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What is Peace? - An Interview Reflection from a Teen Worldchanger

With all the conflicts going on in various parts of the world, we wonder how world peace can ever be achieved?

The Best Representative of our Zero Hunger Zero Waste Forum, Alessandra Silapan from Binus School Simprug, interviewed our Guest Speaker and Board Member, Hon. Teta V. Banks, the first woman of African descent to be elected as Chair of the United Nations Association. Here is Alessandra's reflection:

"What is peace? Is it defined as the absence of violence and hostility, or is it the ubiquitous presence of love and understanding? When I first stepped foot on the path towards changing the world and becoming a frontliner for peace, I constantly buried myself in these types of questions. In all honesty, I started my journey not knowing what exactly ‘peace’ meant, nor did I have my own definition of the five-letter word that I was fighting for. I wasn’t sure where to begin and how to be of help in the world of service, but I was sure of one thing, and that was how I feared making the wrong decisions trying to achieve serenity and equanimity for all. Something I refused to believe and accept back then was the fact that in this world that we live in, peace is not universal. Whether we like it or not, peace in one group may result in havoc for another. Peace in one country may bring about desolation for another. At first I didn’t understand why peace couldn’t cover both sides of the same coin, or why huge sacrifices had to be made just to end up achieving only half of the cake of which we perceive peace to be. If one man, only half-wrong, had to be killed for the peace of another, then could we really consider such a scenario peaceful?

Upon conversing with people from all over the world–individuals with the same purpose to fight for peace–I finally got the answer to my question. The reason why peace could not be universal, or why it couldn’t be present for everybody all at once and simultaneously, isn’t because there is a flaw or defect in the powerful entity we know as peace, but because such is the case for humanity. I believe that it is human nature to possess one’s own opinions and to either agree or disagree with other judgments of the same situation. Conscience is a gift that we must cherish and value, however we must be careful not to let it deprive us of our sense of humanity. Through meeting so many people of different races, religions, beliefs, and opinions, I learned that sometimes, two dissimilar ideologies cannot force themselves together and become one, similarly how two ravaging rivers cannot always coalesce into one tranquil ocean. Now this is where the beauty of humanity comes in: although we have minds that choose to believe what we wish to give credence to, we all have hearts that ask us “is it really worth it?” Is winning a war worth all the destruction it may cause? Is forcing your beliefs onto other people worth the lives that’ll be lost? Our sense of humanity, or what I like to call, “The Heart”, guides us to set aside our differences and focus on our similarities instead. This way we humans can overcome disputes by devising a compromise, suspending our beliefs and opinions in perfect equilibrium wherein one does not overpower the other, but both stay equally in place. If only we can fix this flaw in humanity: the defect that causes us to forget that we are all humans and that all lives are significant no matter how much we may differ.

Last month I was given the special opportunity to speak with Dr. Teta V. Banks, an honorable woman who serves as the Chair of the UN-USA. Dr. Banks has dedicated her life to fighting for world peace, and I wish to be like her some day. An hour with her was enough for me to learn and absorb so many significant lessons, and what I’ve learned from her really granted me a fresh perspective to view the world through. I consider our conversation a milestone in discovering what peace means to me, and for that I’m extremely thankful. Though everything she said really amazed me, I couldn’t help but reflect on one topic in particular that she brought up, and it was about working together and trying to understand each other as differing individuals. “I like the term ‘partnerships’ but I also like the term ‘collaboration’, which is what we do together. Collaboration means everyone has a part to play, and we have the same goal, and we’re moving towards that same goal together,” Dr. Banks remarked. Thinking about what she said, I figured that perhaps a fragment of the word ‘peace’ refers to humanity’s will to collaborate and work together towards the same goal. But then I wondered to myself, what about our differences? What if we wish to work together to achieve something, but differ in our ways of achieving it? My question was instantly answered by what Dr. Banks said next: “You see how people have different approaches to something, and you get to learn these approaches. It’s not one approach versus another; It’s how we have these multi-layered approaches to working towards something,”. Everything was beginning to make perfect sense to me. I thought that maybe peace meant collaborating with one another, and at the same time, learning from each other’s differences to achieve the same goal. However, a new question presented itself before me: what if disorder breaks out because of differing opinions? What if there are two sides of the same story? Dr. Banks then stated: “Many sides to the same story does not imply that their sides are incorrect,”. She then proceeded to introduce to me what is called the “Parallax Perspective”. If you and I were to go down the same road, but I’ve already gone three miles down while you were still standing at the start of this road, we would definitely see different landscapes, but that doesn’t mean any of us are incorrect. This is an example I picked up from Dr. Banks. Finally, she connected all the dots by explaining and demonstrating the importance of what she calls “people-to-people” interaction. She explained that this type of interaction is extremely important because it allows people to view things from each other’s perspectives, thus giving them the opportunity to understand each other’s situations. That was when I realized that what Dr. Banks called ‘people-to-people’ interaction, is what I’ve been doing for the longest time by including myself in communities of teen-changemakers who fight for peace, including my all-time favorite community, Buddies Without Borders.

After going down this path towards changing the world for years, meeting so many incredible teenagers from all over the world, and learning from tremendously influential people such as Ms. Yihung Mohs, Ms. Lauren Schmidt, and Dr. Teta Banks, I now have an idea of what the word ‘peace’ truly means. To me, peace means setting aside our differences and reminding ourselves that we’re all humans who deserve to live and to be happy. Peace means acknowledging our similarities, learning from each other’s different approaches to attaining something, and collaborating in creating multi-layered approaches to achieving the same goal. Peace means trying our best to view things from other people’s perspectives, whether they’re down the road or further behind us, and no matter how challenging it can be. Peace means engaging in ‘people-to-people’ interaction and taking the time to truly understand one another, the different situations we find ourselves in, and the different beliefs that we adhere to. To me, genuine peace will never be achieved by completely blocking out or getting rid of one party for the sake of another, but by finding a midpoint of understanding and compromise between the two. In a world where collective conscience tears groups of people apart, we must believe in humanity, rather, ‘The Heart’ that reminds us that we are all human. Only then will true world peace become a reality."

In two weeks, a new Best Representative will emerge from our spring forum Happy Teens Website Design Challenge. We look forward to sharing their insight soon.

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