Plenary Lecture held at the IPRA GENERAL CONFERENCE, Kyung Hee University in South Korea, 2002.
After the horrendous terrorist attack on the Trade Center in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington (September 11, 2001), it has become obvious that the growing global culture of violence and terror is one of the greatest risk factors for the sustainability and future development of human civilization. Thus, there is an urgent requirement for a whole new ethical "peace culture and communications system," at the dawn of the third millennium, armed on the one hand with cultural violence, and on the other, with arsenals of nuclear weapons that threaten to destroy the world.
In our era of high technology and globalization, societies are in a constant state of dynamic transformation, be these cultural, economic, or political. We need a world at peace so that it can function and flourish securely, and one of the basic requirements for attaining security and an effective and sustainable development of our world, is indeed to revolutionize the culture of violence, and to create a required global and national "Culture of Peace System," as well as an objective, balanced and ethical media. This new peace culture system and network, could counteract and replace the often prevalent culture of violence in our global village. Its major aims should be:
1. To address cultural and ethical root-causes of violence, conflicts, terror and war.
2. To build harmonious bridges of culture, understanding, and respect among people and nations.
3. To spread a culture of peace climate nationally and globally, and to make "peace news" and "peace culture" developments newsworthy.
A powerful and influential new peace culture system, with the aid of a responsible media, could diffuse required harmonious values, ideas and ethics, through arts, literature, education and entertainment, which would reach the various sectors of society and the masses. What people watch, hear, and read, and the kind of culture, films, literature, and art they are exposed to and absorb, influence their thoughts, feelings and ethics. It is therefore of crucial importance, that those communications and stories we watch on television and in films, and which we listen to on the radio, should be forwarded by programs that create and build and do not destroy.
Culture is a powerful constituent and vehicle at the core of possible transformations, given that it mediates and transfers ideas, values and intellectual refinement, between generations and between civilizations. It is both a preserving and a reproductive force, by transmitting the cultural patterns of the past and the present, to the future, and an important innovative influence, by its power to inculcate new attitudes, thoughts, values and norms.
The major idea exposed in this essay, is that culture is a key factor in promoting genuine peace. If a peace culture system instills recognition of the "other", respect for its identity and culture, as well as a commitment to solving conflicts and differences by peaceful means, then the chances for peace will be greatly enhanced. By contrast, if the cultural and educational system instill self-centeredness, rejection and hatred of the "other", of its identity and of its culture, and calls for and justifies the resort to violence to solve conflict - then sustainability may be endangered.
A reformed peace culture, communications and educational system, can make it possible for the creative voices of the many lands around the globe yearning for peace, to be heard and to be listened to. The writers, film-makers, dramatists and poets, encouraged by a culture of peace, would give voice to the craving of the preponderant majority of the global community to build a world beyond war, terror, and violence. There is therefore, a crucial need for reform at an international scale, concerning culture, literature and the arts, that can undermine and replace the culture of violence terror and crime.
Terror, Suicide Bombings and the Culture of Peace
All wars and conflicts have at their roots ethnic and cultural causes. The atrocious tragedy of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon, was a tantalizing warning that the war of cultures is underway. The whole phenomenon of having young men whose minds have been fed on fanatic fundamentalism by extreme Islamic terrorist groups, ready to sacrifice their lives in abominable suicide attacks - should be thoroughly addressed and researched. Possible preventive methods and solutions in the framework of a peace culture system should be also explored, and constructive results should be applied.
The solution to the phenomenon of suicide bombers probably lies in getting to the minds of the suicidal volunteers, with powerful and influential contents of a culture of peace, before their minds are poisoned. Research can help in exploring ways how to reach the roots of their identity, to profoundly understand what their grievances are, and examining and suggesting directions how these grievances can be addressed. The differences in cultures should also be examined, as well as what all national cultures have in common. The results should be presented in powerful and convincing ways that could influence volunteers for suicide bombings to change their decisions and behavior. They should be made to understand that their lives and that of other innocent people is more precious than all, and that they are not sacrificial heroes "shahid" but barbarians of the worst kind, when they kill themselves as well as others.
