Thursday, March 31, 2011

Week Twelve: How does understanding conflict as a progression allow for a use of a wide variety of approaches in addressing conflict?

            Though I had not been formally introduced to the concept, throughout this semester I think I have naturally been thinking about the concept of conflict as a progression. Lederach explores this concept in depth in his chapter “An Integrated Framework for Peacebuilding” (73). Central to this integrated framework is the ability to “[view] conflict as a progression,” which in turn “provides a set of lenses for rethinking time” (Lederach 78). Essentially, what Lederach means by “rethinking time” is that in peacebuilding, the concept of time is not neatly separated into categories such as past, present, and future; rather, peacebuilding requires an understanding of time that transcends these categories. Lederach argues that understanding conflict as a progression enables us to see that “quick fixes in protracted conflict rarely lead to sustainable processes or solutions” (78). As a result, these short-term solutions must be done in a larger context that includes “the painstaking tasks of relationship and confidence building, and…the design of and preparation for social change, which ultimately provide a basis for sustaining conflict transformation” (78). Lederach’s concept of conflict as a progression is best understood in relation to the concept of peacebuilding as a process; just as conflict goes through many stages and takes many years to progress and develop, peacebuilding must also be understood in a parallel sense. Lederach describes the design of a successful peacebuilding process as “the unfolding of an ‘architecture’ that moves through stages,” recognizing that peace must develop in stages just as conflict did.
            Within this framework, and within these stages of progression, Lederach lays out a vision of appropriate and timely tasks for peacebuilding. For example, in the early stages of peacebuilding, it is important to manage crisis on the personal and relational level and address the root causes of the conflict on the systemic level (Lederach 80). However, addressing the long-term stages of peacebuilding (20+ years down the road) requires attention to the vision for social change as well as prevention of further crises (Lederach 77, 80). Thus, understanding conflict and peacebuilding in terms of progression provides a framework for identifying “the strategic what” as well as “the strategic when” of peacebuilding (Schirch 64, 75). Overall, this concept of conflict and peacebuilding as a progression has helped me think more strategically about what types of peacebuilding initiatives are appropriate in each stage of conflict or peacebuilding. While we have been learning all semester that conflict transformation demands long-term commitment, this chapter was a helpful resource for mapping out what that long-term commitment will look like in each stage of conflict and peace. As peace evolves, so must peacebuilders and peacebuilding initiatives, “[maintaining] form over time yet [having] no rigidity of structure” (Lederach 84). Commitment+flexibility=sustainability.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Week Eleven: Choose one of the four areas Schirch diagrams in her map of peacebuilding on pg. 26. Describe it thoroughly and explain why it is important for overall peacebuilding.

