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“Peace-building: humanity’s best investment”
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“Peace-building: humanity’s best investment”

Francis Ventura

Conflict and violence costs money as well as lives, writes Francis Ventura, 26, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Australia, who argues for investment in peace as he describes a school where peace-building is a priority.

He stood there. He was breathing, but he seemingly had no life.

I had just attended mass at the All Saints Christian Church in Peshawar, on the one-year anniversary of a twin-suicide bomb attack that killed 127 and injured 250 more.

Viewing a memorial for the dead, this elderly man heard that I was a foreigner so he came up to share his story. He had lost every single member of his family in that attack. His daughter, his grandchildren – all the people most dear to him.

Every single one. Gone.

Then he cried. The unimaginable pain of a person who had suffered what the rest of us only endure in nightmares.

Sadly, this was not the first time the beautiful citizens of Peshawar suffered a mass tragedy at the hands of extremists, nor would it be the last.

Clearly, a circuit-breaker was required. The idea for the Peshawar School for Peace was born and we’ve never looked back.

francis-school-1Since the School’s doors opened in March 2015, it has been a game-changer for the local community. Dozens of children from different cultural backgrounds have received a quality education. In association with local women’s rights group SAWERA, 40 women successfully graduated from a free computer training course. We have connected schools in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra with the children in Peshawar.

Perhaps most importantly, we proved to the local community that through the achievement of interfaith harmony and empowerment of girls, the fabric of society would be enhanced.

In the face of extraordinary challenges, most notably extremists who take it upon themselves to conduct bloody massacres in schools, a youth-led movement for peace was launched. Love always wins.

Australians could be forgiven that violence and war in distant lands such as Pakistan has little or no impact on their lives. In fact, the opposite is true. You don’t have to be a victim of terrorism in northern Pakistan for said terrorism to detract from your life.

Conflict and violence costs each and every one of us. It literally takes money right out of our pockets. Every person of the world lost $1,876 last year due to the lack of peace. For Australians, that’s a return trip to Europe lost every year.

In total, that works out to a whopping $13.6 trillion lost worldwide in 2015. To put that into perspective, that’s eight times the size of the Australian economy. If violence were a state, it would be the second biggest in the world.

Consider violence as a fraudster or thief draining money from your bank account. Would you allow it to continue?

Despite the trillions of dollars lost and the misery caused, only $15 billion was invested into peace-building last year. One doesn’t have to be savvy in business to see that peace-building is one of the soundest investments we can make, not just economically but for humanity.

These results come from the 2016 Global Peace Index, which is the world’s most sophisticated and renowned measure of the cost of violence and thus, the economic benefit of peace.

It may seem like a bleak outlook, but the great thing is that every person in the world can help to make the world a better place. It would be for the benefit of all of us.

The Peshawar School for Peace is but one of many examples of positive peace promotion in the world. Australians could build respect and understanding by visiting a place of worship other than their own. They could donate to a community organisation of their choice. They could commit to never engaging in racism or violence against women. Every little bit makes a big difference.

Just imagine a world where we can not only prevent unbearable hardship, but one where all people have the opportunity to achieve real happiness.

Perhaps you could do that thinking on a beautiful Greek Island, which you’ve been able to fund with the economic dividends of peace. Or perhaps on a future visit to India, where the over 200 million undernourished people have a better life, instead of that money being wasted on nuclear weapons by the political elite.

On this International Peace Day, let’s reflect on how we can better promote peace in our communities. Vitally, let’s act on it.

A more harmonious and united world, built on a common humanity, is within our reach. We just need to grab it. Then, and only then, will future generations inherit a better world than the current one.

Photo credit: top – A Discarded Peace via photopin (license) lower – courtesy of Francis Ventura

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About me:

G’day! My name is Francis Ventura. I am the Coordinator of the Peshawar School for Peace and a 2016 Global Peace Index Ambassador with the Institute of Economics and Peace.

As Melbourne is the sporting capital of the nation, I have a keen interest in cricket and Australian Rules football. I also love exploring Australia’s beautiful environment. I would like to dedicate my life to human rights, with a focus on protecting civilians living in war zones or under totalitarian regimes.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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