For many individuals the word “peace” brings to mind a quietness, a silent stillness. For many others peace is a far off dream, their fondest hope, their most earnest prayer every night. Peace is many things to many people, and the vast difference in meaning occurs for many social and psychological reasons. The word “peacemaking” is common in modern society today mostly in legislative and political arenas. In this context peacemaking has come to mean “settlement or termination of a war or dispute,” “the process of transition from hostility to amity,” “termination or prevention of wars or conflicts” (Carroll, 2002, p. 1). Finally, after years of studying war and determining that most end in some form of peace negotiation or settlement, the word “prevention” has actually come into focus.
War and Peace
Some theorists believe that war and conflict is inevitable because human beings, possessing an innate motivation to survive, many times face circumstances in which they must either compete for natural resources or protect themselves from outside threat. As the world’s population increases our most precious natural resource is diminishing. At this moment “two-thirds of the world’s population” is estimated to be in danger of “acute water stress or water scarcity by 2025” (IRIN, 2002, p. 1). Conflicts over the shrinking water supplies of the world have been an ongoing threat for many societies for a very long time. Although armed conflict over the Jordan River has been escalating for the last 55 years, it is more of a holy issue than a resource issue, but diminishing supplies may intensify the situation. The Jordan carries less water every year and rising populations contributes to the water becoming more unclean as time passes. Does this mean that conflict must increase as well?
Dr. David Myers defines conflict in its simplest terms, “a perceived incompatibility of actions or goals” (Myers, 2010, p. 484). In its most positive sense conflict can indicate an element of caring, involvement, and commitment in the individual. Further, the words “peace” or “peacemaking” do not always have to be preceded by the word “war.” Conflict may be hard to avoid because it finds its origins in individual perception. Perceptions are influenced by innumerable factors in any given situation and the possibilities for conflict are just as many in number. Being consciously aware of the hugely influential role individual perception has on conflict, though may assist in preventing the escalation of conflict into all out war. Dr. Myers calls peace, “the outcome of creatively managed conflict,” “a condition marked by low levels of hostility and aggression and by mutually beneficial relationships” (Myers, 2010, p. 484). If perception can be shifted to a common purpose, a shared situation, perhaps the words “war” and “peace” will someday not be so synonymous.
Nipping and Cultivating
Business analyst and writer, Stephen Covey, tells us to, “Begin with the end in mind” (Covey, 2010, p. 1). If researchers and theorists have been able to determine that most wars and conflicts end in peace agreements, why not focus on preventing factors that exacerbate conflict before they escalate into deadly wars? Stopping wars before they start should be the ultimate goal. However, in the Middle East, especially along the Jordan, where the wars have been raging for years, prevention takes on an entirely new meaning. Prevention must begin in the midst of social norms, in the midst of war. Children growing up in communities torn by war cannot help but have very strong feelings and attitudes about their situation. All individual perception is formed through memories and experiences associated with our parental and social environments from birth (Myers, 2010). Preventing conflict, especially in these societies must begin with careful cultivation of perception. Seeds of Peace is an organization based in the United States that is working to cultivate peace all over the world. Founded in 1993 Seeds of Peace is dedicated to “empowering young leaders from regions of conflict with the leadership skills required to advance reconciliation and coexistence” (Seeds of Peace, 2010, About Us). Young people from Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Pakistan, South Asia and many other regions of the world come together for summer camp in Maine every year. More than 43,000 young people from war torn areas of the world come together and grow to know and love one another on a personal basis. The lines between “us and them” are shifting ever so slightly. Perhaps someday conflict may be seen as a precursor of creative and mutually, beneficial change rather than violence.
Carroll, B. A. “Peacemaking.” Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy. Ed. Richard Dean Burns, Alexander DeConde, and Fredrik Logevall. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 30 Oct. 2010.
Covey, S. R. (2010). Stephen R. Covey website home page. https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits-habit2.php. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
Myers, D.G. (2010) Social psychology, (Tenth Edition) McGraw Hill Companies
Water is running out: How inevitable are international conflicts? International Regional Information Networks (IRIN) (2006) WorldPress, October 23, 2006. http://www.worldpress.org/Asia/2533.cfm. Retrieved October 31, 2010
Seeds of Peace (2010) Seeds of peace.org, About us. http://www.seedsofpeace.org/about. Retrieved October 31, 2010.