Is peace necessary or not

Inward and outward : What is peace

It happens every year. When Christians and other seekers of meaning are drawn to the Christmas services, they hear the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, verse 14: "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth with the people of his good pleasure." that peace on earth is perhaps more than a pious wish. That the Bible is correct in its prophecy: “They will make plowshares their swords and sickles their skewers. No nation will lift up the sword against the other, and from then on they will no longer learn to wage war. ”(Micah 4: 1-4)

How is peace defined?

Simply put, peace is harmony achieved through the absence of conflict. This applies to the inner peace that one makes with oneself or that can rule in a country, and for the outer peace in which peoples and states live together - or not. However, this definition is no longer sufficient. The Norwegian mathematician and political scientist Johan Galtung, who co-founded peace and conflict research, calls the pure absence of violence negative peace. On the other hand, there is also a positive peace in the absence of structural violence. That is everything that prevents individuals from fully developing: Discrimination as well as the unequal distribution of income, educational opportunities and life expectancy.

"Peace means human security: a decent life for everyone, without hunger and hardship and with tolerance towards others," says Peter Croll, director of the Bonn International Conversion Center (BICC), one of the major German peace research institutes. Peace is a process that begins in the head and has to be started over and over again.

Even for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Barack Obama, peace is more. "If human rights are not protected, peace is an empty promise," said the US President at the award ceremony. A just peace includes civil and political rights as well as economic security and opportunities.

How can peace be measured?

It is curious that, in order to measure peace, the opposite is usually considered: the extent of violence, arms spending, the number of weapons and conflicts. Peace research is becoming increasingly popular: more and more university institutes and think tanks are being founded around the world that deal with peace and conflict resolution mechanisms. After all, for four years there has been a widely recognized index that tries to measure peace. In order to compare the countries, the Institute for Economics and Peace, a global think tank, created the Global Peace Index (GPI) four years ago. It uses 23 indicators to measure how peaceful states are, for example on the basis of military spending, relations with neighbors or the severity of the acts of violence in the country.

Where is there peace?

Especially in Western Europe. Of the 149 countries examined by the GPI, most are Western European among the 20 most peaceful. All five Scandinavian countries are in the top ten. The front runner is New Zealand for the second time in a row. The reason: The country has friendly relations with its neighbors, the risk of violent demonstrations is extremely low, the murder rate is record-breaking low and the respect for human rights is very high. Iceland and Japan follow in second and third place. Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan are the least peaceful. Neutral states are generally considered to be more peaceful, but neutrality does not guarantee a top position. There has been peace in Switzerland since 1848, the country does not take part in conflicts between other states - and yet it only comes in 18th place on the index. One reason for this is likely to be how the Alpine republic fares on the “extent of militarization” criterion: many Swiss have weapons at home and the army is well equipped.

How peaceful is Germany?

In the GPI, Germany is in 16th place as it was in 2009. And that despite its participation in the Afghanistan war, in which several Bundeswehr soldiers died this year as well. The fact that relations with its neighbors are good and the political system is stable speaks for the peacefulness of the Federal Republic. However, the risk of terrorist attacks has increased: several foreign ministries are warning against traveling to Germany or, like the USA, are calling on their citizens to be more vigilant. 2010 was also a year of many large demonstrations - against austerity or Stuttgart 21, which also led to riots. The main reason why Germany has never made it into the top ten is military spending and arms exports: Germany ranks third here.

Is there peace only in democracies?

Hardly anyone will find anything wrong with the sentence that democracies rarely attack each other, if at all. But internal peace can also be threatened in established democracies. There was great fear in 2010 that in heavily indebted Greece social tensions and anger would lead to violent riots leading to conditions similar to civil war. And although democracies treat each other peacefully, they do resort to violent means against other regimes and are involved in conflicts - see the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. BICC boss Croll warns against the idea that one only has to export the Western model of democracy by all means in order to get a more peaceful world. “Peace cannot be ordered,” he says. And criticizes the assumption that peace can be secured through violence or the threat of it and that it is sometimes necessary to use military means to end violent conflicts. Obama, on the other hand, clearly positioned himself in his award speech: “We have to start to recognize the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflicts in our lifetime. There will be times when nations - acting alone or acting together - will find the use of force not only necessary but also morally justified. "

Is the world getting more peaceful?

Not necessarily in the last few years. According to the GPI, global violence has increased. This is due to social tensions due to the economic crisis. After all, the share of military spending in global gross domestic product has fallen. “One can say that the world has become more peaceful overall, the pursuit of peace has grown. Fewer conflicts are carried out violently. But there are always setbacks, and that shows that we cannot rest on what we have achieved, ”says Croll.

Even if hope is being nourished again these days: Peace on earth for all is an ideal state that will probably never be achieved. Even Albert Einstein, who was committed to peace, came to the conclusion: "As long as there are people, there will be wars."

Disarmament negotiations such as the current one on the start-up agreement show that humanity is nevertheless capable of learning. Even if the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still raging, peace in the Middle East and other crisis regions still seems unattainable: With modern weapons of mass destruction, the war has lost its legitimacy.

What threatens peace?

Basically, people's tendency to hate, jealousy and envy. "The most pious cannot remain in peace if the evil neighbor does not like it," Friedrich von Schiller had his Wilhelm Tell say. The fact that resources are unjustly distributed and limited worldwide has always been a threat to peace. Throughout history, wars have been fought over land, power and, time and again, belief. “Modern” conflict triggers such as migration, global economic crises or the effects of climate change usually have similar causes. Land, water and raw materials are becoming scarce, humanity is growing, cultures are colliding. Such conflicts can quickly affect peaceful, prosperous Europe, for example through a dramatic increase in the number of refugees. Selfish governance, nepotism and corruption also endanger the internal peace of a state. Where resources are distributed fairly, the chances of peace are great. This is shown by the example of Norway, from whose abundant oil reserves everyone benefits. In 2007 Norway was the most peaceful country on earth. In contrast, there is Sierra Leone, where the majority of the population does not benefit from the country's wealth of resources - including diamonds, gold and bauxite. After eleven years of civil war, Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world.

What do you need for peace?

For Immanuel Kant, peace was not a natural state. It must first be donated. Man is by nature predetermined to get into conflicts and wage wars. But from every conflict a greater unity arises, which after an indefinite period of time inevitably reaches its final state in "eternal peace". In the text “To Eternal Peace” Kant also describes the difference between real and fake peace. Accordingly, a ceasefire only leads to a false peace. Instead, a real peace alliance must be negotiated, to which the warring parties adhere and which resolves the conflicts.

There is consensus that societies must work together to find solutions to global problems such as global warming, the loss of biodiversity, access to drinking water or the fight against poverty. Martin Luther King put it as early as 1965: "We will have no peace on earth until we understand the interdependence of all being."

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