Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

International Friendship

Before talking about friendship on an international level, peace—both positive and negative—first needs to be addressed. As we’ve talked about in class several times, peace is general defined by lack of war not be existence of friendly relations. Oelsner calls this positive and negative peace. Negative peace is defined by the absence of war (the three subcategories being fragile, unstable, and cold peace), while positive peace is defined as “the presence of confidence and trust.”[1] One of the biggest factors of this is protectionism. Oelsner says that in trying to make their own state secure, for the sake of defense, states actually make the whole system more insecure. This is because “other states may (mis)take defense for offensive build-up efforts and be inclined to strengthen their own military capabilities as well,” with a likely outcome being an arms race.[2]

Unfortunately, we are currently in one of those times of negative peace it seems like. In January, the Doomsday Clock, a symbol of scientific concerns about humanity’s destruction, was moved to be two minutes to midnight. The last time the clock was moved this close was 1953 during the Cold War. [3] Though there is no declared war, scientists cited the risks of the North Korean nuclear program, Russo-American tension, South China Sea tensions, nuclear arsenal build-up in Pakistan and India, and Iran nuclear deal uncertainties.[4] An additional reason they cite is the buildup of greenhouse gases as well as “disinformation campaigns.” There are many more reasons that can be cited, as these are only a few, but the point is clear: something needs to change.

We cannot rewind time, but there is still time to rewind the doomsday clock before we reach midnight. What are some ways to institutionalize friendship on an international level? Friendship festivals are wonderful for celebrating togetherness and recognizing its effectiveness as a peacemaker. In addition to friendship festivals that take place once a year, friendship also needs to be institutionalized on a daily level. Schools are probably the place where change can be affected the most seeing as kids are easily impressionable and attend school daily. To foster international friendship, learning about other cultures is essential. Culture, a lived experience unique to each individual, matters. As we’ve learned, Aristotle writes that deep friendship is based on differences, not similarities (with the exception that good is attracted to good and bad to bad). But it is the way that those differences are viewed in the first place that need to be changed because too often in this “America First” mentality are differences perceived as negatives. Sister cities, also known as twinning cities, are an effective method of opening friendly international relationships between two cities that would otherwise never know the other existed.[5] Beyond connecting cities, individuals can connect online, and plug into the larger framework of the world. Research has shown that cultural differences are less pronounced online, which Kaliarnta suggests makes making friendships easier.[6] However the cultural differences still exist and understanding these differences are just as important as making friends with the person themselves because a friend is their differences, similarities, and all of the traits that make up their being. Regardless, the Internet is an invaluable resource for connecting people across the world, transcending time and space.

To explain the thumbnail image:

The image is of iconic anime friendship in “Naruto.” Internationally, Naruto is one of the most famous anime. Pop culture is one way in which we can begin to build ties between countries. Someone may become interested in the pop culture, and then continue learning about the culture until they’ve built strong bonds with the culture, the country, and the people.

[1] Andrea Oelsner, Friendship, Mutual Trust and the Evolution of Regional Peace n the International System, 148

[2] Ibid, 142


[4] IBID

[5] Antoine Vion, The Institutionalization of International Friendship

[6] Sofia Kaliarnta, “Using Aristotle’s Theory of Friendship to Classify Online Friendships: A Critical Counterview,” Ethics and Information Technology 18, no. 2 (2016): 70.

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