In 2001, the United Nations General Assembly designated the 21st of September as the International Day of Peace.Â A day on which the world reflects on those who have paid the heavy price of war, through death, disability, trauma and displacement.
The theme for the 2012 commemoration is â€œSustainable Peace for a sustainable Future.â€ When there is no peace, you cannot begin to think about a future. It is a day when nations and individuals reflect on peace and the cost of its alternative â€“ violence. The choice for peace relies on dialogue as a means of understanding the other through listening to their views; tolerance- seeing the differences but choosing to live with them rather than fight them. A time to embrace our diverse culture, our way of life and to respect our collective humanness â€“ ubuntu.
A day on which commitment is made to the use of negotiation- talking beyond what we say we want, to what we really need and discovering how each of our needs can be met without fighting. Where differences exist, choosing to talk until we find ways to live harmoniously in spite of those differences.
On this day, I as an individual have a choice to make. The choice for Peace, My Peace in the way I live with my family. When there is an argument between my spouse and me, I have a choice. I can either fight with him/her or I can choose a peaceful way of resolving the issue. When my child has disobeyed me, I can choose to dialogue with him/her so she understands the error of her ways or I can choose to force her into obedience. Either way, Peace, My Peace and that of my home, is a choice.
At a time when Malawi is experiencing turbulence on many fronts, one can still choose Peace. I can choose to engage our leaders through dialogue and use My Voice to demand for services, better wages and living standards. I can choose to negotiate with my employers until we reach agreement; peace, My Peace, is a choice.
Today, I dedicate myself to peace as a way of life. My Peace can influence how those around me relate with me. As they see me live in peace, they too are encouraged to make the choice for Peace. As more of us make this choice, others may be drawn towards choosing Peace too. It all begins with me, with My Peace. Other communities, seeing how peaceful we are, may also be drawn to peace and soon Malawi will truly be peaceful. A country where yes, one can have differences but one chooses to sit around the table to confront challenges in a non-violent way and together choose to play individual parts in finding solutions. As we dialogue, we fight hard through words, but never through violence, never through the use of arms. Realising that violence against my brother, mother, daughter, neighbour or a fellow Malawian takes something away. With each act of violence perpetrated against each of them, one loses part of oneâ€™s humanity. Today I may be the perpetrator, tomorrow, I could be the victim.
Today I choose to reach out to my enemy, to the one who is not of the same tribe as me, who is not of the same religion, the same sex or race, the one who belongs to a different political party from me. I make the deliberate effort to understand him/her a little better. To see the world through his/her eyes as I share some of me, which in turn enables him/or her to better understand me. Then together, we journey towards what unites us and, instead of an enemy, we see in each other a fellow human being worthy of respect, dignity and a right to life. This is how I choose to pursue peace within myself and in my community.
I realise that peace is not just the business of politicians, government and diplomats, peace is my personal business. I am responsible for My Peace. I will rise to the occasion and choose peace. I will use My Voice, to elect leaders who stand for peace, leaders who value a culture of dialogue and negotiation, leaders who are committed to bringing development to my community and nation. As I do this, I am looking forward to the future and asking myself, what legacy am I leaving for future generations? My Peace is my future and the future of many generations to come. – The Writer is UN Resident Representative.