YESTERDAY’S observance of the International Day of Non-Violence was not only an opportunity to reflect on the legacy of the most famous proponent of the philosophy of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, but it was also a reminder of the need to strive for peace in all aspects of our society, not just in civil and political engagement.
Luckily, our experience as a nation has not involved the kinds of turmoil and civil unrest which other nations have experienced. Our closest neighbour Venezuela, for example, has been wrestling with a crisis that has destabilised all sectors of its society, economy and infrastructure. A peaceful dialogue, and not the use of force, is the key to brokering a return to free and fair elections.
But closer to home there are many areas in which we would do well to focus on. “Gandhi constantly highlighted the gap between what we do, and what we are capable of doing,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “ I urge each and every one of us to do everything in our power to bridge this divide.”
This means appreciating our rich cultural milieu and the challenges it affords us. The launch of Carnival, the buildup to Divali and Christmas are just some of the markers of our propensity to celebrate each other and to bathe in goodwill. Can this festivity migrate into other areas?
Domestic violence at home is heightened over the holidays but it is also a constant problem to thousands of silent sufferers no matter the season. The State and communities must play a role in combating this problem by removing stigma and guaranteeing support, whether via law enforcement or counseling. In the end it’s up to individuals to make courageous choices to either reach out to someone who is unable to stay above water or to create the conditions in which a clear signal is sent that abuse of women or men is unacceptable.
Peace in the home might also result in peace on the roads, where malice and anger run rampant. Enforcing traffic rules is a good start but getting drivers to be patient is a matter of personal maturity. How can we move beyond the thinking that makes people feel it’s my way or the highway?
Our leaders set the tone. With elections due they must uphold high standards. But the area that most calls for peace is in relation to crime. It is easy to blame the police, the Judiciary, the Prison Service, the State. What about the community?
The community must look to itself for answers. It must take care of the vulnerable. It must assist the process of justice. It must make heroes, not villains. Extra-judicial revenge killings, whether by officers or others, also cannot be part of our response.
We today pray, let there be peace.