THE GOAL: INSPIRE 1 MILLION PEACE MAKERS BY 2020
Anyone paying attention to the news today can see that our society is at a point where the culture of violence and greed needs to be addressed. For tens of millions of people this not only spells fear and deprivation, it breeds antipathy toward our government and business sector. All of which in turn fuel feelings of isolation, insecurity and impotence that erode civic participation and society. Throughout this country, thousands of women and children are trafficked as domestic slaves and sex workers. Black and brown boys, men, girls and women are disproportionately incarcerated or denied equal opportunities for employment. Religious minorities and LGBT persons are often targeted for violence or victims of employment discrimination. Adolescent suicide and bullying are prevalent.
How do we help them transform our society, and ultimately the world’s, from a culture of violence and selfishness to a culture of collaboration, justice, mutual respect and compassion? We begin by teaching young adults, the future leaders of our country, how to be at peace within themselves and how to use that way of being as an instrument for understanding and addressing important social problems; hence, fostering peace between people in their communities and ultimately, peace among nations.
At the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, we have just launched a campaign called Peace3, which aims to inspire one million young adults, aged 17-22, to learn about and engage in peacemaking as life’s work irrespective of their occupation or profession.
Undertaking Peace3 enables us to carry out our mission – to be a catalyst for global peace by creating a world in which everyone values human dignity and embraces our essential interconnectedness – and to use Desmond Tutu’s life and teachings to inspire young people to build a world of peace within, peace between people and peace among nations.
Through Peace3, DTPF, contributes to a more secure, peaceful and prosperous world and, at the same time, fosters a more vibrant American democracy through compassionate civic participation.
Also described as “inner peace”, peace within is concerned with peace on a personal level, dealing with both the spiritual as well as the emotional/psychological dimensions.
If one looks at some of the world’s greatest peace leaders – Archbishop Tutu, the Dalai Lama, President Jimmy Carter, Malala Yousafzai – a commonality between them is there capacity for achieving peace within. There are many paths to inner peace, but that ultimate goal of achieving it is essential for creating peace in the world.
Peace between focuses on an individual and their relationships with their family, friends and the community around them. Through Peace3, we focus on creating a dialogue between individuals and/or groups of individuals, helping young people to learn forgiveness and reconciliation methods with which to prevent and overcome conflict. Peace between helps young people to recognize and celebrate our differences, and allows us to look at people who do not look like us, believe as we do, or come from where we come from with the anticipation of something positive instead of the apprehension of something negative.
Thanks to social media, there is an increased awareness and concern among young people about what is happening in the world, and about conflicts and violence in particular. Young people need to learn not only about the conflicts themselves, but about how they are being addressed and what role they can play in helping resolve these conflicts peacefully.
Peace3 teaches young people about these issues and shows them that, despite their age, they can make a difference in the world. Through facilitating discussions and incorporating voices of people from across the planet, we are able to better recognize our common humanity and work together to make this world a better place. Through working with our technology partners, we are also able to share all of our programs with people across the globe, and allow for voices everywhere to participate in the discussion.
PEACE3, UBUNTU, NEUROSCIENCE AND NEUROPLASTICITY
The design of Peace3 is based on two distinctly different yet complementary traditions and an empirically based theory of change. The Peace3 model reflects the ancient philosophy of Ubuntu from the southern region of Africa, which is practiced by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and has been popularized among people throughout the world through his work, writings and speeches. The Peace3 design is based also on contemporary neuroscience and neuroplasticity in which mindfulness practices are shown to measurably change the brain, which when focused on compassion results in more compassionate behavior.
According to Ubuntu, there exists an essential connection between all humans, other sentient beings and the natural elements that are all part of life on this planet. Accordingly, if people embrace the concept of being inextricably linked to all people and the planet they will realize that each of us is affected by and affects each other. The idea that young people would then avoid conflict with and exploitation of others and practice compassionate action is a logical next step. However, they must first experience genuine love and respect for self, which in turn leads to openness to learning compassion for others.
For many it is a conceptual leap to go from a philosophy grounded in the belief that “we are all family” and the idea of love of self to tangible affective transformation that can guide and change behavior. In other words do practices like mindfulness, meditation and contemplation that give us the skills to slow down our thoughts, achieve equanimity and accept ourselves also give us the skills to pause, examine and change our habitual way of thinking about and acting on issues and towards others?
According to research by Dr. Richard Davidson, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a renowned neuroscientist, mindfulness practices change the brain; those changes are measurable, and lead to new ways of thinking and acting. In particular, using MRI scanners on long-term meditation practitioners, his research shows that by focusing on qualities like compassion, we can train our brains and become more compassionate. The implication for Peace3 is that young people who learn how to cultivate inner peace and focus on compassion for others are more likely to make a life-long commitment to peacemaking – helping create ways to make life better for all.