The Shift Network Blog

The Art of Peace Building
Ella Matheson
By Ella Matheson

Peace is not simply the absence of war, peace is the presence of social justice and environmental and economic well being; it is the business of government. There are so many crises in the world and we all know as peacebuilders and from personal experience how challenging and debilitating it can feel to address them.

I experienced one such moment in early 2014 when I profoundly knew I wanted to explore how inner peace could be translated into world peace. As a participant in James O’Dea’s Peace Ambassador Training with The Shift Network, we were challenged to create collaborative opportunities to cultivate peace. I chose to research the work of the Peace Alliance to establish a United States Department of Peace. This organization inspired me and helped reveal my obvious next steps. The Peace Alliance incorporates many of my values particularly developing a new peace narrative. For me, peacebuilding is a part of my cultural heritage -- I grew up in the backdrop of the civil rights movement and then the women’s movement. I feel that peace and social justice are in my DNA, to keep “the dream” alive.

In addition, my life has evolved at the intersection of gender, race and class. In my earlier careers as a trained Architectural Designer, I have been a Principal Diversity Officer and a Mars Venus Facilitator personally endorsed by Dr. John Gray. I am uniquely placed at this cultural moment in history of great transition where we have the opportunity to access greater awareness by embracing an evolutionary desire for spiritual awakening. We may create a shift in perception by Being creators of a more beautiful world - a world with dignity, peace, love, compassion, forgiveness, wisdom, gratitude, surrender and humility at the heart. I created Peace in the City with my very own personal challenges in mind: who am I as an ordinary girl of African and Caribbean heritage to do this? My heart tells me peace is possible and in collaboration we can design a more beautiful world.

In the United Kingdom where I live, a national conversation is emerging towards a new architecture of peace. The conversation is about a new story: the possibility of a United Kingdom Peace Department with a cabinet level office to advise the Prime Minister on securing enlightened dialogues to elevate, articulate, investigate, and facilitate nonviolent strategic solutions to domestic and international conflicts. This new story is about enhancing well being, fostering inner peace and establishing a foundation of contemplative inner work. (Click here to learn more.)

A culture of peace has been defined by the United Nations as ‘a set of values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and nations’ (See: UN Resolution A/RES/53/243, Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace). The current paradigm shift is this: we are beginning to understand our commonality and the connections that bind us together in our world more than ever before, so much so that peace on earth embraces infinite possibilities towards the cultivation of peace. This vision goes beyond the national boundaries of politics, language, religion, culture and spirituality, we are one people. We are human Beings.

This new story of peace is even more poignant for me having recently attended the funeral of my beautiful, boisterous and adventurous 19-year-old cousin Geneva Julien. I was invited to present the eulogy and accepted it as a great honour and privilege. However, the process left me and my family with many more questions about the rights of “differently abled people.” Geneva was challenged with epilepsy and other special needs; yet what is becoming evident is that information which could possibly have saved her life was not provided because there was a lack of evidence regarding the efficacy of devices which may prevent sudden death in epilepsy. There is inequality even in the basic provision of no-cost information that could possibly save lives.

The greatest challenge remains the perceived sense of futility or insignificance in the face of economic, environmental and social crises. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that you must have courage to love. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy is as relevant today as it was in the last century. It is profound that we must create a new narrative by setting the intention to do what is right, to choose love. It takes a level of strength to stand in the not knowing to transcend. This is the space in which we enter into in meditation. “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated.” In a sermon on peace in 1967 Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”  

Peace must be created at multidimensional levels, a simultaneous story played out on a microcosmic and macrocosmic world stage.

The contemporary parallels to the challenges of the last century include the first anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson and Siam Nowarah’s visit to St. Louis. Siam's 17-year-old son, Nadeem, was killed by an Israeli soldier in Palestine. These are just two of many examples of the true power of the beloved community connecting in heartbreak and seeking a path of peace and justice. We live in a world where women are abused in Bedford’s Yarl’s Wood detention centre -- part of the stage where “others” are at the intersection of race, sex and class, black people, women, differently abled people, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, trans people, and intersex people are the “players” and often kept from their full rights of citizenship.

We must choose to be pioneers of the possible with practical effective tools which can illuminate contemporary approaches and perspectives of contemplative inner work for developing infrastructures of peace within government.