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15 / 06 / 2004
Johan Galtung: The translation of the word peace is equality

The Founder of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, which is considered to be the founding father institute of modern peace research, spoke today about the main principles to be followed in order to mediate in a conflict, and he recommended a lot of patience and responsibility to reach a solution for a dispute.

Johan Galtung, founder of the International Peace Research Institute and well-known mediator in large-scale international conflicts, said this morning in his speech at the Dialogue “Conflicts in Everyday Life” that “the translation of the word peace is equality and equality itself has many translations”. In this sense he called for respect towards cultural differences and above all an awareness of them, since “awareness is the first step along the way to respect”.

In this regard, he put forward the example of how none of the European politicians he has interviewed have had any idea of what was happening in Yugoslavia, however they all mouthed clichés about what must be going on there and what should be done.

In his list of main principles to follow in order to resolve a conflict he included the recognition of the parties involved, their objectives, their points of disagreement, the possible bridges that could be built between them. In the view of the professor, who is Doctor Honoris Causa at eight universities in the world, when people have the chance to say what they think and ask questions this opens the way to dialogue.

When making the comment that many groups, races and countries are still living with the memories of massacres, both in their history and more recently, he suggested following South Africa’s example of no revenge and declared that “solutions cannot be sought in the past but in the future”.

Norwegian by birth, Galtung has been involved for more than 30 years in dialogues between conflicting parties and has recounted his experiences in Korea, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Peru, Israel and Palestine, amongst other countries.

On Al Qaeda and the war in Iraq Galtung emphasized that the West needs to start learning about the world of Islam. He explained that from his experience the Islamic people have been able to tell him what they do and do not like about Christianity, but that Westerners have never been able to respond because they have no idea what Islam and the Islamic culture are all about”.

He urged that if there is still a veto in the UN Security Council, the Islamic Conference should be a permanent member with the right of veto, since it involves 1300 million people and 56 countries, most of which border colonized Christian countries that do not have a right to representation on the Security Council. “If you think about it for ten seconds you can understand many things”. He added that it is not only a question of inviting the Islamic Conference to join the UN but also of helping in the development of Islamic communities.”

He added that according to the Koran, in which jihad does not mean war but “effort for the faith”, there are basic concepts that Muslims fulfill religiously. To them “you spread the gospel with your words, your example, your duty, not with arms; it is a duty to defend yourself with the sword; and if your opponent is inclined to make peace, you do the same”. He suggested taking these teachings into account in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the Islamic world.

Speaking in what he calls “a Viking Spanish”, Galtung also mentioned as examples his personal experiences of the ways in which conflicts can be resolved, and he recommended persistence and patience are needed to follow the progress of disputes over the years.

Always with a sense of humor but cutting in his criticism, he said that “in the year 2000 I predicted that the American empire is going to disappear by the year 2025. After Bush I said it would be before 2020, and if he wins the next election it will be by 2015.” However, in his view the disappearance of the American empire does not mean the disappearance of the United States, because “the country can still sleep well without being an empire. The economic, psychological, and moral cost of the empire to American society is colossal.”

He pointed out that “if there is a culture that believes it can get all the answers from the past, the present and the future and so deserves to be the universal culture, then we have a problem, and that is Western culture”.

The Dialogue “ Conflicts of Everyday Life” concludes today at the Forum.