as much as our efforts seem futile at the start.

Malala Yousafzai portrait
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Malala Yousafzai via UN

The Elusive Goal of World Peace

When peace is interrupted and conflict breaks out many people feel powerless. Many would do anything to establish peace but they don’t know what to do in all that chaos. These were the stories of people who battled violence, segregation, and terrorism and managed to reestablish peace. But you don’t have to dedicate your life to peace efforts, every little counts. As the world is caught in conflicts, humanitarian and migration crises, it’s good to remind ourselves that we can all do our fair share in making the situation easier for those affected. 

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