Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Community peace is International peace

Community peacebuilding has been a very important part of my understanding of peace for the past 15 years. This began with the understanding and importance for inner peace within the individual. Recently there has been a great deal of research and attention put upon the local capacity for peacebuilding.

Even though people have a desire to be on the cutting edge of information, community peacebuilding and using local capacity to sustain peace is as old as human life. One of the most quoted items of such understanding is the one that states “act locally, think globally”. Furthermore we can look into the philosophies of all religions which seek to enhance the inner persons ability to be peaceful.

As we look at situations around the world we must seek out local capacities for peace. All too often we look to outside influences for peace such as the United Nations and/or the supposed powerful nations for solutions.

The website has been focusing on local efforts for peacebuilding, youth programs and the complexity which exists in efforts to sustainable peace. The lessons being learned in such research and information sharing relate to communities in conflict all over the world. The conflict maybe a community experiencing economic challenges in Canada, natural disasters in South Asia, political transitions in South America and even the cultural/religious challenges in the Middle East.

We often forget that most conflict begin within communities and spread. Once they spread the issues become international and the larger, global community gets involved. This is the exact reason Russia works so diligently at keeping the Syrian war an internal matter. Even though Syria began as an internal matter it quickly gained negative international support resulting in the destruction we have now. What we are left with is a two/multiple front war instead of a single front.

The community focus of peace is often called as too simplistic a view to be effective. It has been my experience that simplicity is exactly what people need when chaos surrounds them. Also, there is an equal danger in over complexity as we have experienced with Palestine and Israel.

One of the benefits of local peace efforts is that the people who live in the communities have a greater need and responsibility to see peace return. International organizations have similar goals but when it is all comes down to what matters, international actors can leave and do leave. The people who live in the communities do not always have such a luxury.

Just imagine if all the money spent on high level talks dealing with Israel and Palestine had been spent on local community efforts? The same can be said of the money spent to arm rebels and government in Syria.

We can make conflict as complex as possible or we can take it one step at a time. For a community peace approach, the individual is the first step for peace to be sustainable. Then the ripple effect or butterfly effect takes over.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Gangs for War and Gangs for Peace

Having the knowledge that there is a downward trend in the numbers of wars/violent conflicts gives a small amount of hope for peace. However, with each step towards the lowering the frequency of war I find my vigilance grows to have less violence. With that sentiment, I was greatly interested in to research the experiences of those in Latin America.

A few years ago the Mexican government took a very strong stand against gang violence. Well the expected gang response came to life. Once peaceful, tourist cities such as Monterrey began a very quick slide into chaos. The gang violence spread into Central American countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and continued on into South America.

There are a number of contributing factors for such a widespread connectivity. The factors of commonality are the drug trade and political/governmental distrust.  In short, corruption was/is a large problem for Latin America. In order to get past the distrust there had to be discussions which included everyone. This inclusion is a very difficult matter.

Often governments are unwilling or unable to meet with known criminals yet, that is exactly what needs to take place. In the case of El Salvador the religious avenue was a very attractive method to negotiate through. As these discussions were being put together, the government realized that years of war had built the distrust in politicians. The gang leaders realized that they were a large contributor to the continued decay of peace. Both the politicians and the gang leaders realized that the target audience for their messages had to be the youth.

Those revelations are ones that need to be emphasized in peace efforts. Such a mindset is one that will enable community programs to thrive and peace will be realized quicker and last longer. In another manner the blame for current chaos is shared not heaped upon others. In the case of El Salvador all sides understood their responsibility in allowing peace to be destroyed.

As the talks played out there were many issues that caused major problems. For some in the general public they thought that certain gang leaders were using violence to gain political power/favour. Others felt that gang members were being treated with greater respect than law abiding citizens. Now it just so happens that these are very common concerns in all peace efforts.

We can look what has taken place in Syria. The use of violence is a method to gain political power. We often hear the phrase that certain leaders do not negotiate with terrorists. How often has the president of Syria or the former president of Iran talked directly with any western leader? Such efforts for dialogue are circumvented through a maze of offices. On a similar level we have Egypt where a legitimate government is overthrown buy the military. Now we have another religious war breaking out even though peace was being asked for by the people.

The root cause for most of these wars rests in the hunger for power, control and inflexibility of mind. We see in the example of El Salvador how all sides kept blaming each other for the reality of violence. The violence could not stop until all sides understood their role and responsibility for continuation of violence. The same goes for what is taking place in Syria, Egypt, Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq, Columbia, Pakistan, and the list goes on.

