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Related subjects: Conflict and Peace

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The peace sign

Peace describes a society or a relationship that is operating harmoniously and without violent conflict. Peace is commonly understood as the absence of hostility, or the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, safety in matters of social or economic welfare, the acknowledgment of equality and fairness in political relationships. In international relations, peacetime is the absence of any war or conflict.


From the Anglo-Norman pas , and meaning "freedom from civil disorder", the English word came into use in various personal greetings from c.1300 as a translation of the biblical terms pax (from the Vulgate) and Greek eirene, which in turn were renderings of the Hebrew shalom. Shalom, cognate with the Arabic "salaam", has multiple meanings: safety, welfare, prosperity, security, fortune, friendliness. The personalized meaning is reflected in a nonviolent lifestyle, which also describes a relationship between any people characterized by respect, justice and goodwill.

This latter understanding of peace can also pertain to an individual's sense of himself or herself, as to be "at peace" with one's own mind attested in Europe from c.1200. The early English term is also used in the sense of " quiet", reflecting a calm, serene, and meditative approach to the family or group relationships that avoids quarreling and seeks tranquility — an absence of disturbance or agitation.

In many languages the word for peace is also used a greeting or a farewell, for example the Hawaiian word Aloha, as well as the Arabic word Salam . In English the word peace is used as a farewell, especially for the dead as in Rest In Peace, RIP.

Gari Melchers, Mural of Peace, 1896.

Religious beliefs and peace

"Justice and Peace shall kiss" depicts a biblical scene, referring to Psalm 85.

Buddhists believe that peace can be attained once all suffering ends. To eliminate suffering and achieve this peace, they follow a set of teachings called the Four Noble Truths — a central tenet to their philosophy.

Jews and Christians believe that true peace comes from a personal relationship with God. Jesus Christ (also called the "Prince of Peace" in the Book of Isaiah according to Christian interpretation) stated: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." ( John 14:27)

The religion of Islam means the way of life to attain peace. The Arabic word "ISLAM" means peace. The word Muslim means the person who submits to Allah in Peace. The submission to Allah (the Arabic proper noun for "THE GOD", One and Only) is based on humility and an attitude of humility within one's own self cannot be accomplished without total rejection of violence and attitude of alliance towards peace.

Inner peace

Inner peace (or peace of mind) refers to a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress. Being "at peace" is considered by many to be healthy homeostasis and the opposite of being stressed or anxious. Peace of mind is generally associated with bliss and happiness.

Peace of mind, serenity, and calmness are descriptions of a disposition free from the effects of stress. In some cultures, inner peace is considered a state of consciousness or enlightenment that may be cultivated by various forms of training, such as prayer, meditation, T'ai Chi Ch'uan or yoga, for example. Many spiritual practices refer to this peace as an experience of knowing oneself. Finding inner peace is often associated with traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism.


Satyagraha (Sanskrit: सत्याग्रह satyāgraha) is a philosophy and practice of nonviolent resistance developed by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (also known as "Mahatma" Gandhi) said to have been inspired by Henry D. Thoreau's 1848 essay "Civil Disobedience". Gandhi deployed satyagraha in campaigns for Indian independence and also during his earlier struggles in South Africa. Satyagraha theory also influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. during the campaigns he led during the civil rights movement in the United States.

Islamic interpretations

Justice and injustice

Since classical times, it has been noted that peace has sometimes been achieved by the victor over the vanquished by the imposition of ruthless measures. In his book Agricola the Roman historian Tacitus includes eloquent and vicious polemics against the rapacity and greed of Rome. One, that Tacitus says is by the British chieftain Calgacus, ends Auferre trucidare rapere falsis nominibus imperium, atque ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. (To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace. — Oxford Revised Translation).

Movements and activism

Peace movement

A peace movement is a social movement that seeks to achieve ideals such as the ending of a particular war (or all wars), minimize inter-human violence in a particular place or type of situation, often linked to the goal of achieving world peace. Means to achieve these ends usually include advocacy of pacifism, non-violent resistance, diplomacy, boycotts, moral purchasing, supporting anti-war political candidates, demonstrations, and lobbying to create legislation.


Pacifism is the opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes or gaining advantage. Pacifism covers a spectrum of views ranging from the belief that international disputes can and should be peacefully resolved; to calls for the abolition of the institutions of the military and war; to opposition to any organization of society through governmental force ( anarchist or libertarian pacifism); to rejection of the use of physical violence to obtain political, economic or social goals; to opposition to violence under any circumstance, including defense of self and others.

Pacifism may be based on moral principles (a deontological view) or pragmatism (a consequentialist view). Principled pacifism holds that at some point along the spectrum from war to interpersonal physical violence, such violence becomes morally wrong. Pragmatic pacifism holds that the costs of war and inter-personal violence are so substantial that better ways of resolving disputes must be found. Pacifists in general reject theories of Just War.


United Nations

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization whose stated aims are to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achieving world peace. The UN was founded in 1945 after World War II to replace the League of Nations, to stop wars between countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue.

UN peacekeeping missions. Dark blue regions indicate current missions, while light blue regions represent former missions.

The UN, after approval by the Security Council, sends peacekeepers to regions where armed conflict has recently ceased or paused to enforce the terms of peace agreements and to discourage combatants from resuming hostilities. Since the UN does not maintain its own military, peacekeeping forces are voluntarily provided by member states of the UN. The forces, also called the "Blue Helmets", who enforce UN accords are awarded United Nations Medals, which are considered international decorations instead of military decorations. The peacekeeping force as a whole received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.

