The world, it seems, is falling to pieces. Each day brings ever worsening reports of war, violence, and devastation. Coup attempts, protests, riots, bombings, beheadings, rapes, kidnappings, assassinations, persecutions—the list goes on and on. In Uganda we should also add road carnage to this list. Often innocent people suffer and sometimes we even fail to know who cause violent acts and for what reason.
Almost every day we hear about Baghdad; and it is always associated with violence that kill scores of people. This ancient city of Iraq in the Middle East has been violent for a very long time; it has become part of their daily routine. Unfortunately there are too many “Baghdads” today. Almost every week there are violent acts perpetuated by people with ill-begotten ideas. Violence is spreading in many forms, and as ever, the worst of them may be spiritual – violence, or given human limitations, attempted violence against God.
God and religion that supposed to be the source of peace and serenity has been turned into source of violence. Democracy that suppose to bring equality, justice, peace and brotherhood has been twisted to serve selfish people; instead of bringing egalitarianism it brings violence in mind, body and spirit. Police and army turn against people often committing human right violations.
There could be many reasons for war and conflicts. Surely we cannot over look the traditional reasons of war such as religious fundamentalism, demeaning of democracy, racism, lawlessness, greediness of individuals as well as nations for power and possessions. Recently the international community remembered the centenary anniversary of the World War I that was fought in many parts of Europe in 1914-1916. Speaking to a group of people gathered for remembrance in a war cemetery, Pope Francis who himself lost his soldier-grandfather in the war spoke of causes that perpetuate war: “In today’s world, behind the scenes, there are interests, geopolitical strategies, lust for money and power, and there is the manufacture and sale of arms…”
He warned further of a possible “Third World War”: “Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war: one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction.” As organisations perpetuate wars and conflict, there are also fanatics and disgruntled individuals who commit violence and kill scores of innocent people and cause loss beyond imagination.
Violence affects everyone. At one time or another we all feel insecure and suffer the consequence of violence. Now the world spends enormous resource on security. Surely it is a million dollar industry. Poor countries even spend borrowed loan money to buy arms. How can we change the violent environment to a peaceful and safe environment? What strategy can we follow? This ought to be everyone’s question and everyone’s task. There is a lot we can do to prevent violence, and hardly anyone at any age is hopeless or beyond help. We have always heard ‘violence cannot root out violence’, violent responses only encourage more injustice and more violence. As violence is an inhuman act, we have to counter act it with humane acts.
It is important to study the root cause of violence. What makes a person become violent? How can we root out violence at the root? Violent acts are a combination of biological, social, and psychological factors, especially those that increase exposure to vulnerability, shame, and humiliation. Or at least the perpetrators feels so. Hence, preventing violence must involve the opposite: making sure people feel safe, cared about, and connected, while ensuring they have a healthy and realistic sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
The only way to create a non-violent society is to appeal to individual sensibility. As we are faced with a world that is broken and bleeding we need to transform it into a moral, social and spiritual haven. It can be done only through a true personal conversion, it is a call to sincere repentance. It has to start with individuals. We ought to realize that we cause violent acts to ourselves and our bodies. Once we cause violence to our personal selves we in turn cause it to others.
Every act of “violence” we indulge in brings us closer to death. We are into mundane acts of violence that we cause to our bodies such as overeating toxic food or drink or the extreme violence of child abuse, corporal punishments, domestic violence, life-threatening poverty, addiction, unethical and inhuman or state terrorism. Can we say that our drivers and boda boda riders who are often in cheap alcohol harm their body and take turn to harm others.
We ought to be convinced that personal conversion is the beginning of building a non-violent world. Personal conversion begins with self-discipline which helps us to befriend our own personal selves by avoiding over indulging of things we consume, learning to listen to others feelings and needs, practicing acts that are courteous and kind, practicing human rights beginning within our own homes, standing in support of good causes that promote peace and progress and avoiding all that can cause harm to peaceful living including all forms of corruption.