Lisa-Marie, Germany

Dear world,

My name is Lisa-Marie, and I’m a 16-year-old living in Germany. I’m glad growing up in a country, where there is no poverty, famine, war or ecological disasters. However, there are still big issues in my country such as racism, patriotism, disparity of equal rights and homophobia. Everyday I see thousands of comments where women drag down each other. I see people demonstrating in my city against refugees every Monday. I see how people use the word ‘gay’ as a swearword.

For me, peace is divided into inner and outer peace. Inner peace means to me having good mental health. To me, inner peace means being satisfied and not comparing myself to others. Outer peace describes a world where there is no space for riots and war. Outer peace describes a world where everyone has the opportunity to improve him or herself. Outer peace describes a world where we help each other.

We should stop defining ourselves with stereotypes that were used in the ‘60s. Women and men are independent individuals. We can be whoever we want to be. If you want to become a doctor, become a doctor. If you want to work as a scientist, work it out. If you want to be a fashion designer, be it. Our life is precious and we should feel glad that we wake up everyday to a new possibility to make a change on this planet.

Humans are social creatures. Growing up in society means taking care of the others. Empathy, respect and mutual understanding are necessary for living in a peaceful community. Unfortunately, we live in a world where greed, envy, and egotism rule our today’s society. Are these the characteristics we want to teach our children?

Thank you,

Lisa-Marie Darras

Gharsanay, Afghanistan

Dear World,

My name is Gharsanay and I am a 19-year-old living in Afghanistan. Here, there is always the threat of being killed, or terrorized by Taliban or ISIS. Every day, many people in different parts of Afghanistan are killed. A war and fight is going on between the armies of Afghanistan and terrorist groups. Many families lose the precious lives of their loved ones. In spite of all this, thousands of girls including me are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get an education.

For me a peaceful future looks like a life without the fear of Taliban or ISIS and getting an education in a peaceful environment, without the fear of my University being attacked by terrorist groups and filled with the blood of my favorite professor and dear classmates. For me a peaceful future looks like peace in my country, where I can go to all the districts of Afghanistan, and start educating people about gender equality, women’s role in politics, in society, and in peace making. Youth can make a strong contribution towards a peaceful Afghanistan and a peaceful world.

Even with all these difficulties and barriers, I have many big goals, strong ambitions and a vision for the future. I have a vision of a peaceful Afghanistan where political stability, economic growth, and modernized educational opportunities are available both for women and men. I want peace for Afghanistan because peace in Afghanistan means peace in the region, peace in Asia and peace all over the world.

I believe that every single individual’s contribution is precious for achieving peace and every single individual can make many great changes possible. As a woman, I want to work for peace but peace cannot be achieved where women’s engagement in the peace process is neglected. Women need to raise their voices and their voices shall be heard. Peace needs to start from our homes where our fathers, brothers and other male family members give equal opportunities to women for leadership and decision-making within their homes, where women are given equal chances to get an education to be policy makers, leaders and contribute towards the economic growth of a country.

I want you to understand that your home cannot be built by destroying someone else’s home. I want you to understand that war is not a solution to the problems. War is destruction and it is destroying everyone.

Peace is existence. I promise that with peaceful minds and peaceful acts we can have a better world, where love is spread all over the world, where everyone enjoys their lives, where equality exists. Let’s make peace our policy priority and say an end to extremism because extremism leads to destruction. Let us all contribute towards this goal and feel responsible for this goal.

Sincerely, Gharsanay

“Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kira, USA

Dear World,

My name is Kira, and I’m a 20 year old from the United States. I am lucky enough to live in a country that has not seen a war on its soil since 1945. However, I still see and feel the effects of global conflict every day. The aftermath of 9/11 has shaped my life since I was 5 years old. I have friends who have lost siblings and cousins to a war overseas many of us weren’t sure why we were fighting. Every day on the news I see violence in other countries, and injured and displaced people struggling to live in war. I have friends in those countries that I worry about each time I hear of a new attack.

However, I have hope. I see a world in which war is not a primary option, but a last resort. I see a world in which global armed conflict lives only in history books, painted as unjust, foolish, destructive, and immoral. I strive every day to create a more peaceful world by living and loving with empathy, acting with kindness and understanding, learning all I can about the world, and standing up for what I believe in. I try to remind myself every day not to be a bystander, and to speak out against violence. We can create this peaceful world. But I need your help.

I need men to understand that compassion is not weakness, asking questions and admitting when you are wrong is not stupidity, and winning a fight does not prove you are right. I need you to invite everyone to the table, and listen to all perspectives. I need you to pull those below you up, and level the playing field. I need you to learn and value empathy, and consider how your actions will impact others.

I need women to make their voices heard. I need you to refuse to be silenced, no matter what obstacles stand in your way. I need you to have confidence that your perspective is vital, that your skills are innumerable, and that you can help end violent conflict. I need you to have empathy and hold onto it, and use it to inform your perspectives.

I need you to hold perpetrators of violence accountable.
I need you to hold yourself accountable in working for peace.
I need you to ask questions and pursue knowledge so that you can understand, and then act. I need you to realize that our differences as humans are so superficial and so minute, and I need you to help illustrate this to others.

We are going to create a peaceful world. And we are going to do it together.

Thank you,

Kira Topalian

Age 20, USA

Lana, Kurdistan

Feature art by Lana Barham

lana-mohammed-pic

Dear world,

Hello. My name is Lana and I’m 22 years old. I live North of Iraq in Kurdistan, a region that has never experienced peace. We Kurds have never even experienced full human rights. I want to live in a peaceful environment, even for only a month. Since I can remember, Iraqi Kurdistan has been in economic crisis, political conflicts, and religious sectarian tensions. People in Iraq are still deprived of human rights and peace.

I continuously dream about the day my homeland of Kurdistan gains independence. This dream cannot be seen or achieved in the next seven generations if we walk the same path we walked before. We have to change and the change must cover all conflict and inhumanity. The current circumstance is detrimental because of the economic and political crisis, fighting The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and many other disagreements. When all these perish we can strive and work to have our own country with the help of the community.

Tragic events, such as the biochemical bombing of Halabja, the Kurdish genocide, applying Arabism to the Kurdish lands and villages and killing innocent civilians, the appearance of ISIS and their deluded understanding religion, killing and torturing innocent people, selling girls for less than $100 is reprehensible. It is hard to believe we are living in the 21st century.

If we gain peace, we can improve the lives of families, women, and children. There is a proverb that says when a human gets hungry, he first thinks of filling his stomach with food, then he thinks of a place to have a rest, in the end he thinks about longer-term dreams and wishes. As long as war, conflicts and crisis exist, humans focus on fulfilling immediate needs first and peace takes a back seat.

Conflict and suffering is happening in Middle Eastern societies in general and my region in particular. For that reason, I want everyone treat each other with respect and tolerance. If we can do this, human rights will follow.

I would like to encourage everyone—men, women, old, and young—to urge politicians not to fight, not to shed a drop of blood, and not to destroy the dreams of children. We must take a lesson from our past and do not have to keep our history talking about war and crises anymore.

Let’s work together for a better future by implementing peace. Let’s use our pens to write a future of happiness and peace, not just for ourselves but also for the next generation.

Sincerely,

Lana Barham

Kurdistan