MESSENGERS OF PEACE

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Last week we wrote about understanding conflicts and the four dimensions of conflict and its effects on growth and development. This week the focus is on dealing with conflicts creatively. As continuous conflict can be if not properly managed becomes the source of serious and intractable problems stemming from poverty, unemployment particularly among young people, diseases and drugs to violence.

I always loved a peaceful environment, ever since I was a child. I started from age 13 to mediate in conflicts among friends at school and communities. Overtime, I have come to understand that dealing with conflict in a constructive way is an involved process for which there are no sure guides; dealing with conflicts requires the formulation of creative alternatives, based on past experiences and knowledge adapted at the same time to new realities and challenges that change with each new context.

In MOP, we have also come to understand that managing conflicts is a massive task and is a process that must be invented anew for every situation. A problem that is generatively complex cannot be solved with a pre-packed solution from the past. Carl Rogers argues that a solution has to be worked out as the situation unfolds, through creative, emergent, generative process-“What is most personal is most universal” he went on to stipulate.

Dealing with conflicts or managing conflicts creatively is no rocket science. All that is required is a strong political will and wheel, leadership, unshakable commitment towards peace accords and reconciliation and initiatives based on consensus building, and the strengthening of the rule of law. All are key foundations for critical and durable peace. Accord 23 emphasis the needs to concentrate more on people, on repairing and building relationships among communities, and between communities and states; and on developing participatory approaches.

At the national level, managing conflicts requires the formation of proper public institutions, such as an honest police force, uncorrupted judiciary, functioning schools and medical services and a strong civil society. There is an urgent need to foster inclusive political settlements, strengthen people’s security by generating employment and improving livelihoods; support rebuilding initiatives and increase people’s access to justice as exemplified by the Palava hut mechanism. (A programme designed to respond to people’s concerns). National government need put in place mechanism for monitoring peace accords and build the capacity of its civil societies to prevent a slide back into conflict. The early warning programme is another good example of national programmes for young people.

At the personal and community level, dealing with conflicts would require an open way of communicating, talking, listening, free enterprise, espoused tolerance and creating new realities.  The way to listen is to stop talking. Our biggest impediment, as young people, to hearing is our impulse to talk rather than to listen, to make judgment rather than observation.

Kind words are more attractive than harsh words; gratitude is more attractive than comparism and patience is more attractive than rudeness. According to our very own Matenneh-Rose L. Dunbar “instead of bullets we speak love and proclaim 10 years of Democracy…” (See Observer poetry on “Liberia Our Peace” printed in the Daily Observer of October 10, 2013)

In the words of Carolyn Lukens Meyer, President and Founder, America Speaks, “the world we live in requires that we all take responsibility for the good of the whole, our collective future depends on it”.

David Augusburger once said “We can reach the point of enjoying differences once we learn how to understand the culture, psychological and social background from which these emerge”

People have come to learn the importance of peace as a result of the work we at Messengers of Peace (MOP) Liberia and likeminded organizations are doing with the peace clubs in schools and communities. We want to do more, because there are many things we still need to address in this country to get the buy in of young people. If I could have peace as my true passion at the early age of 13, so could you.

Bill Torbert of Boston College said “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”. Torbert’s axiom means that we can never help address a problem situation from a comfortable position of uninvolved innocence. The most important point about this piece would be: even if you’re not part of the problem, you can be part of the solution. Get involved!  We, as young people, have zero leverage for changing the way things are, the Liberia we want, if we cannot see how, what we are doing or not doing, is contributing to things being the way they are.

We cannot develop creative solutions to complex human problems unless we see, hear, open up to and include the humanity of all the stakeholders and ourselves. The focus should be not only on ideas but on feelings, values and intentions.

Next week we shall look at partnering for peace and how you could be meaningfully involved and engaged. Until then, get inspired, involved and engaged in peace building initiatives.

Peace first above all, Peace First.  Let Peace Prevail!

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