Maria Jose Benitez Chavez, a young Salvadoran professional who works with youth, gives us some insights as to how to build a peaceful and a more inclusive society by sharing with us attainable goals for this new year.
As we start a new year, we also start writing new resolutions, which may include the typical items such as “losing 10 pounds”. I believe that we, as new generations, have greater challenges that must be included in our new lists of resolutions: not only we have to make wise decisions at a personal level, but also, we have to commit to contribute to social changes, taking active roles in society.
I am a Salvadoran, and this year, my country celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the Peace Accords, which ended the 12-year armed conflict between the state and the guerillas. This document constituted a paradigmatic case of resolution of conflicts through dialogue and negotiation, and established the beginning of a process of transition towards a profound reform of the democratic institutions of the State. However, according to the United Nations System (2012), this “Peace Treaty” did not bring an end to the violence, as 25 years later, El Salvador maintains high levels of crimes, highlighting those affecting life, particularly by homicides.
According to the Institute of Legal Medicine (1999-2011), El Salvador went from a rate of 43 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 1999, to a rate of 70 in 2011. El Salvador has reached high murder rates, surpassing those from the civil war, and similar to the of at-war countries .This violence has permeated the education system as well. According to the Ministry of Education, this situation of violence caused the school dropout of 20,372 children in the year 2014, which corresponds to a total of 68 students per day, leaving their education.
This difficult context, should not cause us frustration, but instead, empower us to work harder to use this year for the transition into a more peaceful and inclusive country. In order to achieve that, I suggest to include the following three items in our list of resolutions for the year:
(i) The first and most important element, is to defend Human Dignity. As Jonan Fernandez, author of the book Educar en ser persona, describes it, “human dignity is the essence, common to all the people, that makes us worthy of respect and subjects with capacity for the same rights. Is the intrinsic and supreme value that each human being has, regardless of their economic, social and cultural situation, or their beliefs and way of thinking”. The acceptance and appreciation of Human Dignity, takes us to item two: (ii) open up your mind to new dialogues, taking into consideration what the recently deceased sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman said: “Real dialogue isn’t about talking to people who believe the same things as you”. You will learn many new things by questioning your ideas, as you may end up changing or reassuring them. And last but not least, item three: (iii) Have the bravery to be curious! As Walt Disney used to say: “keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, (…) curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”.
So, not only in El Salvador but in any country around the world, we need respect, dialogue, and curiosity (sparkled by tons of passion), to take over this new year. We can make new Peace Treaties daily, with the people around us, and together, we will build not only better futures but also 365 better todays this year.