I feel like there are lots of people out there who readily hit the streets to join any anti-war protest, or maybe share some social media posts denouncing war. And it’s nice to see the motivation, good effort and all, but whether these approaches are always the most effective or not is debatable.
There will always be plenty of haters out there saying our calls for peace unrealistic. It takes them no effort, and their paternalistic approach is often quite effective.
So what then?
Well, there are certainly plenty of creative approaches to building peace (see my article on 198 Actions for Peace) that one could take, but on a deeper level, we must change how we think about peace. If those of us who care see peace as just an end to war, and act only once war has begun, then peace will certainly remain elusive.
So let’s expand the mind a bit.
One way I’ve found that helps is looking at quotes from inspiring activists and peacebuilders. As a peace nerd, I’ve got hundreds of quotes on peace (and associated topics) that I’ve been compiling for years. I’ve picked out five that will help you think about peace in new and different ways.
And as we expand our understanding of peace, we discover more profound and creative ways to make peaceful change.
1. “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. You cannot subjugate a nation forcibly unless you wipe out every man, woman, and child. Unless you wish to use such drastic measures, you must find a way of settling your disputes without resort to arms.” — Albert Einstein
This one exposes the myth that war can bring peace. Sure, this is a general sentiment shared by peace advocates. No big surprise there. But I don’t think that most of us realize how widely this myth is accepted. So entrenched is the societal belief that war brings peace that we often struggle to engage effectively with persons that hold this false worldview. Taking on this fallacy directly is often necessary. Be firm. Great thinkers throughout history are on your side.
2. “Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.” — Dalai Lama
This one brings thinking about peace beyond the dynamic that peace be only associated with the absence of war. Building a society where all are cared for and protected is a pathway to peace.
3. “Peace cannot exist without justice, justice cannot exist without fairness, fairness cannot exist without development, development cannot exist without democracy, democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity of worth of cultures and peoples.” — Rigoberta Menchu
There are many quotes associating peace with justice. Indeed, peace and justice are two sides of the same coin. But this quote goes further and examines what is needed within a society to achieve justice for all. We must weave justice and respect for diverse people into the fabric of our societies. In this way, we create the conditions for peace.
4. “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
This one illuminates the idea that peace is a process. It is a journey. We must not focus only on the goal, but on the path and the methods we use day-to-day as we strive for peace. We must be peace in our every effort to build peace.
5. “If peace only had the music and pageantry of war, there’d be no wars.” — Sophie Kerr
I like this one because it is talking about culture. A culture of violence celebrates war, glorifies violence, and in so doing, produces war and a multitude of expressions of violence. A culture of peace celebrates peace and peaceful resolution of conflicts; TV, movies, music, art, monuments, and other expressions of culture glorify peace; and peace is the result.