IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

A “preview”

I am writing a chapter for a textbook on peace studies.  Here is a draft of the first few paragraphs:

“The world continues to change at a bewildering pace. At the time of writing regimes in place for decades have been swept away or are forced to barricade themselves behind walls and arms, their legitimacy fading day by day.  Adding these events to the list of far-reaching, largely unanticipated developments of the past 50-60 years (from decolonization, through the end of the Cold War and emergence of terrorism, etc..) we find grounds for both optimism and pessimism.  New forces for change are being liberated, but often in the context of violent, not to say savage conflict.  Therefore—and somewhat paradoxically–in an era when the likelihood of inter-state war, while still present, is reduced to an unprecedented degree in modern history, the problem of peace, understood broadly, is very much still with us.

Thinking and writing about international relations has always evolved in reaction to such major changes in world events:  the Cold War pushed forward thinking about strategic studies, the founding and evolution of the United Nations had a major impact on scholarship about international law and organization, etc… Concomitantly, the current wave (after wave) of intra-national or subnational conflict has generated much new thinking about conflict resolution and peace building processes.   It can be argued, that  considered as a body of work , the field of peace and conflict studies can now provide quite plausible and convincing answers to many of humanity’s perennial questions about the causes of war and the conditions of peace.  If true, this is no mean achievement.

One compelling finding in Peace Studies is a reaffirmation of the ancient spiritual principle found in nearly all faith traditions that inner and outer peace form a whole:  over the longer run you cannot have one without the other.   In other words, real peace can only be made and sustained by peaceful people.  The reader should not be misled or put off by the seemingly simplistic or idealistic tone of this statement.  It is put forth as a profound truth with very far reaching implications for humanity’s current struggle to find a way out of the spiraling violence and apparent chaos of our era.   It is an affirmation that while there are key social, political and economic dimensions to peace, there is also, and perhaps most importantly, a spiritual dimension.  Further, what happens at this level is reflected at the others.  No one would argue that the more exoteric elements of peace should be ignored, far from it:  but until it is possible to change the underlying values and consciousness that gave rise to and sustained violence at any level, it will be difficult if not impossible to consolidate any apparent progress toward lasting peace.  From this perspective, as the preamble to the UNESCO constitution states, wars do indeed “begin in the minds of men…”, and disarmament has to go beyond reducing and eliminating weapons to disarming the hearts and souls of women and men.  Or, put again simply:  peace has to include the whole person, and the whole person has a spiritual nature whose needs must be understood and met.”

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June 27, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. The first key to spritiual wholeness was attributed to Socrates–“Know thyself.” Without that knowledge and acceptance of who we are we cannot look outside ourselves clearly or understand others.
    The second is similar–knowing our relationship with what we see as the highest universal power. To many this is God, or a god. To others it may be a greater life force or purpose. Without it, however, we are as it were a ship at sea without a rudder.
    Peace does not depend on everyone thinking identically, but from the ability to see and value the needs and interests of others. Rather than being the surrender of values, it is the recognition of common ones.

    Comment by Les Christiansen | July 2, 2011 | Reply


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