Children Are the Best Peacebuilders
Author’s Note: The United Nations (UN) Universal Children’s Day is celebrated on November 20 each year to promote international togetherness and awareness among children worldwide. On November 20, 1959, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and on November 20, 1989, it adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since 1990, Universal Children’s Day has marked those anniversaries.
In today’s world, where peace isn’t in everyone’s minds and hearts, children’s contributions to the construction of peace are an asset. Childhood is a period of life during which reality and imagination can be connected in a vision of a better world, with empathy as a foundation.
Being educated as a peacemaker should be seen as an essential part of human development and not just judged by its effects on the economic growth of countries. It is important to revalorize the ethical and cultural dimensions of the learning experience.
From early childhood education should focus on the discovery of other people, lifelong learning, and involvement in community projects.
Peace education can be provided by the family, the community, or the school. Children’s awareness of themselves and others builds empathy and cooperation as central values for learning how to live with others. These are the key pillars of the Treasure Within developed by Jacques Delors.
Education centered on human development leads to a close partnership with families and communities. They are active partners in the development process of individuals and groups. Learning should happen throughout life, given its enormous power for peacebuilding.
My home, Peru, is a South American country of the Inca tradition and has for quite a number of years seen children and women living under stressful and painful situations because of constant terrorist attacks. But it was also home to the creation in 2003 of the Peace Ambassadors Programme.
The Peace Ambassadors Programme was inspired in 2002 when many children around the world gathered in New York for the UNICEF special UN session for children. By participating in this gathering I was able to hear the testimonies of many children between 8 and 15 years old who had witnessed war. I recognized resilience as a common factor among their experiences. The children had overcome their grief and pain to become the strongest advocates for peace in the world.
I also reaffirmed the power of arts for healing and transforming. This was for me a key moment when the seeds for the framework of the current program were planted.
Peace Ambassadors is a program for all ages whose main purpose is to discover the full potential of children and adults, cultivating their capacity to contribute to a better world by developing personal values.
Our main vision is to empower children worldwide, facilitate the discovery of their potential through experiential games, multicultural songs, dance, art, storytelling, and collective writing to create their vision of a peaceful world. These activists also build their connections to each other and the global human family by emphasizing the beauty and richness of diversity.
What does it mean to be a Peace Ambassador?
A Peace Ambassador is a human being who lives a life full of values that reflect understanding, patience, love, honesty, enthusiasm, cooperation, solidarity, friendship, trust, forgiveness, creativity, respect, responsibility, happiness, justice, faith, freedom, and hope. All of these values were mentioned by many children in different societies when they were asked to define themselves as Peace Ambassadors.
The main focus of the program is on learning to respect oneself and others, to communicate better, to listen, and to understand and forgive, among other lessons.
The experience started in 2003 at the Miraflores Municipality in Lima, Peru, where we held workshops for school leaders. After a two-day workshop the leaders established commitments for themselves and for their families, schools, and communities.
The Peace Ambassadors Programme has since been shared with children and adults in Nepal, Mozambique, India, South Africa, Greece, and New Zealand, among other countries.
Dr. Llanos, psychologist, educator, peace activist, and artist, created the Peace Ambassadors Programme using play, drama, meditation, music, and movement for joyful intergenerational interaction of parents, teachers, and children.
The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.