10 Ethics of Peacebuilding
Click here for a 30-minute interview on how I apply these ethics in a variety of situations.
These are the ethics I attempt to use in all my work, including with the US military on security policy, with Mennonite institutions on sexual abuse, and with the Mennonite community on how we approach Israel and Palestine.
- Use a two-handed approach to peacebuilding: Affirm the humanity of others with an outstretched hand, and push for justice and speak truth as diplomatically as you can with the other hand signaling a stop to injustice.
- Put the dignity and humanity of all people at the center of all that you do. That includes both victims and oppressors, as well as bystanders.
- Talk and meet with everyone, from all sides of a conflict. Don’t be afraid of conflict. Conflict is a signal that there is something important to be discussed. Conflict signals a need for transformation and change.
- Don’t be neutral. Peacebuilding is partial to human rights, empowerment, and respect. Listening to all sides and recognizing their narrative does not require neutrality. Being respectful of all sides and committing to not demonizing those people with whom you disagree does not require neutrality.
- Be ready to change yourself. When you enter into dialogue with people you don’t agree with, you may learn new things. You may change your point of view. The main reason people don’t want to dialogue with others is they assume they hold the whole truth and they don’t want to have that challenged.
- Stand with victims. If someone is suffering, be prepared to listen to them and share in their suffering, and respond if they ask for help.
- Don’t idolize victims. Victims are hurt. They may want revenge or to hurt others. As a peacebuilder, remember your commitment to put the dignity and humanity of all people at the center.
- Don’t be afraid to be unpopular. Going into the heart of conflict and speaking about injustice makes people uncomfortable. Peacebuilding requires risks. Sticking your neck out to say something unpopular may result in getting cut down in public. Speaking about justice is the goal, not popularity.
- Recognize the intersectionality of power and justice issues. Power and privilege come in many forms. Racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, sexism, sexual abuse, heterosexism, classism, able-ism, economic justice, etc are all interrelated.
- Put forward positive alternatives. It is not enough to just say “war is not the answer” or to name injustice. If you don’t have positive alternatives, it may not be fair to raise an issue or critique.
These are very thoughtful. Thanks for sharing.
This is great wording for why we should approach, rather than avoid, conflict, even in our personal lives. It’s a good reminder and a much more eloquent way of stating it than I have been able to. Thanks for your wisdom and, as always, your refreshing perspective.