Be the future of sport for development and peace
The world woke up with devastating news on June 4th: a third major terrorist strike in the UK in three months. That same week, within days, it was reported a pair of terrorist attacks in Tehran and Paris. The horrific level of violence around the world overwhelms me with its immediacy.
These acts of extremism and terrorism are a sign of intrinsic social issues that are affecting our society. Yet we should not lose hope, for I believe that great hope arises from great hardships. As we mourn, we must learn from the past, keep our sight on the bigger picture, and do not forget about efforts rising from the local level up in fight against discrimination and marginalization at home.
It is for this reason that here and today we must ask, not, What can our governments do for us? But, What can we do to prevent these atrocities? In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, I have seen the sporting world coming together to find solutions through sport at the individual, local and international level. The solidarity demonstrated by the Manchester United F.C, which held a minute’s silence and wore black armbands during the Europe League to give honor to the victims, is a perfect example of a positive act towards peace. The football club, together with the Manchester City, pledged £1 million to an emergency fund set up after the terrorist attack.
However, there is still a lot to be done before we reach our goal to mobilize all the representatives of the sporting world. With great disappointment I learned that Saudi Arabia’s national team refused to take part in a minute’s silence in memory of deadly attacks in London. Today more than ever, the whole world should be united in condemnation with terrorist and pay respect for the families of the victims. Today is not about cultural differences; it is about showing respect for humanity and the sporting world must lead by example.
Furthermore, we must be ready to contribute shaping the future of the next generation. A great example is Marlene Harnois, Taekwondo Olympic Medalist and Champion for Peace, who is currently leading the solidarity movement ‘Caravan for Peace’ to inspire youth from Gambia and Senegal. This movement, composed of Olympic Champions, athletes and artists will lead social and humanitarian actions and distribute material to contribute to the development of sport, education and culture.
I am proud to see this mobilization, but more can and should be done. For this reason, today I want to invite those who have never played any sport to believe in the power of sport and to those who are at the leadership positions to invest and envision policies, strategies and initiatives that promotes human interactions and dialogue.
In concrete words, today sport can play a major role giving shelter to excluded youngsters who have lost all hope for the future and who believe that war and violence are the only alternative. Today a great number of sport-based programs are helping to deconstruct misconceptions and stereotypes in order to change hatred narratives. Therefore, it is time for governments and policy makers to support those efforts and to use the expertise of the peace through sport movement to improve the quality and effectiveness of national and local programs aimed at breaking cycles of violence and exclusion.
I would certainly not ask for changes today. However, the premise here is that the future begins now with the planning, implementation and envision of a more peaceful and inclusive world. Today, sport can be the tool that can help us to break the cycle of violence.