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RACS / Conflict  / In Pursuit of Peace: Understanding the Value of Peace and the Peacemaker

In Pursuit of Peace: Understanding the Value of Peace and the Peacemaker

The instrumental value of peace is often amplified in the absence of it. And sadly, we don’t always realise the necessity of peace until it is removed through violence, various forms of conflict in relationships, hopelessness, and even anxiety. Lorna Balie explores the value of peace and the fundamental role of the peacemaker.

Peace, which can be regarded as an individual’s subjective experience of inner calm, stability and contentment, is an ideal that can also be experienced and achieved in relationships, communities, and society at large.

Over the years, I have increasingly recognised the value of peace and have developed a deeper appreciation for it, often in its absence. Peace has become an anchor that guides and directs me along the best path for my life: the pathway of peace. The pathway of peace offers life, clarity, stability, and contentment — ideals many of us strive toward, not only as individuals but as society as a whole. 

The desire and search for peace have led to the proliferation of research within peace studies, as well as a multitude of improved approaches to peacemaking and peacebuilding.

Various forms of interventions can be used to achieve the ideal value of peace within relationships, communities, and societies. But first, we need to elucidate what peace entails. Johan Gultang, the father of peace studies, distinguishes between negative peace and positive peace.

Negative peace is described as the absence of violence in the form of a ceasefire or the end of a war. However, beyond negative peace, more needs to be achieved. Positive peace is, therefore, the absence of violence and the restoration of relationships, the enactment of human rights, equality, and equity.

Peacemaking and peacebuilding are different strategies, approaches and processes of attaining both negative and positive peace. Peacemaking may employ alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation, negotiation, and arbitration. Peacebuilding, on the other hand, is the process of building on the foundations of the peace resolutions to secure peace through structures, systems, and institutions that may embody these resolutions and sustain peace within societies.

What often becomes vital in the search and attainment of peace, is the nuanced skills and characteristics of the peacemaker. But what constitutes a good peacemaker? I have learned that the peacemaker’s ability to be trusted, to connect, restore, and rebuild relationships are key. This requires an awareness of the self, the other, as well as the context. 

The awareness of the self is the awareness of one’s intersectional identity — where power and disadvantage intersect and influence how we are perceived, how we perceive others, and how we are received. The peacemaker’s internal world — their beliefs, values and perceptions, often influence the other, or their awareness and their relation to the other. The peacemaker, therefore, has to ensure that their beliefs, values, perceptions and interpersonal skills align with trustworthy behaviour. 

The peacemaker’s awareness of the other and the context requires relationship-building and time because, without a clear understanding of the context, credibility can go out of the window. 

The peacemaker, through time, trial and error, can acquire these “difficult to quantify” skills which are vital for any peace intervention. A skilled peacemaker is therefore central to the peacemaking process, for without them, peace in any form, can neither be achieved nor maintained.

Lorna Balie

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