The wave of terror and suicide bombers that has infested our world, proves that the colossal task of building a global "Culture of Peace System," should be considered one of the major goals of humankind and of world governments today. When a virus attacks our computers it is clear to us that we have to clean it or to delete it, and we use appropriate tools to deal with it in an effective manner. However, when our world is infested by a culture of violence and terror, it is still not clear to many of us, including our governments, that we have to use the same methods as with our infested computers.
One of the best tools to accomplish this needed reconstruction of the world is through the establishment of a resourceful and effective new global and regional culture of peace system. The feelings of distrust and hatred by certain nations and ethnic groups of different cultures toward each other, leading to terror and suicide bombers, cannot be overcome by guns or bombs, but only by a basic and resourceful peace culture system, that thoroughly penetrates the deep roots of the conflict, uses effective conflict resolution methods, and builds confidence, understanding and respect of each nation's identity, ethnicity and culture. This new peace culture system should be initiated, organized and applied both nationally and globally.
Governments, city councils, the UN institutions, universities and research institutes, as well as peace NGO's, and writers' and artists' associations, should closely cooperate to set up this needed new global and national peace culture system. Various international and national peace culture programs networks could be set up, as part of the new framework, making use of the best research internationally, and not only political and sociological, but also cultural and literary research that can influence the cultural climate of the world.
It is likewise vital to set up effective institutions which would explore, coordinate, promote, and spread peace culture and communications research, that would help to counteract violence, terrorism and suicide bombers, and promote the peace culture system. It is recommended that governments, national and educational institutions around the world should make it a priority to fund this suggested peace culture and communications system, which could be part of existing ministries of culture in the various countries, or ministries of education, or a separate and independent well funded and influential new administration.
What should be done?
The suggested innovative peace culture system, to counteract violence, war, terrorism and the phenomenon of suicide bombers, would replace the culture of violence rampant in many places around the world, and would shed new lights and point out new directions. It is suggested that it would consist of, among other various factors and elements:
1. The foundation and organization of a wide, powerful and resourceful "Peace Media and Telecommunications Network," that would function nationally and globally, to support the regional and global culture of peace system. A Peace Satellite, Television and Radio, in the Middle East, for example, could help to counteract the hatred, terrorism and suicide bombers, rampant in the region.
2. The peace culture system assisted by the peace media network, would research, develop and promote not only governmental and political science research, but also basic and thorough research of culture, communications, literature and the arts, in the pursuit of peace.
3. "Peace studies," and "peace culture education," should be introduced as a required subject at all levels of education: kinder gardens, schools colleges, and universities, just as for instance, the teaching of science or mathematics. The new "Peace Satellite and Television Network," would help cover and spread the teaching of peace culture at all levels, including adult education, through popular open wavelength and online universities, and also, encourage entertainment based on peace literature, drama, poetry, and various arts.
4. It would cover, encourage and promote the establishment of a wide network of peace museums, as for instance they have in Japan, where more than sixty peace museums have already been established. These museums should be organized as a functional platform for the presentation of peace art with lively peace activities, and cultural presentations of drama, films, videos, both for school children, students, and adults.
5. It would present and promote the peace research, projects and works of the UN, UNESCO, and various peace culture NGO's, such as IPRA: The International Peace Research Association, and establish global and regional "Multicultural Peace Culture Research Institutes and Centers," which should be substantially funded, if possible, at least as war research institutes. MEPRA: a Middle East Peace Research Association, associated to IPRA, could be founded, and it could serve to research the specific acute problems of the Middle East, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and chances of peace in the Middle East.
6. The foundation of a global interconnected "Peace Internet Network," could render available: programs for peace, websites, lists and discussion groups, that could diffuse national and global peace developments and information about the work of NGO's for peace, and peace research, nationally and globally.
The Roman saying: "If you want peace - prepare for war," should be replaced today by: "If you want peace - prepare for peace." The new pluralistic peace culture system delineated above, could spread into various new directions, and it could generate a climate of peace, that would have a preventive influence on terrorism and the phenomenon of suicide bombers, as well as on impending danger of conflicts and wars.
Is humankind at the beginning of our third millennium, able to self-organize politically, culturally, ethically and legally, in such a way that it can generate the banishing of conflicts, wars, terror, and mass destruction? If the above recommendations are implemented, the seeds for true peace would be duly planted, and it would indeed give a fair chance for the many "Voices and Cultures of the Earth" and their great yearning for global sustainability and peace, to be heard.