By Yale Jones
The Institute for Economics and Peace states, “Peace is more than just the absence of violence. Peace is ensuring there is justice for all.” They state elsewhere that “positive peace” creates the optimal environment for humanity to flourish. Another formulation is that peace is not the absence of conflict, but the maintenance of a safe and secure environment capable of providing for people’s basic human needs in a safe and sustainable way. So, one must ask what are the underlying causes of conflict? Rotary International, which includes promoting peace as one of its signature causes, posits that underlying causes of conflict include poverty, inequality, ethnic tension, lack of access to education, and unequal distribution of resources. Addressing all of these issues is necessary, but not, in my mind sufficient, when discussing peace building. In any conflict situation, be it interpersonal, local or global, a sufficient number of individuals must become peaceful within themselves and in their actions. In Matthew 5:44, the writer of the Gospel quotes Jesus as saying, “…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” This, I submit, is where peace building must start.
That said, what does it mean to love one’s enemy? An example: Aziz Khamisa came to this after his son was shot and killed in 1995 by a fourteen-year-old boy, whom he now loves: “Sustained goodwill creates friendship. Sustained friendship creates trust. Sustained trust creates empathy. Sustained empathy creates compassion. Sustained compassion creates peace.” “Peace comes from our hearts with forgiveness.” Our own prejudices, biases, ethnic and religious intolerance, selfishness, greed, lust for power, fear of the other, projection of our own shadows onto others, and more are the greatest obstacles to peace making. Indeed, the very concept of an enemy, the sustained belief that another is an enemy, is the central pillar of and justification for violence and conflict. The retributive notion of an eye for an eye, dating back to Chapter 24 of Leviticus was repudiated by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Equally succinctly, Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
The willingness to even threaten an eye for an eye keeps the parties in a perpetual state of unresolved conflict. Dr. Frederic Luskin, Director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project has stated that our desire to be right, to punish others, or to maintain prolonged anger or resentment has no positive use. The key to peace is forgiveness, which is a day to day decision. It is the path to kindness. Ken Cloke, founder of Mediators Beyond Borders, posits that the continued pursuit of our own expectations leads to and perpetuates conflict. What is the alternative? I suggest these steps: Listen to the one with whom you are in conflict. Truly listen, without preparing a response as you do so, without thinking, “But, but, but.” Try to hear the other person’s aspirations, feelings, needs. Open your heart.
- Search for what you have in common, starting with the humanity of each person or side.
- Look at your own stereotyping, prejudices, etc. How are you keeping the other person in a box?
- Let go of the belief that you are correct. The other person feels it to the same degree. If you don’t let go of that belief and search for something higher, the conflict won’t be resolved.
- Forgive any offence done to you.
- Act with compassion, kindness and generosity.
If we as individuals and nations can truly do these things and place as much value on meeting the needs of others as we do on our own, peace is possible.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85hbMtegrLc
About Yale Jones
U4C Blog Contributor & Supporter
Yales Jones is a retired attorney who lives with his wife in Taos, New Mexico. He is an active Rotarian and chair of the Rotary District 5520 Peace Committee. Rotarian and chair of the Rotary District 5520 Peace Committee. Yale and his wife Shanti have been great supporters of U4C and Rotary Peace Fellows.
In the photo, Yale and Shanti Jones in Taos, New Mexico