The beautiful soul and spirit of Bernadette
January 26, 2023
St Francis Boys’ College celebrates a century of education
January 26, 2023

Making Peace

Almost everywhere around the world we see conflict. In Ukraine, the fighting has taken thousands of lives and displaced millions. Tanks, missiles, and guns are pouring into the battlefields as the combatants walk a knife’s edge that could end in nuclear war.

While Ukraine makes most of the headlines in the Western media, there are battles against armed groups raging in Somalia, Congo, Yemen, and Nigeria. There is civil unrest in Brazil, Peru, Haiti, and Myanmar. There is industrial action in England and France. Conflict is brewing once again in Palestine.

Conflict takes lives and disrupts the peace and harmony we all crave.

Behind the scenes in all these conflicts, there are people working assiduously to achieve peace. These are the peacemakers.

At the global level, the faceless civil servants of the United Nations urge parties to come to the table to find pathways to end conflicts. This work requires a great deal of preparation.

The interests of the parties need to be understood in detail. Common ground must be identified. Pauses in the fighting have to be arranged to allow the parties to cool down and move toward rationality and openness to compromise. This work requires great skill and patience.

The ending of conflict, saving lives, and the opportunity to make peace are the rewards.

Beyond these large-scale conflicts that make the headlines, there are myriad conflicts taking place within our societies. Some of these sadly erupt into domestic violence, affecting mostly women and children.

Some are marked by gang violence where random shootings may visit death even on innocent children. There is even ‘road rage’ which directs abuse and violence at some unknown person who we think gave us a ‘bad drive’.

Anger, resentment, suspicion, brought on by multiple stressors in our lives, seethe just below the surface to erupt at some mild provocation.

Peacemaking is relevant at the level of family and community and employs essentially the same methods as the UN peacemakers would use. There are professional peacemakers. Among these, we can count our priests, imams, pundits, and religious who can provide counselling and bring parties in conflict to resolution and reconciliation.

We have psychologists and guidance counsellors who can help with anger management and teach us how to defuse conflicts before they escalate. But we also have many trained and certified mediators who can use their training in mediating civil and commercial disputes to support conflict resolution within our communities. Our society urgently needs these interventions. All these peacemaking resources can be used to lower the temperature, bringing ‘pause’, prompting reflection, and finding common ground.

Ultimately, we are our own best peacemakers! From an early age, we should have learned to exercise self-discipline and self-control. We need to listen actively to what others are really saying and curb the impulse to react emotionally.

That means pausing (counting to ten) and engaging our rational selves, deciding whether and how to respond, and whether our response will be helpful or hurtful to the other person.

In a society which has unfortunately learned that problems are dealt with by ‘sharing licks’, physically or verbally, we have to unlearn those behaviours and master self-control in our children and in ourselves.

As the lyrics of the well-known song says: “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”