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    Scilla Elworthy

June 15, 2015

Dr. Scilla Elworthy: Why finding ‘peace within’ is more essential than ever for young people facing an uncertain future…

Fostering peace within is more important than ever for young people, particularly when you’re growing up in a world that seems to be without it.

Generations of young people face an uncertain future and challenges like environmental destruction and growing global inequality and, thanks to the power of digital technology, they are now more aware and connected to these issues, and to each other, than ever before – and many are feeling overwhelmed, angry and afraid.

Finding peace within is essential to be able to thrive in these circumstances and feel empowered to take effective action for creating a world that works for all, without burning out.

‘Peace within’ can be seen in people like Nelson Mandela. This man, during twenty-seven years in jail, made the profound shift from believing that violence would end South Africa’s apartheid system to committing himself to the much more demanding path of mediation and negotiation with the regime that had imprisoned him and his colleagues. Mandela inspired our imagination not only because of his great achievements but also because of what permeated everything he did—a mighty core of presence and integrity. His very bearing emanated solidity, serenity, and a humble, unshakable majesty.

Authentic leadership —the kind embodied by Desmond Tutu and so deeply needed now—begins in the radical mastery of one’s inner being. In half a century of work in the world, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that inner work is a prerequisite for outer effectiveness—the quality of our awareness directly affects the quality of results produced. The new brand of leaders that we need—those who are actually able to meet the challenges of today and thrive in the world of tomorrow—are the ones who know and live the connection between inner self-development and outer action. If we want to communicate clearly, transform conflicts, generate energy, and develop trust within our families and in our places of work, our first challenge is to do the inner work.

If you ask yourself: “Who do I know who’s most alive, most vibrant, effective and energetic, who’s also calm and generous and seems to have time for others?” Then, if you go and ask that person what their secret is, they’ll be likely to tell you that they meditate, or do bodywork, or have some practice of self reflection, or like being silent in nature, or have some experience of becoming self aware.

Peace within comes with the development of this inner power or self awareness. Inner power is the diamond formed by years of honing self-awareness, practicing selflessness, and observing and controlling the ego. It results from developing the essential skill of empathy—even for those who oppose you—and the humble commitment to keep learning the skills of deep listening and mediation.

I have come to realise that the parallel development of inner power and outer action—the marriage of the two—is the only effective way to bring about positive change. I know also from experience that being involved in creating a safer and more satisfying future is the source of the greatest and most lasting joy imaginable—a joy that can sustain you through all the ordeals of working for a new world.

If a critical mass of humanity can make this shift, to fostering inner power, inner awareness and developing peace within, an entirely different way of living could emerge. We could live in a world that is safe, where the earth has regenerated itself, where streams run clear again and you can drink the water anywhere. Where you can breathe clear air. Where children can be secure, not scared. Where creatures are protected from cruelty and extinction. Where people communicate with each other rather than fight. Where women are educated, safe, and respected. Where money holds its value, and companies compete to be trustworthy, because consumers insist on this. Where we find a way to elect to government the kind of people who want to serve rather than to abuse power.

This is not a utopia. It’s happening. This recognition of a need for ‘peace within’ is something I’ve witnessed in millennials the world over, and a global movement of creativity is beginning, of which you are potentially a part.


Dr. Scilla Elworthy (born 3 June 1943) is a peace builder, and the founder of the Oxford Research Group, a non-governmental organization she set up in 1982 to develop effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide and their critics, for which she was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. She served as its executive director from 1982 until 2003, when she left that role to set up Peace Direct, a charity supporting local peace-builders in conflict areas. In 2003 she was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize. From 2005 she was adviser to Peter Gabriel, Desmond Tutu and Richard Branson in setting up The Elders. She is a member of the World Future Council and in 2012 co-founded Rising Women Rising World, a growing, vibrant community of women on all continents who take responsibility for building a world that works for all.