It’s hard to believe we continue to have wars and fight over land, religion and power in the 21st century, despite what we have learned from history books and what our ancestors went through; despite the evils of wars and sufferings of innocent people.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for decades. What’s worse is that the longer it goes on, the more layers of complexities are added to the already extremely complex conflict. And at this present day, we’re not even close to achieving peace.
Even as the players have changed throughout the years (leaders, mediators, facilitators, peace advocates), the conflict is not close to getting resolved.
And so, here we are in 2014 with a 60-plus-year-old conflict.
We cannot keep going like this! It is unfair and devastating for those living through it. Throughout the years of this conflict, neither side has gained anything: Security issues remain, the trust has not been gained, the walls still separate the two, equality and coexistence have not been achieved, and economically, it is affecting both peoples one way or another.
What is continuously gained, alas: is the fear of the “Other”. And that fear, along with the horrific memories these children will undoubtedly never forget, will become part of their internal makeup. It is scarring children (physically or mentally), and this ultimately feeds the hatred towards the “Other”.
A shift in mindset is needed! Here are four ways that can make a big difference with our actions:
The main contribution to a peaceful future is that we must practice empathy for our adversaries; empathy for the “Other”. We don’t need to agree on everything, but we can stop for a moment and imagine ourselves in their shoes. What would you do or how would you feel if you were them. Is lose, pain and humiliation any different from one human being to another simply because they’re on the other side of some conflict? Just because two peoples are fighting from opposite perspectives, doesn’t mean they don’t both want the same things for their families and their futures; one must understand that the other is also striving for that.
Another important element is compassion. This is what makes us human. Humanity is compassion. Along with the awareness of the devastations innocent people are experiencing daily and their helplessness, it is our responsibility as individuals with emotions and values to want to help; to hurt, cry and grieve for all those that are suffering.
A third important aspect is that we must stop demonizing people and instead, humanize them; this is crucial. The discourse of hatred, racism, bigotry toward another is one that has been transferred through past generations as people then had less access to the outside world. It no longer makes sense for us to continue such discourses of typecasting individuals simply due to their backgrounds. Nobody is born hating or racist; if those beliefs become our ideologies, it is due to the discourse heard within our environments.
And lastly, education contributes greatly to who we are as a society. In this context, I don’t mean formal education necessarily. But rather, educating on values, on equality, on behaving just, on being fair. And by the way, hatred and racism are a form of education, so the opposite should be practiced: educate on love and acceptance of all, even those that are of different backgrounds or cultures from us. This is why education is so important – as the alternative is ignorance.
In the social media sphere there has also been a flare-up since the escalation in the Middle East. The good news is that the Internet has given us tools of communications that allows us to get direct and instant news from one continent to another and with that, gives people an awareness of what is going on in real-time; as well as forums for dialogue – such is the Yala-Young Leaders movement.
Here’s a very pertinent quote by Plato: “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge.”
And so, instead of being Pro-this or Pro-that, why don’t we focus on being Pro-Peace; Pro-Reconciliation, Pro-Humanity? Work on this mindset shift. Understand that everyone is striving for the same things: peace, happiness, safety and prosperity. This could be achieved if we all practiced being more empathetic, compassionate, have an open-mind to diversity, and create a virtuous cycle through education.
YaLa Young Leaders