The 3 Pillars
Relationships are the ground upon which peace is built. Thus peace can be understood as a dynamic social construct which suggests a flowing, ever-changing, self–organizing web of relationships. Peace is present when this web of relationships works to satisfy everyone’s needs, protects everyone’s rights, and supports everyone in taking responsibility for the whole.
For peace to be sustainable; therefore, it can only arise out of a community that has a quality of connection, mutual understanding, shared responsibility, and relatedness that together forms a systemic relational context for peace. In order to sustain peace when conflict arises communities must have in-built structures to learn from conflict in ways that sustain meeting needs for all those involved.
This includes the building of an infrastructure and the framework for coexistence and harmony in the ways that we relate with each other.
Conflict is natural, a natural outcome of the different perceptions and the different strategies for meeting needs that human beings have. In order to sustain peace when conflict arises communities must have in-built structures to learn from conflict in ways that sustain meeting needs for all those involved.
The peacebuilder begins to focus on the patterns of relationship, the structures of society that determine those patterns, and the values, perceptions and assumptions held by the parties within their environment in any conflict situation, most especially in those situations in which conflict patterns display overt and recurring violence, are deeply embedded historically and psychologically, and are multi-generational.
Peacebuilding does not seek to resolve the present problem, but to change the dynamics of the relationship and the system of relationships that could, if not addressed, insure future and recurring problems of a similar or even more violent nature.
Peacebuilding that seeks to be transformational looks at underlying patterns of assumption, belief and behavior. It seeks to build relationships that are cooperative and flexible, able to create new forms as needed to address problems as they arise.
In short, the peacebuilder needs to focus on the whole system of conflict, not only the immediate dispute itself. The question now becomes focused on changing the patterns of interaction that have led in the past to recurring cycles of violence, with shifting roles of victim and persecutor. We become concerned more with building an infrastructure for peace that will endure through the generations.
(transformational content adapted from work by Louise Diamond)
At its simplest, reconciliation means finding a way to live alongside ‘the other’ – your enemy… to coexist with them, to develop the degree of cooperation necessary to share society with them, so that we all have better lives together than we have had separately. The primary goal of reconciliation is thus the healing of the personal and social fabrics of society.
In post-conflict societies, reconciliation involves an intensive engagement with those who are directly and indirectly affected by conflict. It is a complex and cautious process of supporting communities to transcend their past and to establish an environment conducive for the community to move forward toward harmony.
Therefore, reconciliation can be understood as a society-wide, long-term process of deep change that involves the transformation of people and the healing of their relationships. It encompasses acknowledging, remembering, and learning from the past; while at the same time it also includes learning to coexist, beginning to cooperate, developing a common vision of the future, and taking action to build that future.
Reconciliation is both something to achieve – a goal – and a means to achieve that goal – a process. This is aptly illustrated in the four key mechanisms of reconciliation:
- Healing the Physical/emotional wounds of all involved
- Truth-Telling to account for and acknowledge the past
- Reparation of the material/psychological damage for all involved
- Justice that restores and works for all
This is not a linear progression; rather these mechanisms are interdependent and as a process are interwoven one with the other. It can be said that they inter–affect each other – as any one mechanism is put into action it supports and mutually uplifts all the others.
Human beings are human beings all over the world, despite their differences. We all want to be heard, and understood, and valued for what we offer, what we bring in the form of our knowledge, experience, wisdom, energy, aliveness.
Dialogue = Flow of Meaning
Meaning is one way of describing what binds us one to another. When you understand my words and choices and actions at the level of meaning you see me as a human being even if you do not like those words, choices, or actions. Dialogue happens when I express and you truly receive that meaning, and you express and I receive your meaning, And there is confirmation of that meaning in both directions. Then we will have a base of mutual understanding from which a relationship can be built.
A relationship cannot be built when we only see and judge our differences; a relationship can only be built when we reconnect to our common shared humanity. From this foundation our relationship can not only withstand but even celebrate our differences; and it is resilient enough to transcend violent conflict.
When dialogues are structured to enable and ensure this type of expressing and receiving of meaning then empathy and compassion often arise. Empathy is the capacity to identify and understand what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s shoes. It allows one to navigate the chaos or turbulence of human communication. It is a powerful means for liberating our natural compassion (which often has been ‘hidden’ beneath a cloud of judgmental and blaming thinking and communicating).
Empathy is the gift of Presence, a sense of consciousness that transcends words. This type of Presence is the “most precious gift one can give another” as Martin Buber states. ‘Thank you for allowing me to be present with you.’ Thus empathy is a deep type of intimacy. This intimacy comes from a quality of connection with another that transcends our own thoughts and feelings.
In my experience human beings would choose empathic dialogue over violence every time if they could experience it and thus trust that it would work– that their needs would be honored and valued as much as the other persons or groups.
As Marshall Rosenberg stated “violence is a tragic expression of unmet needs.” When people have attempted to meet their needs in every way they know how and remain unsuccessful, then frequently violence seems the only way forward – the only way to deal with the enormous pain, frustration, and helplessness that not meeting our needs can engender. Yet this strategy is among the least successful in the long-term, and comes with enormous and tragic costs. If people are given a viable alternative they will choose it. Supporting them in seeing the viability of dialogue as a meaningful alternative is the challenge. Demonstrating that dialogue can lead to actual transformation and change is what this work is all about.
“Dialogue is a conversation whose ending is unknown”