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Number 8 June 2001

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"As young people we must choose whether we want to let the conflict around us continue or be part of the solution."
From the IYP2000 Communiqué

block print
"Why we need peace", Dodge

"In this deeply human process we discover that as communities we are not fighting each other. We are fighting the masks of the devil that we have painted on each other's face..."

Towards a Culture of Peace

Youth Actions for a Culture of Peace

Page co-ordinated by Tijana Zivanovic, Youth Workshop of the Alliance

Delegates to the International Youth Parliament 2000 (IYP2000), an Oxfam Australia / Community Aid Abroad event developed in partnership with the Youth Workshop of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World, called for all peoples to move toward a culture of peace*. In this article three delegates working in peace building initiatives in their countries share their views on the topic of 'peace' and describe the actions they are taking to bring it about in their communities.

"Change Maker" in Soudan

Stella's work for the promotion of peace in war-torn Sudan is through a youth movement called "Change-Maker Sudan". It is a non-governmental youth movement working locally and globally for justice and peace through non-violent means. Her mind is often occupied with thoughts of how to bring peace to her people.

"Sometimes I ask myself what does peace look like and what will happen if suddenly we have peace? Why is peace not attainable in Sudan? Having grown up in this war situation, we are so used to war that peace seams something imaginary. Some of us have reached the extent of believing that peace is impossible. Many people are working hard fuelling the war because they fear that if peace comes they will not have all those privileges they have now. Yet as there are these are war-lovers there are also peace-lovers.

I have become increasingly aware that peace can not be brought by machine guns and land mines. War is very primitive and the ugliness of war has ruined human beings. The peace which we need is the one described by all as just and which therefore creates peaceful co-existence in our communities. It begins deep within and is then extended to other people in the family and the community at large. Peace building is a mission that needs commitment from all. It needs commitment, reconciliation, forgiveness, love and sacrifices. Peace is an act or a process of establishing and sustaining friendly relations with others. It is our duty to fight against anything that disturbs peace. Peace should be a way of life."

"Youth Encounters for Peace" in Cyprus

Marios who works with an organisation known as Youth for Exchange and Understanding in Cyprus says "actions speak louder than words!" He has been participating in an excellent peace project that is going on in Cyprus since he returned from the IYP2000 in Australia last October. The project "Youth Encounters for Peace" (YEP, has tried to establish methods for communication between youth on either side of the Cypriot divide.

Cypriot volunteers (who run the program) believe deeply in the need for the young generation of the two communities to communicate and try to provide the means for this to happen. Through face to face workshop meetings they bring together young people from the two main communities of Cyprus in an effort to create trust in place of suspicion, knowledge of the 'other' in place of ignorance, hope in place of despair. This building of trust is a very real need that may act as an important catalyst to make the solution of the problem a long term reality.

When meetings have been impossible and also as a means to continue communication in the longer term, they have established a system of email communications. This includes a matching of young people (including Cypriots living outside Cyprus) who want to meet someone on the other side with partners who also want a friend to communicate with electronically.

In workshops topics of discussion include the history and politics of the Cyprus problem and the way this is taught in both sides, the role of the media, the prospects of a solution, the problems each community is facing, daily life in each community, the role and importance of bi-communal groups and their activities and anything that the participants may feel they need to find out about the other side. An important consequence of each workshop is that for the participants the 'enemy' now has a face. "I no longer speak vaguely about "the Turkish Cypriots" or about "the Greek Cypriots". I can now speak of my friend Mehmet or of my friend Maria. And in this deeply human process we discover that as communities we are not fighting each other. We are fighting the masks of the devil that we have painted on each other's face..."

Dreams of peace in the Balkans

In the article published by Lettre Internationale (No.3, Paris, September 2000), Predrag Matvejevic (philologist and writer of Croatian and Russian origin, born in Mostar, in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1932) says: "Balkan spaces are strewn with vestiges of supranational empires and remains of new States split according to international agreements and national programmes; 19th century ideas of nation and ideologies resulting from 'real socialism' in the 20th century, heritage of two world wars and a cold war, vicissitudes of Eastern and Western Europe, ambiguous relations between developed countries and developing countries; tangential and transversal links between the East and the West, North and the South and fissures between the Mediterranean and Europe, the European Union and the 'other Europe'. So many divisions and faults, dividing lines and frontiers: material and spiritual, political and social, cultural and other. Some parts of this territory have scars or wounds inflicted by history and a past that was denied its true historicity."

Can we speak of lasting peace in a region that is as fragile as the Balkans?

While I am writing this article, a new war is breaking in the Balkan peninsula, this time in Macedonia, known as the only ex-yugoslavian republic to have seceded without knowing war. Where are we, after ten years of ethnic, social and economic crisis. Haven't we seen enough of misery, destruction, war? Now that Milosevic's regime has finally come to a close, it seems that it does not suit everyone, and that his dictatorship was in a way an excuse for a 'democratic' Montenegro or an independent Kosovo.

On the other hand, the international community maintains an unclear position. Thus the presence of tens of thousands of UN soldiers at Kosovo seems insufficient to control a territory of 10,887 sq.kms. (an area smaller than the Parisian region!), with a population of about 2 million. The difference between the American and the European Union's approach vis-à-vis the Balkans is very visible. As for aids and foreign investments, experience shows that most often, it is a short-term aid or investments in public and private sectors that are monopolistic (telecommunications for instance). This way, the international community and international investors are not contributing to the development of the country as a whole, since economic revival is one of the primary conditions to progress from a state of war to peace.

Yet, as a young Yugoslavian, I still dream of peace in the Balkans and we are moving in this direction so that one day this becomes a reality.

By Stella Matutina Henry Bagho (Change Maker Sudan), Marios Epaminondas (Youth Encounters for Peace), Jane Higgins (Youth Workshop, Australia and the Pacific and IYP Assistant Coordinator) & Tijana Zivanovic (Youth Workshop, Yougoslavia and Europa)

* To read more about what IYP delegates have to say about 'Youth in Conflict' and to view the actions towards peace planned at the event visit the website:

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