The United States has just marked the annual celebration of the work and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., one of the few peacebuilders elevated to a national day of recognition, which are often reserved for great battles or military heroes. While we generally equate security – both in the broadest sense of protecting the country and in the more parochial sense of protecting communities – with armed forces like the police or the military, the work of peacebuilding is grounded in helping to create security by changing the things that lead to instability and violence.
Peace is itself a term that leaves much to the imagination, and is frequently mistaken for a kind of dreamy and intangible wishfulness, but the art and practice of peacebuilding is a richly nuanced vocation that calls upon tools and methods steeped in a deep understanding of human nature, intergroup relationships, and community dynamics. It requires patience, empathy, and care, as it navigates around the worst of people’s pain and trauma, the depths of their fears and the hard edges of their anger.
Peacebuilding is committed to the idea that if people can work their way from broken relationships to less broken ones, the world will be safer for all of us, including generations that are yet to be born. While force may be deemed necessary at times to prevent immediate harm, coercion does not change minds, and only promises to sustain cycles of resentfulness and vengeance that lead to more violence. Peacebuilding seeks an alternative – to change the way that people understand one another, to increase mutual respect and a future built on institutions and collaborations that better serve all people, while acknowledging and moving forward from a past marred by injustice and bloodshed.
The challenges that form successful engagements in peacebuilding are complex and nuanced, which may be unsatisfying to those who seek swift retribution for harm they have suffered or witnessed. But the outcomes of peacebuilding are meant to be more permanent and sustainable than revenge or simple punishment. It is a more labor-intensive path with the promise of more durable rewards that are more widely shared. This is why peacebuilding has been uplifted and celebrated in many spiritual traditions.
While conflict and authoritarian coercion seem to be on the rise in both international affairs and intergroup dynamics, ICRD will use this space to explore some of the principles, challenges, and methods within peacebuilding practice. Our goal will be to unpack, demystify, and make them more accessible for everyday use by individuals and communities, so that our social norms might find a better grounding in resilience, tolerance, and compromise.
Please turn to our socials each month as we contemplate some of the Tough Questions in peacebuilding – and join us in putting *Faith in Peace* 🌎