Just peacemaking

This might be a bit like stream-of-consciousness, but I don’t want to spend time re-editing this later. It’s a workshop on the just peacemaking paradigm.

Susan Brooks-Thistlethwaite (Interfaith Youth Core board member and former seminary president) gave us a brief history of the transition of the United Church of Christ into a pacifist church. The UCC already had commitments to racial and social justice, so combining pacifism was a short leap. From further conferences, a series of papers and documents about peace were released that not only promoted pacifism, but active peacemaking. At its simplest level, “just peace” means that more peace happens than war, and that people must work together in order to affect these changes.

“Just war” has abstract principles that people reflect on from many different perspectives, religious and otherwise. Likewise, “just peace” contains principles that are approachable from many different directions. They are not quite as abstract. In fact, they are what we call “practice norms”, or things that we must do. Katherine Schofield from Just Peacemaking in Chicago gave us the rundown:

  1. Support nonviolent direct action – strikes, boycotts, creation of safe spaces
  2. Take independent initiatives to reduce threat – visible and surprising actions outside of slow bureaucracy, usually undertaken in a series of progressions
  3. Use cooperative conflict resolution – active collaboration of parties conflict toward creative solutions
  4. Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice and seek repentance and  forgiveness – direct religious vibes here, countries apologizing for past actions
  5. Advance democracy, human rights, and interdependence – promote solid human rights and human progress within legal frameworks
  6. Foster just and sustainable economic development – cultivation of community growth and community organizations
  7. Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system – we can work together for a common aim
  8. Strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights – these organizations can identify, prevent, and possibly intervene when necessary, but they also promote peace.
  9. Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade – reduce guns, reduce conflict
  10. Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations – make resolution and peace a bottom-up initiative

Just peacemaking is focused on practices. It’s not about making declarations about how wrong “other” people can be. You can’t provide people with weak abstractions about issues that are costing human lives anywhere on the earth. “A conflict that cannot be named cannot be mediated,” said Brooks-Thistlethwaite. We have to figure out what things are before we can really tackle them. It makes no sense to grab at ethereal straws – it wastes time and can be harmful to the process of peace.

– For most societies, on a day-to-day basis, living in peace is the NORM. Institutionalized violence like racism, sexism, and homophobia might exist, sure, but it’s worth pointing out that the reality of peacebuilding is that it is very, very possibly because it is very, very normal.

– Don’t ask “Why isn’t it working?” Find what’s working, and support it.

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