Friday, 19 August 2011

Peacemaking - ten practices and ten principles

I've recently been pointed to the 'Just Peacemaking Initiative ... seeking peace and justice as disciples of Christ', a model of conflict resolution supported by the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). A team of thirty scholars (ethicists, economists, experts in international relations, and conflict resolution practitioners) together asked the question, 'What realistically is working to prevent real wars?' And out of this they agreed on ten practices that build peace and make war less likely. These practices fall into three categories: peacemaking initiatives, working for justice, and fostering love and community. You can read more about them here - click on the tab 'Just Peacemaking'.

In 'Tony Blair, A Journey', he describes ten central principles of resolution which arose out of his experience of The Good Friday Agreement, and reinforced by his experience in the Middle East:

  1. At the heart of any conflict resolution must be a framework based on agreed principles.
  2. To proceed to resolution, the thing needs to be gripped and focused on.
  3. In conflict resolution, small things can be big things.
  4. Be creative.
  5. The conflict won't be resolved by the parties if left to themselves.
  6. Realise that for both sides resolving the conflict is a journey, a process, not an event.
  7. The path to peace will be deliberately disrupted by those who believe the conflict must continue.
  8. The quality of leaders matter.
  9. The external circumstances must militate in favour of, not against, peace.
  10. Never give up, simple but essential.
In my experience of church life, as a church member, a Minister, and particularly as a Regional Minister which involves me in coming alongside churches in conflict, conflict is inevitable, it's a given. It needn't be destructive and can be positive and creative - the Chinese symbols for conflict are a combination of danger and opportunity. But for this to happen it does require some skills, and where a conflict has got stuck, often someone from outside the situation can make a significant difference.

While there are differences between peacemaking on the international scene and in a local church, actually they aren't so far apart and both Tony Blair's ten principles and Just Peacemaking's ten practices provide much to reflect upon.


javalava said...

Thanks for pointing out Just Peacemaking and Tony Blair's rather simpler list.

I very much warm to the idea that we can help by mediating only; that is, not giving the parties our (superior) "wisdom".  There but for the grace of God, and all that.

Your emphasis on agreed principles is good, but I would not say it is "at the heart" of the process. It seems to me that the heart of the process is sacrifice – something neither parties can hear at the time of conflict, so someone else has to "hear" (bear) for them, and guide them toward an adoption that is acceptable and just.

Christians are not the only ones capable of taking the hurtful rubbish this entails, but I think we do have a unique advantage here.

Just for one day at a time, we can forgive the "trespasses" that each side do to us and one another; hiding in Jesus and letting Him take it (it's really His business, not ours, anyway).  Then we are genuinely free to do it all again, each new day.

The heat of the conflict is diminished by trust.  Once both parties trust the mediator, healing and humanity can get a look in.  But trust is costly.  The heart of the process, IMHO, is where the mediator bears that cost.  It is an intensely human role, always unique, that can never really be reduced to a check-list, however helpful.

Geoff Colmer said...

Thank you for your helpful reflection. There is something Christ-like about the role of mediator holding the pain of both sides.