Peace and tolerance: an aspiration or possible reality?

Abit Hoxha for Vicinity Chronicles, 21 September 2021 

Peace is more important than ever today. In a world  filled with conflict, violence, and intolerance, it is of utmost importance that we use every opportunity to learn how to improve our resilience to conflict and violence. This year’s marking of the International Day of Peace is in the spirit of “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world” , which is something we are hoping for in the aftermath of pandemic devastation of human life and world order. Today, the world is experiencing many violent conflicts where human life is lost and where the destruction of property has been normalized. Violence against minorities, women and children are some of the challenges globally. To be able and mark such efforts, the International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly. Two decades later, in 2001, the General Assembly unanimously voted to designate this Day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire.

But on the verge of this year’s International Day of Peace, what can we learn about our troubled region of the Western Balkans and what are the main culprits of peace and prosperity? How can we celebrate peace by standing up against acts of hate online and offline, and by spreading compassion, kindness, and hope in the face of the pandemic? Also, what can Kosovo teach the Western Balkans when it comes to this issue?

After the end of violence in 1999 in Kosovo, the conflict has continued by other means. Ethnic intolerance, hate narratives and divided society have been characteristics of Kosovo’s society until today. But has there been any progress in achieving peace and tolerance? Naturally, due to our busy everyday lives, we do not easily notice the achieved progress.

The use of official languages and media in both Albanian and Serbian is one of those achievements that we are hardly reporting. The absence of violence is another issue that media does not focus on in the present because, it is not news. This is the nature of media coverage and in the age of sensationalist, celebritized news and fast news, progress, peace and tolerance are not newsworthy to the media. However, it is to the public.

So, is peace journalism necessary for the post conflict societies like our societies in the Western Balkans and in particular in Kosovo? The simple and short answer is yes, providing that the political elite adhere to reconciliation, peace and prosperity goals as well. Peace journalism allows journalists to focus on the positive and peace-oriented topics, covering what could be useful to the peace agenda. This does not mean that topics of wrongdoings and crime, including hate and ethnic crimes are suppressed. It just means that the end goal of peace journalism is to bring the communities closer instead of ethnic division. Peace journalism provides the truth from another angle and truth is very important to the post-conflict societies like ours, especially by keeping the freedom of speech at the central point of such coverage.

As peace becomes more important in our day, on this International Day of Peace, we should all think about recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world. This recovery should also be seen as a global value and not exclusive. Peace being a global value should be shared by all and should be for all.

Abit Hoxha, a lecturer and researcher of journalism and news production in conflict

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