Partnering for Peace: Building Bridges and Burgers to Connect Cultures
We can all stop holding our breath — the much anticipated McWhopper is not going to happen. The proposed jointly- created “peace burger” between Burger King and McDonald’s to celebrate the International Day of Peace on September 21st seems to have eluded us this time around– instead McDonald’s and Burger King partnered with the World Food Programme to aid refugees.
In 2001, the U.N. General Assembly established September 21st as International Day of Peace, a day devoted to non-violence and celebrating our shared humanity. This year’s theme is “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All”, where the goal is to build bridges between unlikely allies and create peace and understanding where there was perhaps discord and disharmony.
Putting aside rival fast food chains for a moment, it is important to recognize that serious efforts are being made to achieve sustainable peace around the world. As the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) become a reality on the weekend of September 25-27, the U.N. is calling for partnerships to be created to support the achievement of these goals, one of which (#16 out of 17) calls for “Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions”. It is only through partnerships among corporations, foundations, nonprofits, governments, and individuals that the U.N. sees these new goals reaching their fruition.
Like the SDGs, peace cannot be achieved in isolation or without the combined efforts of entire groups of people. Furthermore, peace is often seen as too elusive of an ends to warrant the funding of the means. Yet, corporations, donors, and charities working together with a common vision are often the most successful peacemakers. Peace does not solely mean the absence of violence or the silencing of guns. Peace can be and is — so much more.
A key element to successful peacemaking is mutual understanding across cultures. As we witness the ongoing Migrant and Refugee Crisis, it is important to acknowledge the importance of building bridges between cultures. A charity eligible with CAF America, Friedensdorf International (Peace Village International) founded in 1967, is a prime example of the subtle but effective ways in which peace can be achieved. Friedensdorf International is a charity that offers medical treatment to children, who are most often victims of war and conflict. Working in over 10 countries (and expanding), the charity brings these injured children back to Oberhausen, Germany where they are able to be healed, while enjoying the company of approximately 300 children from countries such as, Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Cameroon, Gambia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
One of Friedensdorf’s spokespersons, Wolfgang Mertens, says that despite their often life-threatening injuries and illnesses “the children here aren’t suffering. They live and laugh and have fun. They squabble. They need to squabble”. The children he is referring to are all from different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. At Friedensdorf, they aim to keep the cultures of these children thriving, as once they are healed they are returned to their families in their native countries (typically a 6 month-1 year process). Even though they have left Friedensdorf International, they depart with a new outlook on life. While they may be returning to a country or region which has experienced extensive and debilitating conflict, they come back with an appreciation of different cultures and are more likely to grow up to be tolerant adults that do not see violence as a solution to disagreements.
“Partnerships for Peace — Dignity for All” is what this International Day of Peace was about. At Friedensdorf, every child is treated with dignity, no matter their cultural background, illness, or injury. Even the most modest-seeming efforts can have substantial impact. Friedensdorf quotes Albert Camus in their brochure, “We are of the opinion that in dressing the wounded, we have not yet done anything against war. Nor has it furthered the cause of permanent world peace. But we do know that world peace will not come by itself”. In honoring the International Day of Peace, this is something we can all remember. Peace is not easy to achieve, but together it is possible. Given the currently unfolding migrant and refugee crisis, this is a message that should resonate across the world.