Peace is not the antithesis of war. Peace is all-encompassing.

The example of world leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi has taught us great lessons. One of them is that the search for peace is never without violence. Persecuted and imprisoned for proclaiming ideas contrary to the established system, their moral strength sustained them during years of persecution and smear campaigns by those in power. Two of them – Gandhi and Luther King – were assassinated in a futile and belated attempt to silence them.

It was from this capacity for resistance, from this intellectual and human solidity, that the message of these thinkers emerged, whose essence radically transformed the way of seeing the world and left for posterity the message that respect for the human rights of the great majorities is the only possible path to peace and development.

Peaceful resistance was, coincidentally, one of the strategies used by these three figures in the history of the twentieth century. From it emanated the certainty that without perseverance, without a clear awareness of the reason for the struggle and without the conviction of the right path to transform living conditions, there is no hope for change. But it was also an example for future generations of the importance of seeking peace through truth as the only way to achieve reconciliation. On that road to understanding, all paths lead to justice. Thus, a system designed to favour the few at the expense of the rest of the population will inevitably stand in the way of peace.

To re-establish the rule of justice, knowledge is essential. The search for truth in countries burdened by past and present violence, with a history of armed conflict and a large percentage of their inhabitants living below the poverty line, implies a process of catharsis, revelation and recovery of identity altered by decades of silence and repression. Reconciliation and forgiveness, therefore, constitute basic ingredients in this formula whose objective is the reconstruction of the social fabric in order to shape a more just and egalitarian society.

The achievement of these objectives will clash head-on with the fierce resistance of those who hold the reins of political and economic power in their hands, considering as a threat the participation of the population in inclusive processes of change, capable of opening up the structures of power to guarantee genuine democracy. It is an underhand war against any attempt to democratise the institutions that form the basis of the system. Fear leads them to close ranks against change and, in the process, to create mechanisms designed to delegitimise such efforts.

Peace, as these great leaders taught us, represents the culmination of radical and profound processes of social transformation. It means fully accepting the rights of others, claiming their place in society, respecting differences and combating injustice. There is no other way to achieve it.

Dreams of peace clash with the great powers that define everything.