MESSENGERS OF PEACE

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Dialogue Among Peace Messengers: Vote Peace-Part 1

By Gwendolyn S. Myers/Founder &Executive Director, Messengers of Peace-Liberia Inc (MOP)

Kofi Annan-former United Nations Secretary General once said “Education is, quite simply, peace building by another name. It is the most effective form of defense spending there is.” It is under this aegis that we launch our Messengers of Peace Youth Column writing campaign on non-violent electoral process for the 2017 presidential and general elections.

There are two schools of thought in existing literature examining young people’s political participation. One school of thought is of the opinion that young people are passive and devoid of any political interest and the other school of thought sees young people as actively engaging in new forms of political processes.

Anecdotal reports indicate low knowledge of young people of party manifestoes and of the electoral processes that would impact the outcome of the elections, if nothing is done to improve it.

The essential ingredients for voting peace are based on the principles of inclusiveness at all levels, gender parity and youth engagement.

As young people, we must make a change in the electoral system by coming out to vote peace and for peaceful elections. Young people must and should not be used as tools for violence and perpetuators of conflict and extreme violence before, during and after elections.

As young people, we have a critical role to mitigate conflict and violence. Messengers of Peace (MOP)-Liberia is currently building the capacity of almost 100, in fact 98 young people to mediate conflicts among youth and to serve as volunteer peace messengers.

It is the contention of every one that we must educate young people to participate in election processes and to stand up for peace and social justice. Young people should not be used for thuggery during election campaigns. We should be used as instruments for peaceful elections.

As is always the practice in any elections and in every country where democratic processes are in place, many young persons would be voting for the first time. Therefore, it is incumbent on us as young peace builders to provide such young first time voters with the necessary civic information and education required for them to make informed decision.

Several weeks ago, at our “WHEEL-Cohort of Youth Mediators” my political affiliation was questioned by one of the participants who asked which of the 26 presidential candidates I would be voting for, and I told him and other participants of the group that I would vote for peace.

In order to vote peace, everyone needs to vote according to the dictates of their conscience and according to the belief that the next president of this country would consolidate peace, invest more in human security and promote the meaningful involvement and participation of young people in the 2030 development agenda.

The slogan for Vote Peace is “one goal, one peace.”

Until next week when we hope to continue this dialogue among peace messengers: Vote Peace-Part II let the words of Doe Zantamata resonate in your hearts: “No matter what surrounds you, keep your joy alive inside.”

For now, it is peace above all else, peace first, may peace prevail in our time.

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