How to define peace? — English

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

How to define peace?

Peace is not the absence of war, nor is it the opposite of war. Defining peace as the absence of war reduces peace to an empty, passive, incomplete and far-away vision. The spectrum of peace is much larger, because the spectrum of violence is much larger than that of war. Nor is peace the absence of violence, it is the opposite of violence.

Peace is an activity, not an idle passiveness. It is a daily engagement in all of our interactions. Being a passive spectator to the violence and wars of others kills peace. Remaining passive sends the wrong signal. It authorizes those violent to further violence. It is by forming a counterbalance, a majority, in which peace is prioritized in human interactions, that we can prompt a rethinking in those who are currently "violent" and awaken them to their best selves. By remaining passive, we disassociate ourselves from this counterbalancing effort, and opt for the violence of others, even if we are the kindest of persons.

Peace demands a positive combativeness in our relationships, and equally in the face of our own impulses. But to define peace as the battle won by reason against instinct is false. It is not by battle that we reach either peace or inner peace, but through cultivating an inner state of emotional appeasement. As opposed to a battle, it's a relationship to be developed, first with oneself, then with others, where reason alone does not suffice: the heart is also needed.

Peace is a perpetual weaving of warm, neighborly relations based on the human values and creativity of all sides to overcome difficulties, clashes and one's own frustrations.

Peace is a solid, enduring relationship of harmonious living together, based on respect, serenity, cordiality and mutual understanding. It is founded as much on the heart as on reason. It is through human warmth that we can transcend violence.

Peace is a choice of life in which human interactions are rooted in humane impulses capable of reversing the violent instincts of the powerful, the vindictive and the angry, by touching their hearts and their minds. A choice of life that is at the same time individual, collective, economic and political.

If violence is seemingly omnipresent, then the fields of peace are omnipresent too. It is up to us to cultivate these fields.

Delia Mamon, for Graines de Paix, March 6th, 2007


NB: The evolution of the definition of the words peace and violence is the focus of many well-known scientific studies. See for example David Adams and Johan Galtung. The non-inherent trait of violence is also touched upon in the 2006 Declaration of Luarca, now discussed in the UN, to introduce the request to establish the human right to peace.

Luarca Declaration.pdf