Peace on My Mind

This past Monday I had the opportunity to attend the Student Peace Conference at OSU.  It was a really nice event, and it was exciting to see so many young people interested in learning about peacemaking.  There was not much sustained conversation about any one topic, but I thought I would pass along some of the various intriguing ideas I took away from the event:

  • During a workshop on conflict resolution, the presenter offered a framework for understanding how we make decisions during times of conflict.  This framework used a graph with one axis labeled “Concern for Goal” and the other labeled “Concern for Relationship.”  Using animal imagery (there’s that hermeneutical community again), the presenter had us think about different plot points on that graph.  For example, the “turtle” style of conflict management would be low on both goals and relationship, thus illustrated by a turtle withdrawing itself into its own shell.  Any framework built so heavily on metaphors and strict dichotomies is going to be flawed; nevertheless, I found it to be an interesting way to think about how we handle conflict. 
  • During the panel discussion, someone used a phrase that I had never considered before when they referred to a “peace industrial complex” in contrast to the military industrial complex.  I have often heard people talk about the ideal that we ought to be working towards peace just as hard (or harder) as many others work towards war, but I had never thought about the idea of a peace industrial complex before.  This challenged me to think about how often we relegate peacemaking only to the realms of the personal without imagining what it would look like for peacemaking to be infused in all the systems of our society.  How can we create industry and economy that are purposeful in producing peace rather than war? 
  • In a related discussion, the idea of “sustainable peace” was brought up.  One of the panelists used this idea to point out that the specific goals of nonviolent movements can never be the end point.  For example, the passage of the Civil Rights Act was an important milestone, but certainly did not fix all the injustices that gave rise to it.  We must always continue to be peacemakers because conflict arises out of each new situation that is created. 
  • In response to a question on spirituality and nonviolence, one of the panelists noted that peacemaking is hard and often isolating work that requires a community of support in order to be sustainable in any meaningful way.  Another panelist stressed that rituals and other symbolic acts can help give the work of peacemaking a deeper meaning.  How do the rituals and symbolic acts of CMC prepare us for sustaining the work of peacemaking?

Speaking of rituals and symbols, I hope all of you can join us tomorrow (Thursday) evening at 6:30 for a Maundy Thursday service.  A light meal will be served, and much of the evening will be led by Jessica Shimberg, Spiritual Leader of The Little Minyan Kehilla. She will guide us through the significance of the Passover celebration, which corresponds with the Christian Holy Week.