IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Going deeper into “sports and peace”

The post reposted below is interesting in and of itself; but it is also interesting because it shows how at least one researcher is going deeper into a topic that has, in many respects, been taken for granted:  specially, sports and can help improve relations between/among communities in conflict.  Here, Ms. Zahorsky is asking some very specific questions about how this can happen, when this can best be done and with what consequences.  For me, this is, in several respects, represents the “next stage” in peace-related research.



The When of Sport and Peace

Notes from Belfast, N. Ireland….

Sport is used at many levels – individual, communal, and internationally. It is used in places all around the world from soccer fields in South Africa to basketball courts in Jerusalem. Where and who a program works with are usually fairly evident. What is less often discussed is the “when” of sports programs. What temporal space do these programs fill? Where along a transition from conflict to peace are the being used? When are they most effective?

For must of our research this summer, we are dealing with “post-conflict” settings. I, like most in the field, tend to avoid the term post-conflict knowing how insufficient it is in describing reality. However, I use it here to suggest that these areas are in a state past full-out combat or are in a period following the peak in violence.

That being said, “peace” is also a misnomer. The “peace” walls in Belfast are the most stark example I have seen of Galtung’s “negative peace.” To “keep the peace”, these physical divisions are topped with spikes and barbed wire, they are decorated with sectarian murals, messages of peace, and graffiti. They are besieged by litter. The walls create a backdrop to small suburbs around the city, they cut through school yards and stand ominously between the narratives of both sides. They bar cross-community violence and reconciliation at the same time.

Sports are currently being used in this “when”, a timeframe of negative peace, to change the nature of community relations. To move through and beyond the walls, both literally and figuratively, to bring young people together and then send ripples of change through the community, from the children to their coaches and teachers, to their parents and families, to their friends and their families. All the while, this “when” remains very important as it is a lull of violence and illusion of peace that enables programs to bring groups together but it is the proximity to renewed violence that calls for peacebuilding. When I visited PeacePlayers International in Belfast, they showed sites where they had crossed the street between two schools or through a Peace Wall to hold “twinnings” – joint basketball practices with Catholic and Protestant youth. These short distances represented huge leaps for the community. To an outsider, it almost seemed to easier, but I soon realized that in order to have an hour long basketball practice they had to overcome invisible barriers, held up by longstanding narratives of the “other”, to work towards reconciliation and friendship.

As I continue to explore sports and peacebuilding in various contexts, I will keep in mind that it is not just the “where” and “who” that we need to consider, but also, to explore the “when”.


June 6, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: