Good afternoon from Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is my pleasure and honor to be here with you and speak among these distinguished speakers.
I have to admit that our topic today is quite challenging and not so easy to address, but here I will try to bring the perspective of a young person of faith, working with young people, and as a person who comes from the still highly divided postwar Bosnian society.
Before I dive into the topic, let me just briefly present to you a few statistical data on North and South Korea. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and their Global Peace Index for 2020, South Korea is ranked 48th, while North Korea is ranked 151st, and according to their Positive Peace Index, South Korea is ranked 24th, while North Korea is ranked 141st. The IEP does this research and has various indicators to measure both indexes, but I am not going to explain that here, as it would take too much time.
These indexes show us how the situation is drastically different in these two countries and, while one enjoys peace more or less, a precisely positive peace, the other is far less peaceful, and positive peace is quite far away. Of course, there is and there will be challenges to reconcile these two different environments. While there are quite significant steps to reunite these two on a political level, we still need to pay attention to the people, because the people are those who make up the country, and the people should have their voices heard.
As someone who works with youth, I really see a lot of potential in young people and taking their opinion and voices into consideration. But here I am not referring to taking young people as one of the assets but considering them as full and equal partners in the process, because young people are the present, they are here and now, not in some distant future that is to come. And when working with people in some place, we have to understand the context, we have to understand the culture, and we have to understand the needs of the people.
In the peace and reunification process, so many things need to be considered, since negative peace already exists on the Korean peninsula, because there is no strong direct violence, but there is a lot of structural and cultural violence present, and our attention needs to be there as well. There is this frozen conflict that can escalate, and people live in constant fear that something could happen.
So, what can the worldwide community do?
A careful approach is needed, with genuine interest in the people and their needs, with genuine interest in their fears, pain and experience about the situation in the Korean peninsula, because the people know best the situation they live in and I have a feeling that often we tend to forget this.
In the words of Maria Montessori that preventing conflicts is the work of politics, establishing lasting peace is the work of education, and I want to put here the emphasis on education, education that is value based, empathy driven and education that gives us the opportunity to be able to meet the “other” side and be able to enter into dialogue.
The people in the Korean peninsula bear a great burden of the past that stems from violence. Families were kept apart, lives were completely changed, and there is so much pain there that needs to be processed. One place where people can find comfort is faith and spirituality. We need to appeal to these faith and spiritual values, not just of the Korean people, but also the people around the world. Faith based organizations, religious leaders, and people of faith have a great influence on the happenings in the world. So, this influence needs to be used for advocacy, lobbying, raising awareness and education about the Korean peninsula. This influence needs to appeal to governments, groups, and individuals. The world is becoming more and more globalized and heterogenous, and peace in one place influences peace in another. This tough time we live in, with pandemic, wars and conflicts on a global scale, is the time to ask ourselves what kind of place and world we want to live in and what kind of world we wish for our neighbors. And in the world of today, we are all neighbors to each other.