As we learn of such efforts to peace, the methods and strategies are so easily understood. The difficulty is to act as perfectly peaceful as possible, this is our largest hurdle and that war begins in each of our minds, no matter where you live or religion you label yourself as. We (you the reader included) have made great strides in peace efforts and we must acknowledge that success. However the work is still in need as peace is still not a reality for many.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Was it the right thing to do in Egypt?

Was the coup in Egypt the right thing to do?

In a legal setting a coup is an illegal act so it has the impression of being a wrong act. The RUSA invasion of Iraq in 2003 is a perfect example of an illegal military overthrow and is equitable to what is taking place in Egypt.

Now for the other part of Egyptian situation (which the RUSA also leaned so heavily on in 2003) asks this question: When you see a disaster about to take place and you feel it is one that must be stopped before it becomes reality, at what point do you step in to stop that?

Such a question is the very essence of politics and one that will forever remain in the balance of peace, order and good governance. The argument will be framed by the direction, actions, decisions and the projected outcomes if the deposed government had remained in power balanced by the comfort level of the people to agree to such directions. In the case of Egypt the people were very uncomfortable with the direction of the legal government.

The people of Egypt wanted an open society and that reality (as the people of Egypt felt) was eroding very quickly. The direction of the government was seen as more controlling, be more strict in religious doctrine and ultimately less open than what was hoped for. The final act was the redrafting of the Egyptian constitution which reflected a more Islamist society. The people of Egypt were against any overt symbols of constraint.

As the government sought to implement a single religion unto all the people, the people peacefully fought back. Attempts were made to ease the people into an Islamist state yet the government did not understand the gravity of the peoples’ desire for a non-secular state.

The world has seen too many wars caused by religious domination ideology. We have come to a point where spirituality is a personal choice. At this stage we have universal rights which transcend borders and can form the foundations of all societies. Societies rooted in religious settings are slowly becoming extinct. The need for universal equality, law and treatment of individuals is now the reality for our future. We have progressed to the point where the strict adherence to any one religion at the destruction of another is understood as hypocrisy.

Furthermore the context of the region must be understood. The war in Syria can not be discounted, nor the politics of Tunisia, Libya and the lesser knowns such as Baharain, Yemen, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The people of Egypt have seen their future in these countries and that was not very well liked.

The irony here is that mob rule is not wanted yet democracy is mob rule and the mobs have spoken in Egypt three times. Once to kick out Mubarak, Once more to elect Mursi and another to kick Mursi out. Who is next in line for the boot?

Was it the right thing to do in kicking out the government? The people of Egypt thought so. For the rest of us we will debate that for the rest of time. The question that was in the minds of the Egyptian people was, we can avert a disaster if we act now or pay a very heavy toll later? They felt it was best to act now rather than face the possibility of paying later.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Spies and violence

The past few months have been a wild ride for those interested in world events. The continued shame of the RUSA spy saga reveals the reality of distrust among all countries. Add to the mix the continuation of the Egyptian unrest within the middle east unrest and the world has another moment to question current leadership.

The level of peaceful trust in the world has taken a very large hit. Overall trust is there, we trust that we will be spied upon, we trust violent opposition if authority is questioned and lastly there are a great many of us trust that nothing will change.

The spy saga and the violence are a reality for all of us. As we look to the future we must exercise the option to be peaceful. A peaceful society has no need for a spy agency and that is a reality we must all work to realize. To continue to practice and live with spy agencies is a reality of the most hypocritical elements.  With the spy ordeal, the only reason it exists is because everyone does it. This is a philosophy rooted within cultural relativism – everyone else is doing it? We are not children playing in the school yard.

The people are demanding more from our leaders of the world and they should be. As we continue on with the distrust we can understand why people are so easily brought to protests around the world. The people are asking for honesty and getting more deceit. The people are asking for more open politics and are getting closed doors.

These are the days where what was only a dream a few years ago can be realized. These are the days where there is enough disorder for youthful thought to take hold of power. These are the days where we make the friendships with each other that work to change the future. We must seek those connections and build trust. We have witnessed how the current functions under the old system of distrust, violence, threats and spies. We are living in a world that is falling apart.

We live in a world that glorifies war and violence while laughing at those who offer a world of peace. Yes there are a few that are held up as peaceful but just look at how everyone has dealt with the issues in Syria? The threat of violence in Egypt is now slowly emerging as people grab power and rule with iron fists. Such methods are the ways of the past. Changing these methods will take a great amount of mental effort and long term commitment. The best part is that we can make that change it we want to. At this point in time there is enough will to make a significant step towards that peaceful reality we all dream of.