In spite of our divergent views and sometimes incompatibles narratives over identity, beliefs and ideologies, human beings, regardless of where we are in the world, share a common need – we want to live without fear. I want to live in a peaceful Nigeria completely free from terrorism and ethno-religious conflict as much as participants from Colombia, Palestine or South Sudan or in any other volatile zones in the world. The major cog in the wheel of our collective desire for a safer world is exacerbated by our inability to work through and move beyond our individual and group prejudices and stereotypes to build understanding and foster collaborative action towards achieving sustainable peace. However intangible this may sound, these prejudices and stereotypes in the words of Prof. Hopmann, in one of the lectures at the symposium, perpetuate conflict more than the supposed evil intention of the enemy. He also alludes that one identity is not mutually exclusive since our perception of reality is not universal. As peace practitioners we should be conscious of the dynamics and have a common interest in humanity. IPSI’s Bologna Symposium has taught me to always look for “common grounds” in the face of adversary as one of the handy strategies to ward off any potential tendencies or preconceived notions that may have been built on prejudices or any personal differences.
I particularly share the optimism of Chic Dambach on the strides made in the contemporary era towards making the world a safer place and his position on exhausting the limit of the possible in making sure we contribute towards peace in every corners of the world. His unprecedented heroic contribution towards the Ethiopia and Eritrea peace process is a stellar example of what is sometimes required to make a difference. Although I remain positive and optimistic, my skepticism has been about how things could go wrong if such efforts towards making and keeping peace is not sustained. As the baton of peace mission is being handed unto us through IPSI’s channel of education and training, we hope to continue the good work and overcome the challenges posed by the unabated quest for human survival, fierce competition over resources, unhealthy rivalry over ideologies and values, and the hegemonic ambition of groups and states over power and economic prosperity.
Looking into the eyes of fellow participants at the symposium, I see a reassuring hope of overcoming our current challenges and a renewed commitment towards breaking the barriers of endless possibilities. There is a noticeable sense of purpose and the notion of making the world a better place is commonly shared. We all are united in tearing down the walls of division and work assiduously towards a path to peace in our different corners of the world. For us, the statement: “think globally, act locally” holds true.