Part 2: Peace
Peace: Two definitions seem worlds apart:
- the normal, nonwarring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world. (dictionary.com)
- harmony in personal relations (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Conversation, and the skills it requires, is important to peace. The first definition is incomplete if it does not include the second. Is “non-war” peace? For example, it is difficult to believe Syria and Israel maintain a peaceful condition just because their armies are not warring.
Communication between possible belligerent nations is vital before unleashing the destructive apparatuses of war and warfare. The United Nations is a governmental forum where nations can communicate about pressing issues as an effort to eliminate, or at least curtail, war. What about the people?
Following the practices of John Paul Lederach and Harold Saunders, we believe that communication is complicated, multi-layered, fragile, and essential for peace, and begins on the personal level. Daily conversations, what we say, how we say it, the words we choose, our tone, to whom we are speaking, and the issues discussed are important in the personal realm as well as the international scene.
An antagonistic conversation with someone tends to influence our overall view of that person, and others who share that person’s views. We may conclude that someone who disagrees with us is an idiot or worse. The idiot label taints whatever else that person, and those like them, says and does. It takes effort to have this label removed. Consequently, we shut down, do not listen to what people are saying, or understand their reasons. As such, we close off the real possibility of learning something, not to mention coming across as rude (we won’t make many friends that way), and no one will listen to us. If we ignore learning opportunities, then we fail to communicate, which is the key to overcoming disputes, and thus vital to harmony in personal relations.
In today’s world, personal relations extend beyond borders. They are powerful tools for seeing that country as a non-enemy. As like us–human. As such, we listen to them more, try to understand their perspectives, and wish to maintain or strengthen a relationship.
Going from individual relational harmony to international peace may seem a stretch, but harming people we know is more difficult than harming those we do not. This starts with communication, and the skills it demands.