This month we intend to focus on sports for peace, volunteering for peace, peace clubs in Liberian schools and communities and water management as being critical to peace building.
This Sunday and for the first time ever, Liberia and the rest of the world will celebrate International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.
As we all know, Sport is a universal language, uniting groups and nations across divides. According to the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, on the Olympic spirit of fair play, mutual respect and friendly completion, sports “melts away barriers” and sets an example for international relations. He went on to say that sport is a language every one of us can speak.
As we noticed during the last inter-county meet, sport empowers youth, promotes good health and encourages the core values of peace centered on equality, mutual respect and fair play. The county meet played a key role in ensuring internal social cohesion.
Several partners and organizations in Liberia, including but not limited to Right to Play, have used sports in spreading messages of peace, driving social change and meeting development goals. In Messengers of Peace-Liberia, we use dance to promote peace, advance children’s rights and promote national solidarity. To reach our goals, we need space for a national dance studio.
We tell our peace messengers all the time that if they are not thinking about being sustainable sports icons or scientists or social workers or peace advocates and maintain a balance in growth, they are going to have a hard time making it in the future.
The role of sports in education, health and socialization cannot be overemphasized. Sports can be a powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance and understanding cultures as well as religions. As individuals, especially as young people, we can harness its intrinsic values of discipline, respect for each other and respect for human dignity in our day-to-day activities. As a nation, sports can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.
We are all witnesses to the continued use of sport programs, by various international religious groups and multilateral agencies as entry points “door opener” to establish rapport and rebuild trust by bringing former opponents together.
In the words of late Pope John Paul II, a sports enthusiast, “The church considers sports as an instrument of education when it fosters high human and spiritual ideals, when it forms youth in integral way in values such as loyalty, perseverance, friendship, solidarity and peace”.
Messengers of Peace (MOP)-Liberia is cognizance of the fact that sports alone cannot stop or solve acute conflict or be viewed as a panacea for peace building. In fact, in some countries, sports programme has been the trigger to conflict. In-spite of this, sports represent a flexible and cost-effective medium for peace building as well as conflict prevention. Sports and play can be used to bring physical and psychological relief.
There is an urgent need to continue on the path paved in 2007 by UNMIL, IOC AND UNOSDP to implement a country-wide “sports for peace” programme to promote the reconciliation process with the goal of fostering peace and educating young people on various social as well as health issues.
Athletes and footballers, such as goodwill ambassadors, have been known to promote positive causes for peace, gender and development, raising positive role models and creating social connections.
We join the United Nations, multilateral, bilateral, concerned NGOs, individuals and community based organizations in promoting a culture of peace. We urge all Liberians to also join the growing movement of sports enthusiasts and become part of the nations to harness the power of sport to build a better world for all.
In Liberia, MOP calls for national sports policies to include employment generation, infrastructural development, urban renewal and other schemes that can make life better for all Liberians.
We are convinced that Liberia would be a great place, if all arms of government have the zeal to promote sports. All Liberians are sports lovers (we see daily joggers, beach walk and unshaken love for football) and we encourage government to tap into this unique resource. In one of the several peace pilgrim quotes “When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others”
What are your thoughts on consolidating national peace through sports? We will like to read from you.
Until next week, Peace, above all, Peace First, Let Peace Prevail.