By Joel Bouzou
We are living in society where individuals are becoming incrementally intolerant. The last few weeks have been plagued with intolerant attacks globally. Today, I am writing these words with a sincere condolence to all innocent victims of the recent atrocities in France, Bangladesh, United States, Turkey and Iraq.
I am deeply shocked by the severity and frequency of attacks across the globe. We have watched with horror and deep sadness the numbers of intolerant and violent acts committed against civilians in airports, restaurants, shopping centers, clubs and public places. Behind every person on the list of victims there is a name, life, background, family and dreams.
Last Thursday, the terrorist attack in Nice paradoxically occurred in a moment of celebration, when people from different nationalities, religions and ideologies gathered on the Promenade des Anglais to praise the famous triangle of core values: freedom, equality and fraternity. In that moment of celebration 84 individuals were crushed to death and more than 200 injured, as a result of extremism and discontent. Many more have been left in fear.
Today more than ever we have to be united under those three values and to start taking concrete actions towards a peaceful world. The tragic consequences of these acts worldwide must urge us to stop this outrageous level of violence. The international community has to engage itself in the prevention of such heinous acts.
Building-peace in today’s world cannot be created as a one-time act. Peace calls for long-term commitment at different levels, by different people and in different ways. At the international level, it is necessary to engage in a policy dialogue with multilateral partners, including governments, international organizations, civil society and policy makers.
At the local level is necessary to promote active and meaningful civil society participation, considering the latter has a key role in stopping the escalation of violence. Civil society must be a platform of engaged, prepared and well-informed people with the capacity to lead initiatives that foster dialogue and understanding.
We live in a world that needs to construct a new reality with educational and social cohesion programs focused on the things that bring us together instead of the things that tear us apart. For instance, sport can help building bridges among divided communities and may offer safer environments for children at risk of harm, including the risk of exposure to extremism and radicalization.
Sport is a powerful and proven peace-building tool with the capacity to strength social ties and to promote ideals of peace, non-violence and tolerance. The positive results obtained by sport movements to foster peace have gained legitimacy to demand changes in government policies. It is time that decision-makers stop talking about it and start investing in structured and organised programs that foster social cohesion and development through sport.
The expertise of the peace through sport movement can help governments and policy makers to improve the quality and effectiveness of sport programs. A number of organisations, such as Peace and Sport can guide and advice in development of governments’ policies and sport initiatives. Governments can find a strong ally in the global effort to combat violence in the peace through sport movement.
The road ahead, we acknowledge, is a difficult one, but there is no time to waste. The journey towards peace requires an effective global cooperation and solidarity that can be reached only through active participation from different stakeholders and grassroots change.
Joël Bouzou is the President and Founder of “Peace and Sport”. He was Modern Pentathlon World Championships in 1987.