Today, September 21, is celebrated the International Peace Day to recognize the efforts of those who have worked hard to end conflict and promote peace.
I’m a big proponent of peace and i believe it’s something we can all agree on and strive for.
Nelson Mandela, my hero in real life, approached to peace in a way that can teach us how to resolve conflict in our lives. Here are 8 lessons on how to foster peace:
1. Never let go of your dreams
Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years on Robben Island. During this time he never gave up on his dream to end apartheid and bring peace to South Africa.
2. Look for the good in people
There is a lovely passage in his autobiography where Mandela describes the departure of prison commander Badenhurst, the most callous and barbaric commanding officer Mandela had witnessed whilst imprisoned on Robben Island. Before leaving, Badenhurst summoned Mandela and said:
“I just want to wish you people good luck.”
Mandela was taken aback. In his autobiography he says,
»I do not know if I looked dumbfounded, but I was amazed. He spoke these words like a human being, and showed a side of himself we had never seen before»
3. Be courteous even to your enemies
Mandela replied to Badenhurst – a man who had ruled the prisoners with unflinching brutality – with this:
“Thank you for your good wishes. I hope you also have luck in your endeavours.”
4. Talk with those you are in strife with
When in 1984 Mandela on his own launched negotiations with the apartheid government, his fellow prisoners were aghast. They thought he was selling out. But Mandela was focused on breaking the deadlock. As Richard Stengel, the journalist who helped him write his autobiography says, Mandela is “the most pragmatic of idealists.»
5. Be generous even to those who hurt you
Mandela was a lawyer. It is typical for him that he not only helped his fellow inmates, he also assisted the warders with their legal problems. Remember that the warders of Robben Island were some of the most ruthless and brutal characters of the apartheid regime.
6. You can negotiate even with the most intractable and difficult people
In prison, Mandela consistently tried to better the conditions that he and his fellow prisoner was subjected to. In order to do this he had to negotiate with a succession of bigoted and hostile prison commanders.
7. Don’t indulge in »them versus us» thinking
Mandela learned to speak Afrikaans and even learned about rugby in order to be able to understand those who were trying to annihilate him. He knew that for lasting peace he had to focus on what he had in common with those who were persecuting him.
8. If you win, don’t gloat, be generous
When Mandela finally became president and apartheid was finally overturned, one of the first things that he instituted was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Anybody who felt he or she had been a victim of violence could come forward and be heard at the TRC. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from prosecution.