I observed the DVD cover of Soldiers of Peace—a photo of an AK-47 that had been reformed to be an electric guitar—and had a reaction that I think many would have.—Oh no, I thought, not another overly optimistic, trendy documentary about that nebulous notion of “peace.”
Not to be cynical—I want world peace just as much as the next person; that is the reason I decided to study international relations. But as a student of political history, harsh reality has always shattered those who possess blind hope for peace—history tells the tragic tale. Maybe violence is just an inescapable part of human nature.
Most recently look at the devastating events of the 20th century: Two world wars, genocide, exploitation, pollution. The world’s problems seem endless, daunting. These were the ideas flooding my mind as I watched the opening credits. But then I thought, are we bound to continue turning on the same wheel of history or are we as people ready to change our future? I decided to keep an open mind. After all, there is much to be learned from the past, but we cannot ignore the present.
Based on accounts from around the world of grassroots movements for peace, the documentary developed a human narrative that told a different story from what I knew of current conflicts and far from what I ever expected. While appealing to the traditional notions of peacemaking, the film offered a new perspective for a new world.
Opening with a personal narrative of a Muslim and a Christian religious leader who together established peace within their shared community, the account brought to light the story of two people– just two people—who overcame traditional prejudices within their community and made an enormous difference. Their story reflected a resounding thread that tied the other stories within the documentary together: the idea of the ripple effect. What one person does for their personal peace today can affect dozens, hundreds, thousands in the eventual tomorrow.
Particularly in this film, small stories had a resounding effect on the movement for peace. Their stories were different, not covered by the mainstream media, which generally paints a darker view on current conflicts in the world. The rapidity of communications via the internet and the advent of international economic interdependence through globalization have without a doubt changed the world we live in. It comes naturally then that a new approach to peace should be at least explored–and already is.
In a profoundly popular and energetic election last year, Barack Obama became President of the United States, basing his election on the ideas of hope and change.
Quoting our charismatic commander in chief, Obama said in a speech during his campaign on Super Tuesday (February 5, 2008), “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Soldiers of Peace offered a similar message that I think everyone can benefit from if they choose to listen.
Even for a skeptic, and I daresay an occasional cynic, like myself, the stories in the documentary offered an interesting perspective on the state of the world and its potential for a peaceful future that is worth paying attention to even if you don’t want your own personal AK-47 guitar.
Until next time,
p.s. I am ecstatic to be working with UNA-GB this year and look forward to what’s to come. Until then, take care!