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.

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