            As I was reading, I highlighted the areas on Schirch’s chart where I feel called to get involved. The two strongest areas for me are transforming relationships and building capacity, with some interest in waging conflict nonviolently as well (Schirch 26). For this journal, I would like to focus on the area of transforming relationships. I am drawn to this area of peacebuilding because it includes conflict transformation and restorative justice, two aspects of peacebuilding that have shaped my understanding of peace and my call as a peacemaker. In Schirch’s chapter on transforming relationships, she explains that “a core task of peacebuilding is to transform relationships so that those who harm and destroy move toward meeting human needs and ensuring rights” (45). She also goes on to say this area of peacebuilding is illustrated by the biblical concept of shalom, which is another reason why I am likely drawn to working in the area of relational transformation (45). Just as the biblical vision of shalom is a vision of wholeness and well-being, this area of peacebuilding has a vision of transforming relationships of conflict into positive, life-giving relationships.
Using a diagram, Schirch explains that these types of right relationships are made possible by healing trauma that has occurred, transforming the conflict that exists, and doing justice (46). These needs must be met in order for right relationships to take root, so this area of peacebuilding encompasses the practices that meet these specific needs. First, trauma healing programs create space for victims to name their trauma, work through its effects, regain control over their lives, and address causes of the trauma (Schirch 48). Next, conflict transformation encompasses various processes which allow for parties to identify issues, build new relationships, and come up with solutions together that hopefully include a shared future (Schirch 48-49). Finally, programs such as restorative justice, transitional justice, and policymaking address the need for justice so that right relationships can take root (Schirch 51-53). Restorative justice is especially appropriate for the peacebuilding area of transforming relationships as it views justice as a relational matter and seeks to meet the needs of the victims as well as the offenders so that healing and well-being is possible for all parties (Schirch 52). Transitional justice is a process that takes place “in post-war contexts where governmental authority is weak or non-existent, particularly societies emerging from war of dictatorship” (Schirch 52-53). Thus, transitional justice fits under the category of transforming relationships because it seeks to transform and reshape the relationships within post-conflict societies (Schirch 53). Finally, policymaking is part of transforming relationships because transforming policy means transforming the relationship between people and the government (Schirch 53-54).
Together, these peacebuilding practices provide a framework to work toward transformed, life-giving relationships in places of conflict. Personally, I am drawn to this work and feel called to this particular area of peacebuilding. I am especially drawn to restorative justice, which is the most promising and holistic vision of justice I have encountered so far as I have studied peace & justice issues in a variety of contexts. Overall, I appreciate this area of peacebuilding because more than just processes or programs, these are invitations for parties in conflict to imagine and create a future together, and that is the work of shalom.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Week Ten: How do you think about peace? Can you determine your metaphor for it?

            In Webel’s article, I found it fascinating to read the official definitions of peace. The one that most struck me was Webster’s definition of peace “a state of public quiet” (Webel 6). I immediately marked this in my reading and jotted the word, “eh?” in the margin. This definition in particular goes against my understanding of peace. Especially in Peacemaking Seminar, I have focused on being heard as a mark of shalom, the type of peace for which I strive. So, defining peace as “a state of public quiet” (Webel 6) indicates to me that people are silent rather than having their voices heard and affirmed. In a way, silence can be compared to negative peace— the kind of peace that exists when manifest violence ceases. But shalom calls us to move beyond the silence, beyond a lack of physical violence— into a space where voices are heard and safety is felt by all, a space where silence is replaced by symphony.
            As for my metaphor for peace, it is two-fold. First, the biblical vision of shalom is a central part of the way I think about peace. Shalom has many facets— peace with justice, well-being, needs being met, safety, trust, equality, and community—these are all things I mean when I say the word “peace.” However, shalom is more of a vision than a metaphor. Thus, the second aspect of my metaphor for peace is more concrete; in reading over my personal theory-practice template this week, I noticed that I repeatedly used plant metaphors in relation to peace. I noticed phrases like, “so peace can take root,” “the seeds of shalom,” and “so peace can grow.” It is interesting that I would use plant metaphors for peace, since I know virtually nothing about plants; however, I like where my mind has gone with this for two reasons. First, this seems especially appropriate since my conflict metaphor is water. It is quite an exciting coincidence that my metaphors for conflict and peace are interconnected and interdependent. Just like water allows plants to grow, conflict can be the beginning of peace. And just as plants need water to live, conflict is a healthy and normal part of societies; in fact, conflict can result in positive growth just as water does for plants. Also, just as too much water can kill a plant, conflict that gets out of control also damages societies. The second reason I like my plant metaphor is because the process of planting requires the identification and/or creation of physical space for the new plant to grow. One valuable lesson I have learned this semester is that the same is true for peacebuilding— for peace to truly take root, one must carefully identify and/or create a physical space for reconciliation and transformation. Also, just as one must study and know the type of plant in order to grow it successfully, peacebuilders must also study and know the context in which they work. Just as different plants need different things to grow, the peacebuilding process is different in each context. And finally— just as gardening requires much patience and care— so, too, does peacebuilding call for long-term commitment. As peacebuilders, we plant the seeds of shalom and we wait— watering, watching, and trusting.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Extra Credit (Week Eight): What do you identify as your primary discipline? How do you see this as fitting with Peace and Conflict Studies?

