Promotion of Peace
Since wars began in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed. From the constitution of UNESCO
“Aren't we inducing a culture of hate, disrespect and violence into the tender minds of our children and their mothers?” I asked myself when I have gone through a startling report in the Newsweek in which a 9-year-old Kosovar Albanian reportedly have his life-goal to “Kill …”
Man is the only living being who indulges in systematic, wilful and institutionalized exploitation of the weak and vulnerable. Exploitation can be physical—inflicting pain and causing deliberate injury; environmental—starvation, crowding, solitary confinement, overexposure to both heat and cold, infections like biological weapons etc.; psychological—separation from loved ones, threat to life, deprivation and emotional abuse; and spiritual—aggression on one's faith and heritage like forced proselytization and second grade treatment to language and places of worship of the minority and indigenous communities.
And children and women are the ones who are most affected by such exploitative practices. Unable to emotionally bear such inhuman and humiliating practices, youths turn into intolerant warriors to express their angst, and thus, the civil war begins as happening in several parts of the world in the post-Cold War era to date!
Realizing that the world desperately needs a culture of peace and love which could be achieved by the equal and respectful treatment of women and children, Movement Millennium has identified three areas for immediate action—child soldiery and labor, and violence against women.
Children as instruments of war and slavery
There are reportedly 300,000 children in 60 countries, working as soldiers. They could be the potential threat to the peace and stability of future time because, when they grow up, they only know gun culture and nothing else. Even if they wish to live a normal life, they can't since they never learned socializing skills except coercion, killing and violence. And finally, they pass the culture to their offsprings. Thus, generations of children would be carrying guns!
Around two million children have been killed in armed conflicts in the past decade. Some 6 million have been seriously injured or permanently disabled and countless others have been forced to witness or even take part in horrifying acts of violence and war.
Notably, there are still more than 600 children—nationals of Kuwait, India, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Egypt—in Iraqi jails as prisoners of war who have not seen their fathers since August 2, 1990.
A detained and desperate Kuwaiti girl, Israa Al-Ragom among others wrote her plight in a letter to her father, ”I miss you so much, and I miss calling you daddy, if there is one wish that I can be granted…it will be that I see you back with us at your home. If only you come back, even if it's just for 3 days…3 days would do. I would like to touch your face, I would like to make sure you're still alive, safe 'n' sound. O people…help me, help us, help all to get back from Iraqi prisons…please.”
Likewise, more than 250 million children worldwide are working as a child laborers instead of attending schools and enjoying joys of life. And most of them are malnutritioned and suffering from diseases.
Eighty percent among 250,000 girls from Nepal sneaked out to Indian brothels are below 14. Most of the girls, recruited by armed groups and in the name of employment, are for sex slavery. Either they are allocated to soldiers to serve as their “temporary wives” or prostitutes. Even growing number of pedophiles are victimizing innocent children in developing countries in the pretension of running rescue and rehabilitation centers!
Why are the children opted for child soldiery and labor? The answer is simple. In the conflict-ridden zone, there are more children than adults around who are often easier to attract by a gun or a bit of drill into the militias or street gangs.
Once recruited, they are easier to manipulate as a unquestioning warriors and workers with loyalty that stems from knowing no other way of life.
Taking benefit of their size and naivete, children can be mobilized as messengers, spies, decoys and scouts for the tasks where there is potential threat to adults.
Children are economical addition because they need less food and space than adults, never demand for wage.
Why are children fall prey to child soldiery and labor? Because they have to! Many of them are forcibly recruited, seized from the streets, or even from schools and orphanages.
Some children are recruited, openly and legally, into the national into national armies. Some are encouraged by their parents to join the self-defense units to protect their families and villages as in Mozambique.
Others are driven to join by fear of poverty, family disharmony and breaking up, illiteracy, seduction and deception, lack of alternatives, believing that they could get regular meals, clothing and medical attention, lack of legal enforcement and political will, and social attitudes that condone child labor and soldiery as a natural condition to grow up!
Violence against women
Half of the women population complain about violence at home. The problem does not belong to developing countries alone.
However, the situation is slightly better in developed world, having an effective redressal system to deal with the problem.
A who report states that 16-52 per cent of women all over the world experience violence in intimate relationships as a result of problem of gender division of labor, economic stress and lack of a community support system.
