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    Wednesday, October 25, 2017

    On Being a Peacekeeper

    Poor kid for marginalized community - Uganda by Numbercfoto 

    By Dosunmu Ifeoluwa

    We are undoubtedly at an important turning point in our individual and collective development, with war and violence so often in the news. The skills of diffusing and transforming conflict and healing social wounds are at the core of whether we’ll create a healthy, vibrant, peaceful and sustainable world, or end up like dinosaurs as we squander more resources on destructive polarization.

    Our culture’s dysfunction has dire repercussions: bullied children, abusive families, fearful schools, broken marriages, toxic work environments and war-like politics.

    The uncomplicated certainty is that we have all been raised in a culture of hostility, with confusion in the news, killings in movies as a trivial action, and shocking statistics on abuse, sexual trafficking and more.

    Considering how important it is for us to learn how to constructively and peacefully handle our differences, it’s shocking that not many people actually learn these essential skills.

    Deep down, I feel that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can truly learn to live peacefully and joyfully with each other, create harmonious families, schools, communities and even political cultures. This has convinced me to become a peace ambassador. The drive to bring peace, hope and joy to any man on the street, to avoid bloodshed between and among people and to save the lives of children who suffer from the aftermath of war made me a peace ambassador.

    I must confess, this journey has not been easy. Sometimes, being a stranger in a war-torn or violent conflict region means that people react with stern opposition and they perceive you as the ''enemy''. The whole story becomes more complicated when you try to explain yourself but no one understands what you are saying because of the language barrier (this has been a major challenge). In order to influence them and preach peace, I had to learn their culture, eat their food (which, more often than not, makes me sick) and sometimes stay in the cold or extreme heat with them. These, at first, felt unbearable but the passion for peace kept me going. What seemed to be an endless journey finally started to pay off and they began to respond.

    As if a language barrier was not enough, financial constraints represented another problem. Most of the peace-keeping activities my group had embarked on had been solely funded by our own pockets. There was a particular mission we had in the Northern part of the country in April and I recall that the only money I had on me was N15,000. No one was willing to lend or even give me money. I eventually moved forward with the mission and with the collective support of my group members, we achieved our aim. 

    I strongly believe that in order to bring peace to a people or community, you have to -to a certain extent- cover their basic needs such as food, clothes and shelter. Financing peace 'projects' is a major challenge we constantly face. 

    Have I talked about security? Each time I have to go for a peace mission, I gather all the courage I can find in me and say to myself ‘it’s either I come back or not.’ Truth is … we really don’t know what we might face on the other side of the bridge. However, I am here to encourage and not do otherwise.

    My mission as a peace ambassador is to develop programmes centred around educating children who have been casualties of war, natural disasters and ethnic conflicts in  all regions of the world, so that these children will be able to enjoy quality education, lead a better and prosperous life and achieve their potential despite what they have been through. 

    This mission burns more than the challenges I have faced, I am facing and will face. I believe that the greatest threat to the existence of humans is not natural disasters, famine or recession but wars and violent conflicts and our weapons of mass destruction. I also believe that the most vulnerable group are the children. Hence, protecting them is key to the survival of the human race, and educating them on the importance of peace and the dangers of wars and violent conflicts is the only way to achieve sustainable peace.  

    Finally, to young people out there, I will say that peace is important but more important than preaching peace is to live peacefully with all, notwithstanding gender, religion, race or cultural differences. We have a common denominator, we are all humans. However, people want to know how much you love them and how much you care before they can consider your message. Therefore, I advise you the following: don't just preach peace, be peaceful, accommodating and loving, that is the personality that quenches the furnace of war and produces the warmth that only peace can bring.

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