            “Peace studies flows across many disciplines” (Alger 299). This has certainly been the case in my life, with Peace & Conflict Studies sharing a reciprocal relationship with my primary discipline of Biblical Studies. My Peace & Conflict Studies minor has served as motivation to explore themes of peace and justice through the lens of Scripture; on the other hand, my study of Scripture has also contributed to my understanding of peace. As a whole, my academic experience, combining Biblical Studies and Peace & Conflict Studies, has proven the value of the interdisciplinary study of peace. In my experience, both disciplines have been strengthened because of their interaction.
            Looking beyond my undergraduate education at Bluffton, I also see Biblical Studies and Peace & Conflict Studies fitting together in the long-term. I hope to pursue master’s degrees in both Bible and Peace Studies, intentionally continuing the relationship between these two disciplines. Ultimately, I imagine one of the disciplines will become my more dominant career, but it is difficult for me to imagine one without the other. If I become a biblical scholar, I would be a biblical scholar with a focus on peace and justice. And if I pursue peacebuilding as a career, my theory and practice would be unashamedly rooted in Scripture.
            On the whole, the combination of Biblical Studies and Peace & Conflict Studies has proven for me to be far more than an interdisciplinary academic project; in fact, the place where these two disciplines meet has greatly contributed to my identity and self-understanding. While the academic results have been positive ones, it is the personal results that have been life-changing. Like Druckman, I celebrate the interdisciplinary nature of Peace & Conflict Studies, and I am living proof that the interplay between the “complexity” and “coherence” of the field is ultimately life-giving and refreshing (305).

Week Eight: How do conflict transformation and conflict resolution differ?

            Conflict transformation and conflict resolution differ in many ways, but most of the differences are explained by their different goals. The goal of conflict resolution is negative peace, or the absence of manifest, physical conflict. On the other hand, conflict transformation strives for positive peace, which is characterized by the absence of structural violence and the presence of social justice (Galtung 183). While both conflict resolution and conflict transformation work toward a vision of peace, the visions are very different, which naturally leads to differences in theory and practice.
            First, conflict transformation and conflict resolution address different aspects of conflict. While conflict resolution seeks to end overt and manifest violence, conflict transformation says that “it is not only the gun that kills. Lack of access to basic means of life and dignity does the same thing” (Assefa 42- CT Handouts). Johannes Botes addresses this reality, explaining that since “violence has come to mean far more than physically violent behavior,” conflict transformation addresses the structural roots in addition to the physically violent aspect of the conflict (273). Since oppressive structures do violence and cause conflict, conflict transformation “goes beyond conflict resolution in providing a deeper and more permanent level of change” (Botes 275).
            Another notable difference between conflict resolution and conflict transformation is the time commitment of the work. While conflict resolution is often a more immediate and short-term solution, conflict transformation is a long-term commitment. Because the goal of conflict transformation is create just systems, structures, and relationships, the nature of conflict transformation “implies a long-term peace-building process” (Botes 277). John Paul Lederach contrasts the long-term time commitment of conflict transformation with the short-term expectations of conflict resolution, saying that conflict resolution “does not capture that on-going nature nor the need for a relational ebb and flow” (51- CT Handouts). Thus, for Lederach, conflict transformation provides the flexibility within a long-term commitment that is needed for successful peacebuilding and structural transformation.
            One of the things I have most appreciated about this class so far has been the opportunity to learn about the differences between conflict resolution and conflict transformation. I had a preference for conflict transformation before I could articulate why, but as I have learned about the differences I have found myself consistently drawn to the theory and practice of conflict transformation. Addressing structural violence is one of my own priorities in peacebuilding, and I also prefer the long-term commitment of conflict transformation. I, along with Lederach, firmly believe that this long-term commitment provides the best framework for flexible, creative, and transformative peacebuilding efforts.