According to Washington-based International Center for Research on Women, the cause of violence against women in the industrialized countries is mostly economic stress, whereas in developing world, it is the functioning of the household and misbehavior towards other family members.
In conflict-ridden zones, women and girls are ruthlessly raped by the intruding soldiers and militants, destabilizing the social norms and values of the community, which, in turn, prompts youths and children to organize themselves as rebel force, further detriementing peace and stability in the region.
During the last World Wars, Korean women were raped and kept as “temporary wives” by Japanese troops. Similar incidents might have gone unnoticed in many a places.
Besides the physical and psychological trauma experienced by the victims, violence against women has also led to the economic loss of nations.
Take example of Chile which incurred a loss of $1.56 billion in wages as women failed to report to work in victimized state. Likewise, among industrialized nations, the US reportedly incurred a loss at a range of $5-10 billion.
What can you do ?
Pray for universal peace. Prayer has power. Recent studies at Duke University showed that those who pray regularly and attend religious services are physically and mentally healthier, and live longer. So, have faith in yourself and on your Creator (if you believe in one).
Every morning when you wake up, look at your palms and mentally say, “Let me use these hands for the best possible results throughout the day. I command my hands not to commit any act which hurts others. I control my mind to be calm, patient and positive. Let the entire universe be in peace. Bless me.”
Also, before going to bed do the same, and monolog,“I endeavored to do the best I could throughout the day. Forgive me if I committed some mistakes that hurt others. Be all beings in peace.” Then, release each of your body parts from head to toe one by one, and relax. Start observing your breathing—coming in, going out. It may sound difficult to stop thinking in the beginning, but don't give up, but enjoy doing nothing. The process could be performed anywhere, in any position and anytime. This helps you empty your mind, thereby helping you to the realization of God within. I have tried this method of creative quietude with many for stress management, and worked wonders. The entire process of peace starts from human mind.
Treat women and children with respect, love and equality. Shun any form of labor and service from anyone under 14 years of age. Instead, sponsor the education of the child which costs as little as US$30 a month in developing countries. This prevents them from embracing violence and menial jobs at a tender age.
Organize yourself and your community members to help or take initiative in running feeding schemes, drop-in shelters, night-shelters, health programs, non-formal education or vocational training schemes for such children & women. Form an Interfaith Peace Service in your region. Organize something like Atelier for Peace, based on creative quietude. To know more about Atelier for Peace, contact us.
Discourage child labor, juvenile soldiery and violence against women through public awareness campaigns like exhibitions, pamphleteering, press and demonstrations.
Write to head of the state/government or legislators to properly regulate the provisions of UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in practice. Put pressure on governments to ratify UNCRC and ILO conventions which would directly affect the lives of women and children.
Write to the Iraqi government and UN Secretary General urging to take immediate action for the release of some 600 children who have been imprisoned in the Iraqi jails since August 2, 1990 at no fault of theirs. Also, take initiative to free children in prison in your country who may pose potential threat to social security in the future if not coped now.
Suggest school principals to set aside a room as a Hall of Humility in which the edicts from religions from around the world are displayed in a poster from. This helps a lot to induce a sense of humility and tolerance among children. Stop children from overexposure to violent movies.
Organize programs to promote peace, humility, tolerance , solidarity, vegetarianism and principles of nonviolence like that in Costa Rica where there will be a performing arts festival and the unveiling of a seven-foot “Millennium Bell”, created from discarded guns and weapons in June 2000. You can also organize a peace march.
Find out the Veterans of World War I and II, the victims of war and nuclear holocaust or senior citizens who have experienced the dark years of World Wars to share their experiences and the implications of war with youths, adolescents and kids in your community. Such an event could serve as an eye-opener.
Put pressure on the local governments to set up separate Grievance and Redressal Cells for looking after the issues relating to the violence against women. Women's groups may be interested to take up this idea.
Indulge yourself and your family-members into meditation. Organize meditation workshops in your community, prisons, schools and rehabilitation centers. There are several forms of meditation practices. You opt for the one you think the best. This will bring peace of mind.
Conceptualize any new idea for promotion of peace on your own and implement it. Report your activities, newspaper clippings and other publicity materials to the Movement Secretariat at the address below for publication in Global Breakthrough and evaluation for awards.