Iceland: The Most Peaceful Country


Iceland
Patrick, via Flickr

Why is Iceland the most peaceful country in the world? Ryan Geertsma and Robin Basselin look at the lessons from Iceland’s peaceful society.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Ryan Geertsma.

Voice 2 

And I’m Robin Basselin. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Hundreds of people are gathered together. They are standing outside Iceland’s capital buildings in the city of Reykjavík. Some of the people are shouting. Other people are hitting cow bells. And some make noise with pans and cooking pots. The large crowd is protesting against the government.

Voice 2 

Between 2008 and two 2010, the country of Iceland went through a revolution. But unlike most revolutions, there was no blood or violence. Yet the revolution was completely effective. The people of Iceland forced leaders to form a new government and write a new constitution.

Voice 1 

You may have heard another Spotlight program on the Global Peace Index. This system of measuring peace rates countries by their level of peace. And they have rated Iceland number one for the past seven years - even during its revolution! So, what makes Iceland so peaceful? Today's Spotlight is on the peaceful country of Iceland.

Voice 2 

Iceland is an island country in the North Atlantic Ocean. The nearest countries are Greenland to the west, Scotland to the south and Norway to the east. When people think of Iceland, they often think of ice and snow. And it is true. Iceland has many beautiful fields that are always covered with ice glaciers. But Iceland is not all ice and snow. Warm winds from the ocean make the climate cool, but not freezing cold. It has many beautiful coasts, mountains, farm land, and also hot volcanoes! And the volcanoes produce many natural geysers, where hot water shoots above the earth’s surface.

Voice 1 

Some people suggest that these geysers may be one of the reasons that Iceland is so peaceful. Scientists turn the heat energy from the geysers into electricity. And this geothermal energy serves most of Iceland’s energy needs. Energy is a basic need in modern societies. And competition for energy resources can be a cause of conflict. But the people of Iceland have no need to fight over energy resources!

Voice 2 

But natural energy resources are not the only reason Iceland is peaceful. Many people argue that Iceland is peaceful because of its long tradition of peaceful government. Iceland is one of the world's oldest democracies. In the late 9th century, people from Norway came to settle in Iceland. By the early 10th century, these settlers established a parliament called the Althing. The Althing was a system where elected officials represented common people. After more than 1000 years, the Althing still exists today. It is a symbol of the long history of peaceful law in Iceland.

Voice 1 

Another reason Iceland is so peaceful may have to do with its size. It can be difficult for a large country to maintain peaceful law. Iceland may be easier to govern than some countries. This is because Iceland has a small population. In fact, the whole population of Iceland is less than 325,000 people. With a small population, it also has few large cities. And with fewer large cities, crime is easier to control.

Voice 2

Another reason for Iceland’s peacefulness may be its lack of diversity. Iceland’s population is very homogenous. Most citizens of Iceland share a similar ethnic origin and history. The population is only 4-6% non-Icelandic in origin. Because Icelanders are so homogenous, scientists from around the world study the genetic DNA of Iceland's population. Iceland also has very complete genealogical records for its citizens. This history of family relationships dates back more than one thousand years! And it shows that most Icelanders share common ancestors. Some people suggest this common ethnicity may reduce conflict caused by ethnic or cultural differences.

Voice 1  

Iceland also has one of the highest levels of development in the world. Most people have their basic needs met. They have food, housing and jobs. The government also provides free education for citizens - even through university! All health care is also free. And experts agree that when people’s basic needs are met, there is less conflict.

Voice 2  

Icelanders gain advantages like these from Iceland's high level of wealth. But unlike some other wealthy countries, Iceland shares much of its wealth with its citizens. Andrew Clark is a university student from the United States. He travelled to Iceland to study why there was so little violent crime there. Clark believes that one of the main reasons for this lack of violence is social equality.

In Iceland, there is very little division between rich and poor. In a story for the BBC, Clark wrote,

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"There is almost no difference among high, middle, and lower classes in Iceland. And with that, conflict between economic classes does not exist. This is rare for any country."

Voice 1  

So what makes Iceland so peaceful? Is it a long history of democracy? A very small, homogenous population? A high level of development? Social equality? Experts agree that it is probably all of these things combined and more. But most people do not live in a country like Iceland. And they may not have the power to change their countries’ situations. So, what can individual people do to help achieve peace in their own countries and communities?

Voice 2  

Many people can encourage their governments to support peaceful policies. Or they can join local peace movements and work for peace in their communities. But even if a person does not have these choices, they can still choose to be a peacemaker.

Voice 1

In the Christian Bible, there is a famous story called “The Sermon on the Mount.” In this story, Jesus Christ spoke to a large group of people standing near the side of a mountain. He talked about the importance of forgiving people who have hurt you. He said,

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''There is a saying, 'Love your friends and hate your enemies.' But I say: 'Love your enemies! Pray for those who hurt you.'"

Voice 2  

Forgiving people. Loving your enemies. Praying for people who hurt you. These are all powerful, positive acts that lead to peace. And anyone can do them! Peace might be easier to achieve if you live in a country like Iceland. But there is also hope for every individual. We can all work for peace no matter where in the world we live.

Voice 1

The writer of this program was Jen Hawkins. The producer was Michio Ozaki.  The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “Iceland: The Most Peaceful Country."

Voice 2  

You can also leave your comments on our website. And find us on Facebook - just search for Spotlight Radio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

Question:

What do you think makes a country peaceful?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Kaka
said on November 18, 2014

How i wish i have a chance to visit and study in this country. It’s rare to find a peaceful country in the world which original issue is because of energy resource or economic benefit. I don’t know what common language is used in this country. Is it English, right? :)

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Mss Flamboyant
said on November 18, 2014

Iceland is a heaven for people to live. I hope in the near feature I can go to Iceland.

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Dela
said on November 20, 2014

This article makes us speculate what the world would be amazing if there more countries similar to Iceland existed. Of course, creation of peace only depends on people, unfortunately, not each individual is willing to love enemies or pray for people who hurt him but in any case we can all strive for peace in many different ways.
Thanks for excellent topic!

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nguyenthuy
said on December 17, 2014

The country where i dream about . im sure to come there . I must learn English and take a trip to there . Making much money and travel aroud the world . Its so exciting . Just imagine is enough to make me happy and like in the heaven . I cant think how i am when i really get a feet on . Hope i can do as today i tell . Thanks

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Nhat Le
said on January 28, 2015

It is great country to live. If i have a chance, I will choose Iceland to travel and enjoy

JoaoVBR's avatar
JoaoVBR
said on March 12, 2015

Iceland has to be a example to all the world! I would like to live there one day in the future. Good program.

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Kiều Vũ Anh Tú
said on January 19, 2016

I will travel to Iceland with my friends and family, In my country I wish it could be like Iceland :)

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kenhieuloilam
said on January 22, 2016

We were born and grow up. We are cared for, taught and educated. We live our lives for beautiful good things. We die for beautiful good things. We care for the life. We make the life better. Beautiful good things exist. Love is important in the life.

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Kim Kim
said on January 02, 2017

What do you think makes a country peaceful? ( What do you think makes a PEACEFUL COUNRTY? I think)
Well, this is a difficult question. It’s depends on each country. It’s combined between lots of things:  People, nature, histories. In my country, it’s not peaceful, but it’s not also so complex i think. I hope i will go to Iceland one day. Iceland is always my dream. It makes me feel peaceful and happy. But i still want to live in my country. Because i want to live where i was born and grow up.