Nobel Peace Prize

The highest honour awarded to peace maker is the Nobel Prize in Peace, awarded since 1901 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is awarded annually to notable peacemakers and visionaries who have overcome violence, conflict or oppression through their moral leadership, those who have "done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations". This means that these are the people who risk their lives in order to save people from evils that the world has brought upon us, or do anything else in order to make the world a better place for any living being that is living in it.

Gandhi Peace Prize

The International Gandhi Peace Prize, named after Mahatma Gandhi, is awarded annually by the Government of India. It is launched as a tribute to the ideals espoused by Gandhi in 1995 on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of his birth. This is an annual award given to individuals and institutions for their contributions towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods. The award carries Rs. 10 million in cash, convertible in any currency in the world, a plaque and a citation. It is open to all persons regardless of nationality, race, creed or sex.

Paul Bartlett Ré Peace Prize

The Paul Bartlett Ré Peace Prize, named after the artist Paul Ré, is awarded bi-annually by the University of New Mexico (UNM).

Student Peace Prize

The Student Peace Prize is awarded biennially to a student or a student organization that has made a significant contribution to promoting peace and human rights.


A peace museum is a museum that documents historical peace initiatives. Many peace museums also provide advocacy programs for nonviolent conflict resolution. This may include conflicts at the personal, regional or international level.

Smaller institutions:

  • Randolph Bourne Institute
  • The McGill Middle East Program of Civil Society and Peace Building
  • International Festival of Peace Poetry


Fountain of Time honours the first 100 years of peace between Great Britain and the United States resulting from the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in 1814.

The following are monuments to peace:

Name Location Organization Meaning
Japanese Peace Bell New York City, NY, USA United Nations World peace
Fountain of Time Chicago, IL, USA Chicago Park District 100 years of peace between the USA and UK
Confederate Memorial Arlington, Va, USA Arlington National Cemetery Southern States choosing peace over war
International Peace Garden North Dakota, Manitoba non-profit organization Peace between the US and Canada, World peace
Peace Arch border between US and Canada, near Blaine, Washington non-profit organization built to honour the first 100 years of peace between Great Britain and the United States resulting from the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in 1814.


Many different theories of "peace" exist in the world of peace studies, which involves the study of conflict transformation, disarmament, and cessation of violence. The definition of "peace" can vary with religion, culture, or subject of study.

Peace is a state of balance and understanding in yourself and between others, where respect is gained by the acceptance of differences, tolerance persists, conflicts are resolved through dialog, people's rights are respected and their voices are heard, and everyone is at their highest point of serenity without social tension.

Game theory

The Peace War Game is a game theory approach to peace and conflict studies. An iterated game originally played in academic groups and by computer simulation for years to study possible strategies of cooperation and aggression. As peace makers became richer over time, it became clear that making war had greater costs than initially anticipated. The only strategy that acquired wealth more rapidly was a "Genghis Khan", a constant aggressor making war continually to gain resources. This led to the development of the "provokable nice guy" strategy, a peace-maker until attacked, improved upon merely to win by occasional forgiveness even when attacked. Multiple players continue to gain wealth cooperating with each other while bleeding the constant aggressor. Such actions led in essence to the development of the Hanseatic League for trade and mutual defense following centuries of Viking depredation.

Democratic peace theory

The democratic peace theory holds that democracies will never go to war with one another.

Active Peace Theory

Borrowing from the teachings of Johan Galtung, Norwegian co-founder of the field of Peace Research, on 'Positive Peace', and on the writings of Maine Quaker Gray Cox, a consortium of researchers and disputants in the experimental John Woolman College initiative have arrived at a theory of Active Peace. This theory posits that Peace is part of a triad, which also includes justice and wholeness (or well-being), consonant with scriptural scholarly interpretations of the meaning of the early Hebrew word S-L-M or 'Shalom', called by some the Bible's word for salvation, justice, and peace. Furthermore, the consortium have integrated Galtung's teaching of the meanings of the terms peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building, to also fit into a triadic formulation. Vermont Quaker John V. Wilmerding, Jr., founder of John Woolman College, posits five stages of growth applicable to individuals, communities, and societies, whereby one transcends first the 'surface' awareness that most people have of these kinds of issues, emerging successively into acquiescence, pacifism, passive resistance, active resistance, and finally into Active Peace, dedicating themselves to peacemaking, peacekeeping, and/or peace building.

Plural peaces

Following Wolfgang Dietrich, Wolfgang Sützl, and the Innsbruck School of Peace Studies, some "peace thinkers" have abandoned any single and all-encompassing definition of peace. Rather, they promote the idea of many peaces. They argue that since no singular, correct definition of peace can exist, peace should be perceived as a plurality.

Peace and conflict studies

Detail from Peace and Prosperity (1896), Elihu Vedder, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

Peace and conflict studies is an academic field which identifies and analyses violent and nonviolent behaviours, as well as the structural mechanisms attending violent and non violent social conflicts. This is to better understand the processes leading to a more desirable human condition. One variation, Peace studies ( irenology), is an interdisciplinary effort aiming at the prevention, de-escalation, and solution of conflicts. This contrasts with war studies (polemology), directed at the efficient attainment of victory in conflicts. Disciplines involved may include political science, geography, economics, psychology, sociology, international relations, history, anthropology, religious studies, and gender studies, as well as a variety of others.

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