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.