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Peace Education: A Transformative Response to Major

Societal Challenges

Early secular writings on the subject of peace indicate that peace was defined as merely the

absence of war or direct violence. This negative formulation was first given by Hugo Grotius in 1625

(Dobrosielski, 1987). The simplest and most widespread understanding of peace was that of absence of

death and destruction as a result of war and physical/direct violence.

There is now a consensus that we need to have comprehensive and holistic understanding of

peace culture. Johan Galtung explains that peace is the absence of violence, not only personal or direct

but also structural or indirect. The manifestations of structural violence are the highly uneven

distribution of wealth and resources as well as the uneven distribution of power to decide over the

distribution of said resources. Hence, he says peace is both the absences of personal direct violence and

the presence of social justice. For, brevity, he prefers the formulations “absence of violence” and

“presence of social justice”, thinking of the former as one that is not a positively condition and has

called it negative, whereas the latter is a positively defined condition and has called it positive peace

(Galtung 1995).

Types of Violence

There are various forms of violence two of which are mentioned in the earlier discussions:

physical or direct violence and instructional violence are described in the conceptual map of violence

that was done by Toh Swee-Hin and Virginia Cawagas (1987). It is a typology that indicates the various

types/forms of violence and some examples/illustrations of each types/forms of violence and some
examples/illustrations of each type in the personal, interpersonal, social and global levels.

The action towards transformation may include action against prejudice and the war system, or action

for social and economic justice. Paying attention to all these levels-- the cognitive, affective and

active-- increases the possibly that the peace perspective or value that is being cultivated would be


Why educate for peace?

Sadly, social injustice, war and other forms of violence have long been features of our human

condition. They have caused death, destruction and horrific suffering but humanity has not yet been

able to wage a successful collective effort to transform this condition. With universal peace education

there is some hope that we may be able to move toward having changes. As Cora Weiss, president and

initiator of the Hugue Appeal for Peace, has aptly said:

“There are many campaigns that are working on a variety of issues which must addressed if this

new century is not to carry forward the legacy of the twentieth century, the most violent to sow seeds

for peace and the abolition of war, but none can succeed without education...Hague Appeal for peace

has decided future generations...our best contribution would be to work on peace education” (Weiss,


Peace Education as a Practical Alternative

Peace education challenges the long-held belief the was not be avoided. Often this belief is

based on an underlying view that violence is inherent in human nature. A later chapter will address the

issue but suffice it to say this pint that peace education can transform people's mindsets with regard to

the inevitability of war and can in fact enable people to see that alternatives exist and there are ways by

which violent conflict can be prevented. Political advocacy of non-violent resolution of conflict is a key

element of peace education and you can just imagine the benefits that will be reaped when this
becomes the dominant mindset and value in our world.

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