Peace is a long journey: start young #Youth4Peace
by Sophie AUMAILLEY for Northern Ireland Foundation
21 September 2016
The annual Youth4Peace event was held in Belfast City Hall and organised this year by Beyond Skin.
The event started with a welcome from Belfast Lord Mayor, Alderman Brian Kingston.
He emphasised the responsibility of youth in building peace.
He noted the particular context of Northern Ireland.
Indeed, he believed that Northern Irish history allows us to appreciate the meaning of peace today.
However, he recognised the remaining need to achieve a completely peaceful society.
Then Danielle, a Youth4Peace ambassador, added the need for further development of peace around the world.
According to her, the central point in pacification of relationships is the eradication of the fear of cultures.
From her experiences in the Middle East and in Romania, she spoke of the importance of understanding each other through meeting and experiencing others’ cultures.
Danielle also appreciated the significance of the International Peace Day and today’s Youth4Peace event, in raising awareness about peace building.
She concluded that peaceful relationships need to be worked on everyday and requires everyone’s effort.
The event was then separated into different stands, to explore diverse ways of building peace.
For example, several artistic activities and workshops included painting, ukulele instruction, or listening to an informal concert of drums.
These groups highlighted the possibility of building better relations through cultural activities.
One stand presented the Coalition of Aid and Development Agencies in Northern Ireland (CADAni), working for international peace.
It aims at implementing the 16th United Nations Sustainable Goal of ensuring peace and justice, and at promoting a fairer society in local and global contexts.
On this matter, this umbrella organisation works with 29 overseas aid agencies, all supported by donors from Northern Ireland, through money and time.
The Youth4Peace event also tried to give voice to participants.
For this, a tree was placed at the centre of the Great Hall, carrying participants’ pledges for international peace.
The organiser’s direct engagement with young people enabled more thoughtful consideration about international peace and the world we want to live in.
As Paul, a volunteer from Beyond Skin reminded me, this kind of event is a great opportunity to learn and consecrate international peace.
According to him, a bigger celebration should be set up with more publicity for public bodies.
It could help to congratulate valuable initiatives and encourage progresses made to build peace, he added.
Paul does not feel that peace is a secure and immutable thing in Northern Ireland.
Rather, peace seems to be an ongoing and gradual long journey for him.
Paul called for stronger leadership for peace in Northern Ireland.
He believes that politicians often play with the communal divisions, reinforcing segregation and tensions in the society.
For him, new ideas or even a new party, focused on broader social issues and peaceful community relations, would be necessary for more progress.
Moreover, Paul said, Northern Ireland has to learn how to live not only with Catholics and Protestants, but with all the diverse populations coming to live here.
While political choices can build peaceful social relationships, everyone can take a part in it, according to Paul.
That’s how Youth4Peace event reminds us what is possible, what has already be done, and how to take part in international peace.