This year ‐ on 30 July - we celebrate International Day of Friendship. The day is based not only on the recognition of friendship in the general sense but also the relevance and importance that friendship is something more and noble, and embodies a valuable sentiment in the lives of human beings around the world.
At its core, the day seeks to advance a culture of peace worldwide and the question arises: How do we define a culture of peace?
Does the world reflect a culture of peace in 2013? Unfortunately -‐ and on a global scale -‐ there are numerous instances indicating that we are drifting away from a culture of peace. In parts of North Africa and the Middle-‐East ongoing tension, political upheaval and conflict perpetuate violence and suffering. In this sense one thinks of continuing events in Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Israel and Palestine.
Continental Europe and the United Kingdom -‐ although currently mostly free from violent conflict or war -‐ has had their share of violence: The conflicts that raged in Serbia, Bosnia-‐ Herzegovina and Croatia, as well as Ireland and Northern Ireland, left deep scars on many.
In the Far-‐East, North and South Korea are divided at the 38th parallel and remain, for all intents, at war. In Africa, regional conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan are having a profound impact on the stability of not only North Africa, but Africa as a whole.
Whatever the reason for these conflicts and tensions, it negates the spirit of tolerance, peace, friendship and co-‐operation espoused not only by International Day of Friendship, but that which ought to form part of all of our daily lives generally as co-‐existors of earth.
In pursuing a culture of peace, it is generally recognised that the following areas of action are crucial for nations, organizations and individuals to undertake in order for a culture of peace to prevail:
- The fostering of a culture of peace through education (a culture of peace and non-‐violence should be instilled in especially children through education).
- Promotion of sustainable economic and social development;
- The promotion of respect for all human rights;
- Ensuring equality between women and men;
- Fostering true democratic participation;
- Advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity;
- Support participatory communication and ensure the free flow of information and knowledge;
- Promote national and international peace, stability and security.
If this is the case, South Africa’s peaceful transition to a constitutional democracy in 1994 could serve as the model for national and international friendship and the pursuit of a culture of peace. Our Constitution also contains all the above key ingredients so important for the attainment and sustainability of a culture of peace.
However, the Constitution and its core values are being increasingly eroded and as South Africans we must ask ourselves whether we are, as a nation in 2013, in pursuit of a culture of peace in line with our Constitution?
Although a culture of peace ought to be instilled in our children through education, the promise of education and quality education itself -‐ as set out in section 29(1) of the Constitution -‐ remains but a dream for many children in South Africa. Poor and non-‐delivery of basic education services (such as textbooks) disempower thousands of young South Africans by ensuring that they cannot shake off the shackles of poverty and inequality through the power of education. This is aggravated by rampant corruption and poor management of especially our public basic education sector.
Increasing calls from numerous radical factions calling for unsustainable mine and land reform models and expropriation of land -‐ with or without compensation -‐ not only serve to damage South Africa’s national peace, stability and security, but are also unconstitutional and do not advance much needed understanding, tolerance and solidarity between all South Africans.
South Africa continues to be a violent country, with the contributory factors of poverty, inequality and poor service delivery. Crime -‐ especially violent crime -‐ impacts upon thousands of South Africans every day -‐ at unacceptably high levels. It is worrisome in the sense that not only does the SAPS and criminal justice system seem unable to cope with increasing levels of crime, but that the SAPS itself -‐ as supposed protectors of the rights of others -‐ is often guilty of breaching those same human rights in a completely unacceptable manner.
The government’s national democratic revolution (NDR) -‐ which views the peaceful negotiations of 1994 and the Constitution as merely a stepping stone -‐ reiterates that true economic emancipation and revolution in South Africa is yet to come. This is not conducive to sustainable economic and social development in South Africa. Add to this cadre deployment in all levels of government, corrupt self-‐enrichment, as well as a pervasive sense of self entitlement, and the promotion of respect for the human rights of all South Africans becomes diluted.
The Japanse word for friend is "tomodachi". Tomodachi is written with two kanji: Tomo, meaning friend and tachi, meaning to attain. The word itself stems from the idea that working together to accomplish a task, creates friends. A culture of peace internationally, regionally and nationally -‐ in an objective sense -‐ can only be attained if we each start with our own selves, subjectively, and project that outwards in a spirit of mutual respect, solidarity and co-‐operation to work together for the greater good.
If all South Africans work together at realizing the values and rights as embodied in our Constitution -‐ which was drawn up in a spirit of reconciliation, good faith and friendship -‐ we will succeed in the spirit of tomodachi and International Day of Friendship: working together to accomplish things that bring us closer together and very importantly: A much needed culture of peace.
By Adv Jacques du Preez, FW de Klerk Foundation