October 20, 2008
By HaleySNC SILVER, Cornelius, North Carolina
HaleySNC SILVER, Cornelius, North Carolina
6 articles 14 photos 1 comment

A few years ago, I read We Are All the Same by Jim Wooten. It is a story about Nkosi Johnson, a boy living with AIDS in South Africa. Speaking to an international AIDS conference shortly before his death, Nkosi said, “We are all the same.” He was right. If we want to create a culture of peace, we must learn to embrace this idea of sameness while celebrating the diversity of cultures, nations, and religions. First, we must learn to care about other cultures and religions in the far corners of the world. In understanding others, we will realize that we are all the same. Second, we must learn how to resolve conflicts by looking for common interests rather than finding differences. Finally, we must ensure equality of opportunity around the world because until there are opportunities for all people to live, learn and prosper, we will be burdened with the consequences of inequality such as starvation, illness, and environmental decline.

In 2006, National Geographic found that only 37% of young Americans could find Iraq on a map; 6 in 10 young Americans couldn’t speak a foreign language fluently; 20% of young Americans thought Sudan was in Asia; and, 48% of young Americans believe the majority population in India was Muslim. I am a young American. How can I help promote peace in Iraq if I don’t understand the culture and needs of the people who live there? How can I help find resolutions to religious disagreements if I don’t understand the religions involved? How can I find solutions to environmental problems in undeveloped countries if I don’t understand the environment and people of those countries? We are all human. We all have basic human rights. If we want to advance those rights around the world, we must understand each other’s differences and then we can celebrate that, in the end, we are all the same.

According to a report by the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, a 2001 national survey of high school students found that 33% of the students had been in a physical fight and 4% of the students had been hurt badly enough to need medical treatment. How can we expect these same students to grow up and negotiate international peace treaties or international business transactions? We must teach conflict resolution from toddlerhood so that Americans are better prepared for conflicts that arise in their homes, neighborhoods, schools, and country. With a better understanding of how to find common goals rather than highlight differences, students can learn to build a peaceful world free of violence and misunderstanding.

Jimmy Carter noted in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 2002, “Citizens of the ten wealthiest countries are now seventy-five times richer than those who live in the ten poorest ones, and the separation is increasing every year, not only between nations but also within them. The results of this disparity are root causes of most of the world's unresolved problems, including starvation, illiteracy, environmental degradation, violent conflict, and unnecessary illnesses that range from Guinea worm to HIV/AIDS.” We must look beyond our shores to help solve world hunger. In doing so, we are taking a long step toward reducing the problems that are at the root of world conflict.

If we want to create a culture of peace, we must accept that the human condition is shared among all. For the sake of peace, we must learn more about all cultures and religions, we must study conflict resolution, and we must work hard to ensure equality of opportunity. The first step is to eliminate world poverty.

The author's comments:
My twin sister and I both wrote about peace because we want to encourage other teens to think about the importance of world peace to our futures and the futures of our children.

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