With so much obvious conflict and violence on the planet -- which can impact our own hearts and minds, our families, our communities, and relations among and within nations -- it’s time for a more comprehensive peace movement that works towards more systematic and comprehensive strategies and tools for our collective transformation. It’s time for a new kind of peace movement that is focused on the deepest and most fundamental components of building peace. One that accounts for the psychological, spiritual and emotional elements of transforming how we deal with conflict and mitigate violence. One that is as attentive to being as peaceful in our activism and advocacy as that which we aspire to create in our society.
This week, The Peace Alliance launched a new national initiative entitled: “Be the Movement! Take a Step for Peace: In Your Life, In Our Communities, Among Nations.” The Five Peacebuilding Cornerstones that are at the heart of what we are working towards, represent critical shifts that could fundamentally change life as we know it for the better. They include the following categories: Cultivating Personal Peace, Empowering Community Peacebuilding, Teaching Peace in Schools, Humanizing Justice Systems, and Fostering International Peace.
One of the key areas we work to impact at The Peace Alliance is public policy. Our government, to put it simply, is one of the primary methods through which we organize ourselves as a society. So if those of us who believe in these peace values aren’t putting at least some of our attention towards making sure how we collectively organize ourselves better reflects our deepest values, then we aren’t likely to see the change we’d like anytime soon. The change can and does certainly happen more organically as we evolve and live our lives with peaceful intent, and policy is only one of many important components. But what if we more proactively worked to direct our social policy towards these aims? What could the impact of that be?
Take for example one of my favorite Peacebuilding Cornerstones, Teaching Peace in Schools. Can you imagine the fundamental shift we might see in society if our kids were taught and trained in the skills of social and emotional learning, mindfulness and conflict resolution? After these kids become adults, adults who vote, in a generation or two, we would have a radically different nation and world. (And aren’t these skills just as important for our success in life, if not more-so, than math, science, etc.?)
The very good news is that this peacebuilding work, in all these cornerstone areas, are happening all over the planet. And they are proving to be very effective when applied to the challenges we face. Far more so than our traditionally employed methods, which typically predominate towards punitive and militaristic means. Here are some examples of the kinds of things in each cornerstone area that could be employed more broadly.
Cultivating Personal Peace: Integrating peace in our own lives, with our children, in our relationships, in the workplace, and in our approach to activism, through such methods as compassionate communication, mindfulness, empathy, and stress reduction.
Empowering Community Peacebuilding: Providing comprehensive activities in communities working to address such challenges as crime, violence, and gangs. Effective programs may include police/community relations, hands on street outreach and intervention, mental health services, out-of-school programs, opportunities for seniors, and arts practices.
Teaching Peace in Schools: Bringing into our schools conflict resolution curricula with tools such as social-emotional learning, reflective listening techniques, restorative processes, and other proven peacebuilding skills to increase graduation rates and transform violence, bullying, truancy, and other challenges facing youth.
Humanizing Justice Systems: Moving away from overly punitive policies, towards healing-oriented criminal and juvenile justice approaches. Restorative justice, diversion/alternative incarceration programs, and prisoner rehabilitation & re-entry programs are among the most promising solutions.
Fostering International Peace: Championing peacebuilding approaches to international conflict and atrocity prevention in hotspots through mediation, diplomacy, and effective on-the-ground programs. Important components may involve development, post conflict justice, humanitarian aid, and support for frameworks necessary for democratic processes.
We recognize the powerful complementary work of millions of peacebuilders doing this conflict resolution oriented work around the globe. It is truly inspiring. At The Peace Alliance, we aspire to create a unifying platform, to strengthen and expand a vibrant peace movement that brings effective solutions to bear on the challenges we face in our personal lives, our communities, and across our planet.
We hope this effort, and possibly your partnership as part of it, will be a big part of the next great leap forward for the field of peacebuilding and the cause of peace on earth. It is time and millions of us are ready. Will you join us? Learn more at: www.peacealliance.org/movement
Matthew Albracht has worked with The Peace Alliance since its founding in 2004 in various roles as it’s grown, including: Managing Director, Executive Director and now Executive Vice President and Director of Programs and Communications. Prior to The Peace Alliance, Matthew worked as Managing Director of the Global Renaissance Alliance and on various campaigns to help create a more just and sustainable world. He is a Huffington Post blogger and the author of the book Living Out Loud! Young Adults, Finding our Purpose, Shaping a Better World.
He has a B.A. in psychology from Sonoma State University in California, focusing on Ecopsychology. He also has an M.A. in Humanities and Leadership with a focus on Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Community from New College of California.