Let’s teach our children about peace
On 6 April 2022, 11-year old Arman in Islamabad, Pakistan, and 8-year old Riaan in Kolkata, India, raised White Cards to each other, in support of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. In doing so, these two boys were not just making a gesture of peace and friendship towards each other, but for their countries and the world as well.
The short video shared on social media was one among millions of #WhiteCard photos and videos being posted as symbolic gestures calling for peace through sports around the globe. Participants included world champions, Olympic champions, sportspersons and fans.
Creating a historical link to the first modern Olympic Games of 1896, in 2013 the United Nations General Assembly declared 6 April as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. The day has been celebrated annually since 2014.
The #WhiteCard, a reference to the yellow and red cards in sports, “invites not to punish but to promote peace”. It was initiated by the Peace and Sport organization, which was founded in 2007 by pentathlon Olympic medallist and World Champion Joël Bouzou, under the patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco.
The call for participation in the initiative this year refers to the gesture of the sporting fraternity at the medal ceremony for the freestyle ski jumping event at the Beijing Olympics. In a powerful and touching gesture, after winning the first medal for Ukraine, Oleksandr Abramenko gave a long hug to his competitor, Ilia Burov of Russia. Most did not notice this “symbolic embrace on the podium”. A few days later, Russian tanks invaded Ukraine.
To forget the embrace between Abramenko and Burov “would be a failure to recognize the power of sport to bring people together, and to cross boundaries.”
Sports can make human minds think peace. Unless the world is thinking peace, we will not be able to globally bring positive social changes.
Just as it is important in sports to start training children while they are young, the same is the case in peacebuilding – we must teach our children about the importance of peace before someone else teaches them hate and violence.
Nothing can be a more powerful tool to educate children about peace than sports. As Nelson Mandela said: "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination."
Rahul Mukherji is an entrepreneur and management consultant in Kolkata, India. Beena Sarwar is a journalist and editor from Pakistan based in Boston. This is a Sapan News syndicated feature.