Thursday, January 20, 2011

Week Two: What approach(es) do you most often have to conflict? Refer to Schirch’s essay.

              In many ways, I approach conflict relationally. In line with this approach to conflict, I often focus on structural injustice as a cause of conflict (Schirch 1). I also view conflict as a primarily relational issue, and as such I seek to transform conflict through relationships. Thus, Burton’s approach to “conflict prevention” through “the positive promotion of environments conducive to collaborative relationships,” resonated with my approach to conflict and its transformation (Schirch 6). Further, Schirch explains that Burton’s approach seeks to “construct societal structures that allow for relationships that fulfill basic human needs” (7). This quote in particular reminded me of the biblical vision of shalom, which is foundational to my understanding of peace. So, in many ways, the relational approach resonates with the ways in which I understand and seek to transform conflict.
            However, the symbolic approach to conflict is the closest to my own. To me, the symbolic approach seems to take the relational approach one step further. While the relational approach seeks to balance relationships and improve communication, the symbolic approach is an invitation to imagine entirely new ways to be in relationship and communicate (Schirch 1). The symbolic approach says that “building peace requires transforming worldviews and identities” (Schirch 11), which has been my experience in studying and striving to live peace. For me, this worldview transformation has taken place in the context of education, studying peace in a way that has expanded my mind. Just as the symbolic approach holds that “conflict begins because humans perceive the world differently” (Schirch 11), for me, peace has also begun because I have perceived the world differently through education, through transformation of my worldview. Overall, by “[working] with the worldviews of people in conflict” (Schirch 15), the symbolic approach creates space for possibility, for transformation, and ultimately for peace.
            As a whole, Schirch’s essay helped me understand that different approaches to conflict lead to different solutions for conflict. And perhaps more importantly, it helped me identify my approach to conflict, which is critical, as my approach to conflict will shape my response to conflict. Overall, the visionary, invitational qualities of the symbolic approach resonate with me. For it is in the act of invitation— inviting those in conflict to see the world and one another in a new way— that we plant the seeds of peace.

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