A painting of two young women athletes embracing after a match, by Teni Abodunrin

Unity in diversity

Published on 13 July 2022 Go back to The ACU Review

Teamwork is not just for the sports field, but key to building a sustainable and peaceful future.

By Joanna Newman, ACU

This issue of The ACU Review brings academics from around the world together to explore how sport can contribute to peace, unity, and reconciliation in the Commonwealth and beyond. With insight and experience, they consider its potential – to promote inclusion and respect, strengthen social ties, and improve physical and emotional health – as well as its limitations. Sport, we are cautioned, can deepen divisions among us, just as it can also bring us together; nor is it a substitute for meaningful action to tackle the root causes of conflict and injustice. And yet the stories told here are often also ones of hope, set against some of the bleakest chapters of history.

While sport is the lens here, this issue of The ACU Review is also about division, displacement, and exclusion – and how these can affect the life chances of entire generations. Many articles are a stark reminder that millions of young people across the Commonwealth are still denied the opportunities they need to thrive and reach their potential. Sport – with thoughtful, considered engagement from its leaders and organisations – is positioned as having not only the potential, but also a responsibility, to engage with social issues and the immense global challenges that define our time.

This commitment to placing sport squarely at the service of humankind, and its role in promoting values such as humanity, equality, and respect, underpins sporting events from the Olympics to the modern-day Commonwealth Games, both of which are explored in this issue. The United Nations, too, identifies sport as a powerful tool to advance peace and sustainable development, calling earlier this year for collective action to turn these ambitions into reality: ‘More than ever’, said a statement, ‘we need to overcome our differences and unite as one team working together to tackle these obstacles’.

This chimes deeply with the aims of the ACU, whose work focuses on higher education as a force for social good and as a cornerstone of peaceful, fairer societies. Universities make a critical contribution to their communities and nations, but never more so than when they work together.

The ACU’s Commonwealth Peace and Reconciliation Network is one example of this in action. This global, multidisciplinary collective – one of several thematic networks working together on the issues that matter to our members – brings universities across the Commonwealth together to share knowledge and experience around universities’ role in peacebuilding, reconciliation, and truth-telling – both within universities and in the societies they serve.

This work – and everything we do – is founded on a belief that our greatest global challenges cannot be solved in insolation, but through collaboration across borders and boundaries. To borrow from the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose legacy – and ardent love of sport – is fondly recalled in these pages: ‘Is not teamwork something beautiful to behold?’

Explore our website today to find out more about how your university can become more involved in our global community of members and work more closely together for a brighter future. We look forward to hearing from you.

Dr Joanna Newman is Chief Executive and Secretary General of the ACU.

The cover image for this issue of The ACU Review is by Teni Abodunrin, aged 11, from Nigeria. Teni’s painting was among the winning entries to the Peace Pals Annual Art Exhibition and Awards in 2020 and is reproduced here with kind permission of PeacePals International – a programme designed to encourage young people aged between 5-16 to become peacemakers. Peace Pals International is a project of May Peace Prevail On Earth International.

The ACU Review is published for information purposes only and no liability is accepted for its contents by the ACU or by any contributor. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the ACU.