In Martin Luther King’s Nobel Peace Prize lecture, he compared the tremendous scientific achievements the world had made by the 1960s to the values we held as a society.
We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.
He went on to say, ‘This problem of spiritual and moral lag…expresses itself in three larger problems…Each of these problems, while appearing to be separate and isolated, is inextricably bound to the other. I refer to racial injustice, poverty, and war.’
This year’s International Day of Peace takes place when peace looks impossible to reach. Lately, the news has been discouraging. News of war, famine, violence and disease can be seen daily and for me, and I am sure for others, the news is frightening. Last week, Pope Francis remarked that the world’s many conflicts amount to piecemeal World War Three.
I think Martin Luther King’s words sadly ring true 40 years later.
The recent headlines include some of the most tragic events our history has seen including:
- The shooting down of flight MH17, with its links to the unrest in Ukraine.
- The conflict in Syria has amounted to more deaths and refugees than the genocide in Rwanda.
- The beheading of journalist James Foley by ISIS and a few days later, Steven Sotloff, heroes who wanted to bring awareness to injustice.
- The kidnapping of Nigerian school girls by Boko Haram.
- Overcrowded boats of migrants capsizing trying to escape poverty.
- A shooting of an unarmed teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, MO.
Despite the complexity and confusion that surrounds these tragic situations, I think our society can overcome them. Even though we are not the ones in positions of power, we can not forget we have a voice. We live in a time where social media allows us to gain knowledge of global events more quickly and gives us the opportunity to raise our voice. Social media is a tool to understand these issues affect everyone.
Girls’ Globe utilizes social media to track the progress of the Millennium Development Goals as they relate to women and children. The eight goals aim to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other diseases, ensure environmental stability, and promote global partnership for development. Despite various barriers to achieving the goals, the one thing that would prevent any of them from occurring is the absence of peace. As Martin Luther King alluded to, racial injustice, poverty, and war, are still the major underlying factors preventing peace today.
The founder of Girls’ Globe, Julia Wiklander recently wrote about how women and children are the most vulnerable in times of conflict. Women are raped at higher rates, experience trauma, and newborns and pregnant women lack critical healthcare and nutrition. Education opportunities are minimized, and infectious diseases can spread more quickly in places without healthcare infrastructures.
The overflowing Syrian refugee camps are becoming places where sexual exploitation of displaced women and girls is common place. Women are objectified, bought and sold or kidnapped, and presented as gifts to leaders of some of these terrorists sects.
Despite how angry or scared we might feel about the horrifying events happening in the news, we must not think that perpetuating violence is the answer. Let’s ask our leaders to promote policies for social and racial justice and peace. In this way we will more easily achieve the MDGs and protect those most vulnerable in times of war and conflict.
As Martin Luther King went on, he remarked on the nonviolent progress the US had made for civil rights in the years preceding, and the hope he had for a peaceful future.
Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away, and out of the womb of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born.
We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies.
If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. -Martin Luther King Jr.
Want to take action?
Visit the UN’s International Day of Peace website to learn what others are doing to promote peace.
September 21st-26th Girls’ Globe will be in New York for the 2014 UN General Assembly. We are partnering with FHI360, Johnson & Johnson, and Women Deliver in support of Every Woman Every Child to amplify the global conversation on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda. Follow #MDG456Live, raise your voice and join the conversation to advance women’s and children’s health. Sign up for the Daily Delivery to receive live crowd-sourced coverage of these issues directly to your inbox.