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The concept of peace ranks among the most controversial in our time. Peace undoubtedly carries a positive connotation; almost nobody admits to opposing peace; world peace is widely seen as one of the most noble goals of humanity. Various groups, however, differ sharply about what peace entails, how best to achieve peace, and whether peace is even truly possible.


What is peace?

Peace is many things: the meaning of the word peace changes with context. Peace may refer specifically to an agreement concluded to end a war, or to a lack of external warfare, or to a period when a country's armies are not fighting enemies. It can also refer more generally to quietude, such as that common at night or in remote areas, allowing for sleep or meditation. Peace can be an emotion or internal state. And finally, peace can be any combination of these defintions.

A person's conception of "peace" is often the product of culture and upbringing. People of different cultures sometimes disagree about the meaning of the word, and so do people within any given culture. Peace is not a symbol, peace is a mindset.

Absence of war

A simple and narrow definition of peace entails the absence of war. (The ancient Romans defined peace, Pax, as Absentia Belli, the absence of war.) By this definition, however, we might consider the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudan, and perhaps even North Korea at peace because none of these countries engages in deadly combat with external enemies.

The maintenance of longstanding peace between nations ranks among the few great successes of the United Nations. Peace can be voluntary, where potential agitators choose to abstain from disturbance, or it can be enforced, by suppressing those who might otherwise cause such disturbance.

A hard stance on neutrality has given Switzerland fame as a country for its long-lasting peace. Sweden, however, presently has the longest history of continuous peace. Since its 1814 invasion of Norway, the Swedish kingdom has not engaged in military-style external violence.

Absence of violence or of evil; presence of justice

Constraining the concept of peace strictly to the absence of international war masks internal genocide, terrorism, and other violence. Few would describe the Congolese genocide of the 1890s as an example of peace, even though it technically occurred within the personal domain of King Léopold of the Belgians. Some, therefore, define "peace" as an absence of violence: not merely the absence of war, but also of evil.

Many believe that peace is more than the absence of certain societal maladies. From this perspective, peace requires not only the absence of violence but also the presence of justice, as articulated by Martin Luther King, Jr. In this conception, a society in which one group is oppressed by another lacks peace even in the absence of violence, because the oppression itself constitutes evil.

Plural peaces

Some "peace thinkers" choose to abandon the idea of one definition of peace; rather, they promote the idea of many peaces. They think that no singular, correct definition of peace can exist; peace, therefore, should be seen as a plurality.

For example, in the Great Lakes region of Africa, the word for peace is kindoki, which refers to a harmonious balance between human beings, the rest of the natural world, and the cosmos. This is a much more broad vision of peace than a mere "absence of war" or even a "presence of justice" standard.

Many of these same thinkers also critique the idea of peace as a hopeful or eventual end. They recognize that peace does not necessarily have to be something the humans might achieve "some day." They contend that peace exists, we can create and expand it in small ways in our everyday lives, and peace changes constantly. This view makes peace permeable and imperfect rather than static and utopian.

Peace and quiet

Peace and tranquility — Lake Mapourika, New Zealand.
Peace and tranquility — Lake Mapourika, New Zealand.

In some contexts, peace refers more generally to a state of quiet or tranquility--an absence of disturbance or agitation.

Those who travel to remote, rural areas often notice the striking difference in the noise level between the cities and the countryside; hence the term 'peace and quiet'. Conflict that occurs in nature, however, often produces sounds. When animals fight, the surrounding forest can become even more silent, as the non-engaged animals warily await the outcome. After a conflict, the normal sounds and actions of the inhabitants eventually reappear.

Inner peace

One meaning of peace refers to inner peace; a state of mind, body and soul, which is said to take place within ourselves. People that experience inner peace say that the feeling is not dependent on time, people or place, asserting that an individual may experience inner peace even in the midst of war.

Is violence necessary?

There is a wide spectrum of views about whether, and when, violence and war are necessary. Followers of Jainism, for example, go to great lengths to avoid harming even animals, and pacifists, such as Christian anarchists, see any sort of violence as self-perpetuating. Other groups take a wide variety of stances.

Historical examples and counter examples

Allied propaganda billed the Great War in Europe as the "war to end all wars." Although the Allies won the war, the resulting "peace" Treaty of Versailles only set the stage for the even bloodier World War II. Before the Allied victory, the Bolsheviks promised the Russian people "peace, land, and bread." Although Vladimir Lenin ended the disastrous war against the Central Powers, the ensuing civil war resulted in a loss of over a million people. These failures illustrate the problems of using war in an effort to attain peace.

Proponents of the democratic peace theory claim that strong empirical evidence exists that democracies rarely make war against each other. An increasing number of nations have become democratic since the industrial revolution, and thus, they claim world peace may thus become possible if this trend continues. However, it can also be argued that this could equally be explained by a number of other factors related to the wealth, power, and stability of nations that tend to become democracies, ranging from becoming reliant on strong global trade connections to Mutually Assured Destruction.


Peacemakers are people who have overcome entrenched violence and conflict through their leadership and vision to achieve peace.

Nobel Peace Prize

Main article: Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually to notable persons, generally peacemakers and visionaries who have overcome notorious cycles in violence, conflict or oppression through their moral leadership, but also controversially former warmongers and former terrorists who it was believed had helped bring the world closer to ending such situations through exceptional concessions in the attempt to achieve peace.

Here is a partial list of Nobel Peace Prize laureates whose award is still considered by some a matter of particular controversy:


Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice."
"Not all the darkness of the land, can hide the lifted eye and hand; Nor need the clanging conflict cease, to make Thee hear our cries for peace."

See also


  • Peace camp : form of nonviolent protest.
  • Peace churches : Christian groups in the pacifist tradition.
  • Peace movement : social movement that seeks achieve ideals such as the ending of a particular war (or all wars), minimize inter-human violence in a particular place or type of situation, often linked to the goal of achieving world peace.
  • Peace process : describes efforts by interested parties to effect a lasting solution to long-running conflicts.
  • Peace symbol : representation or object that has come to symbolize peace.
  • Peace treaty : agreement (a peace treaty) between two hostile parties, usually countries or governments, that formally ends a war or armed conflict.
  • World peace : future ideal of freedom, peace and happiness among and within all nations.

Human condition and beliefs

  • Christian anarchism : belief that there is only one source of authority to which Christians are ultimately answerable, the authority of God as embodied in the teachings of Jesus.
  • Democratic peace theory : theory in politics and political science which holds that democracies—specifically, liberal democracies—never or almost never go to war with one another.
  • Inner peace (or peace of mind) : colloquialism that refers to a state of being mentally or spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep onself strong in the face of discord or stress.
  • Nonviolence : set of assumptions about morality, power and conflict that leads its proponents to reject the use of violence in efforts to attain social or political goals.
  • Pacifism : opposition to the use of force to settle disagreements, specifically the taking up of arms in war.
  • Peace and Conflict Studies : interdisciplinary inquiry into war as human condition and peace as human potential, as an alternative to the traditional Polemology and the strategies taught at Military academies.
  • Satyagraha : philosophy of non-violent resistance most famously employed by Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Utopia : hypothetical perfect society.



  • American Friends Service Committee : religious Society of Friends (Quaker) affiliated organization which works for social justice, peace and reconciliation, abolition of the death penalty, and human rights, and provides humanitarian relief.
  • Peacekeeping : personnel units of the United Nations deployed as a way to help countries torn by conflict create conditions for sustainable peace.
  • United States Department of Peace : proposed cabinet-level department of the executive branch of the U.S. government.



External links

Peaceworkers.UK- UK organisation providing training for Peaceworkers

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