Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The UN General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire

Executive Committee Members of the Community and Social Psychology (CaSP) Division of PsySSA, Dené Du Rand (University of South Africa) and Curwyn Mapaling (North-West University) reflect on the International Day of Peace as psychologists, academics, and human beings.

2021 Theme: Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world

The consequences of conflict are overarching and often the result of exclusion, social injustice and inequality. In times of violent conflict, an appropriate peacebuilding response is often needed for “recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world” as this year’s theme promotes. Following the recent civil unrest in the country, the International Day of Peace holds particular significance for us this year.
Peace psychology provides us with a conceptual framework to deal with the psychology of conflict and violence by developing theories and praxes that prevent violence, conflict and addresses the psychosocial impact that they may have on society. This conceptual framework gives us psychological theories, methods and methodologies to re-imagine a world and space in which we honour and respect each other through the act of peacebuilding.

Shahnaaz Suffla, Nick Malherbe and Mohamed Seedat in their book chapter entitled “Recovering the Everyday Within and for Decolonial Peacebuilding Through Politico-Affective Space” invite us to reflect on the psychology of violence and ways of promoting peace or peacebuilding. From their chapter, it is evident that the liberal peace is still very much entrapped in the patterns of coloniality. In essence this means it is not addressing the impact of violence and conflict on marginalised/subaltern communities but instead it is perpetuating these unjust wars. Conversely, they introduce us to decolonial peacebuilding which includes a decolonised and deimperialised world in which everyone can co-exist and a pluriversal humanity is possible.

Peace psychology constitutes of four pillars: research, education, practice and advocacy. The general understanding of the word peace translates into freedom from disturbance. When one understands peace from a peace psychology perspective it is important to note that it is not merely the absence of direct violence or war but also the absence of structural and cultural violence. The authors take us down a very painful historical path when they reflect on social location, especially the historical context of slavery, colonialism and apartheid that characterises the South African context. The traumatic legacy of these oppressive systems is still evident in contemporary South Africa through coloniality and can be seen in the high rates of psychosocial problems. We are reminded that there are still social inequalities in South Africa and thus we are not yet an ethical and/or peaceful society. It is known that people all across the world have diverse and meaningful ways of celebrating this day. Some of these ways include observing a moment of silence at 12:00 in their respective countries and as a result we have what they call a “Peace Wave” taking place across the globe, others chant and dance, others share their cultural cuisines in the spirit of peace and have interfaith and intercultural exchanges.

Regardless of how we choose to celebrate the day, what is important is that we celebrate it in a way that is congruent with who we are. For too long have marginalised groups been told what to think, what to do and how to be. Let us allow ourselves to do things differently this year.


Executive Committee Members of the Community and Social Psychology (CaSP) Division of PsySSA, Dené Du Rand (University of South Africa) and Curwyn Mapaling (North-West University) 

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