(Read the following short college essay by a former John Looney Intern now completing a degree in Conflict Management and Environmental Science.)
PEACEBUILDING is a unique part of the conflict transformation process in that it can exist in various stages of conflict. While most often utilized in areas of ongoing conflict, it can also occur in a state of relative peace as a means to continue to keep a nonviolent atmosphere. While peacebuilding is valuable, it has strengths and weak-nesses, just like peacemaking and
peacekeeping. It differs from the aforementioned processes because peacebuilding involves with the locals, and addresses the psychological and emotional effects of violence. It involves an intense amount of time, energy and planning. Often carried
out by volunteers, the long term commitment can be a big hurdle.
To me the most significant aspect about peacebuilding is that anyone can participate. It does not require significant knowledge, money or connections. Certain initiatives or nonviolent accompaniment, such as "Peace Brigades International", do require training, however training is accessible to anyone who desires it. Other civilian groups are also available, religious or not; they provide avenues of involvement in advocating peace and justice. I have personal experience volunteering and then working with the American Friends Service Committee, a social action group founded by Quakers, committed to the
"Inherent worth and dignity in every human being." I know how easy it is to get involved with groups like this, and how fulfilling it can be to be part of a simple peacebuilding effort.
Citizen peacebuilding reminds me of a theory I learned about in The Alternative to Violence Course. The Hundredth Monkey effect is an idea developed in the 1970s, and written about in regards to peace by Ken Keyes Jr in his book, The Hundredth
Monkey. It is a theory in which any idea or action (such as peace) is possible once it reaches a certain threshold of recognition. If one person starts a nonviolent action, per say, it can catch on and have a domino effect. At a certain point, a critical mass is reached, and the "hundredth monkey" can spark the behavior to spread to all. It is a simple idea that translates to me as everyone can make a difference, and even I can be that "hundredth monkey" that breaks the threshold
Submitted by Serena Hanna