‘Give me no peace…’?

On Wednesday, September 21, 2022, Ahman Pategi University, Patigi, commemorated the International Day of Peace during which the university community as well as the hosting community was sensitised on the theme of the Day, “Stop Racism, Build Peace”. The lecture I presented additionally centred on “Stop Hatred, Show Love” in which I emphasised the need for Nigerians to cure themselves of the malignant cancer of hatred that appears to have taken over our national system.

In the lecture, I emphasised that resentment or hatred “is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies”, a powerful analogy given by the late Nelson Mandela. I also made the audience to realise the profundity of Muhammad Ali’s words that hating a person is like providing a rent-free space for him in one’s mind. Thus, it is ultimately imperative to embrace peace, shun hatred and embrace love as a way of life in one’s own interest.

Meanwhile, during the interactive session, a question was anchored on a statement from one of the songs of Bob Marley, where he sang “Give me no peace, give me justice”. The question was: “we had been talking about peace for long but can there be peace without justice?” The question was apt as justice could be assumed as an alternative to peace though it one of its components.

In my response, drawing from insights from the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Notre Dame University, Indiana, USA, I noted that basically, peace stands on four pillars: truth, love, justice and forgiveness. These are the conditions the world must meet for peace to hold, no doubt about it.

Peace entails truth because there cannot be truth on the basis of falsehood. Truth combats falsehood and the former ultimately claims victory. Then, as the fundamental teaching of all religions, one has to embrace love to be at peace with others. Hatred breeds conflict and love builds friendship and peace. Justice is about “concern for just treatment, peace and genuine concern for people”. Therefore, Bob Marley’s statement is relative in application as the relationship between peace and justice is that of mutual inclusiveness.

Despite the importance of justice, forgiveness is more enduring. What is often referred to as justice is retribution in which punishment is meted out for the wrong done. For instance, going to prison is justice for a killer but as Mahtama Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.” To kill a person who kills one’s relative is justice but it doesn’t resurrect the dead. So, forgiveness is more important than justice as a component of peace.

For context, the world was horrified by the genocide in Rwanda between the Hutus and Tutsis in 1994. The killings and ‘revenge killings’ (meant for justice) lasted for 100 days during which over a million people perished. But Rwanda, one of the fastest-developing African countries was able to overcome the bitter memories of war through the strategy of ‘confession’ (truth) and ‘forgiveness, a point stressed by Annie Kubai in her 2016 paper, “Confession’ and ‘forgiveness’ as a strategy of development in post-genocide Rwanda”.

Rwanda realised that peace and reconciliation can only come through forgiveness and the country is reaping the benefits. Apart from its fast-developing economy, the country has been able to manage its internal differences with remarkable success. But the success is predicated on a commitment to building the country on a platform healthy human development in an atmosphere devoid of hatred and acrimony. The underlining philosophy appears to be that everyone should forgive the past and forge ahead.

In Nigeria, the bitter memories of the Civil War that ended more than 50 years ago are still being weaponised to promote hatred. The wounds are preserved to remain fresh for expediency. Tension is often high because someone’s gain is automatically construed as another person’s loss, which is not often the case. It is high time we embraced love and forgiveness.

The person who forgives has peace of mind and is free from worry. He appreciates that ultimate justice is with God and he looks up to Him. Through that, he attains inner peace and lives life to the fullest. The person who hates others is always filled with bile and negative energy. He constitutes more danger to himself than  even the object  of his hatred.

Give me peace and its associated truth, love, justice and forgiveness together!