By Ilaneet Goren
Ilaneet is a facilitator, educator, social worker and Director of Workplace Learning and Development at Harmony Movement
The urgency of peace and peace education feels more palpable than ever. At a time when hate crimes and attacks on ethnoracial groups are on the rise in Canada, the International Day of Peace carries an ever bigger meaning. Established unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981, Peace Day is celebrated on September 21st through various events and activities worldwide. This year’s theme is dedicated to the right to peace based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As educators and social changemakers, this day is a chance to reflect on our role and responsibility in building peaceful relationships with others, with the Earth, and perhaps most importantly, with(in) ourselves.
(1) Peace with(in) You
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha
Our equity and inclusion workshops always start with focusing inward and reflecting on our values, biases, social location, and the power and privileges we hold. This is a useful practice for anyone working to bridge cultural and identity-based differences. As we expand our social and emotional awareness we realize that diversity education is not about the other: it’s about learning about and working on ourselves.
What if we approached peace in the same way and believed that “doing peace” has to start with “being at peace”?
Don’t think of introspection as ‘naval gazing’ but as a useful tool that educators and peace advocates can use to support their work and growth and help reduce burnout. Psychologists call this “peeling the onion:” delving deeper and deeper, layer by layer into our inner experience in order to gain insight to inform better decisions and actions. This can feel scary and vulnerable – not an easy or natural place to be for many of us. But with practice we can strengthen the vulnerability muscle, ultimately making us more resilient and open to new possibilities.
Here are some questions to start this off:
- Am I at peace with myself? What may be preventing me from being at peace?
- Is there an inner truth, voice or need within me that I am not honouring or expressing fully?
- What would it feel like if I fully lived my truth?
(2) Peace with Others
“Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding.” – Albert Einstein
Conflict is a natural part of our human experience. As equity educators, our work is often about encouraging cross-cultural conflict resolution skills and techniques in others, helping them turn conflict into teachable moments and bridge-building opportunities.
In one of our exercises, we ask people to reflect on their conflict management style: Do you tend to avoid conflict or confront issues head on? Do you see conflict as a competition or an opportunity to collaborate and find a common solution? Your approach to conflict may hold the key to how effective you are in bridging across cultural and identity-based differences.
According to the Harvard Negotiation Method developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury and made popular in the book Getting to Yes, underneath most opposing positions are unaddressed human needs, interests and desires. Addressing those needs and interests rather than positions can lead to a more productive dialogue and a win-win resolution.
The following questions can help uncover the deeper issues underlying some of our conflicts with others:
- Am I at peace with the people in my life?
- When thinking about a person with whom you are in conflict right now, what is the nature of the conflict? What are the human needs and interests that are not being addressed, for you and for the other person?
- What would happen if those needs are addressed on both sides?
(3) Peace with the Earth
“We can’t have peace on the earth, if we don’t have peace with the earth.” – Jill Butterfly
What good is peace on Earth if we don’t have an earth to live on? Judging by how we treat our oceans, forests, animals and the ozone layer, it’s as if we’re at war with the Earth and all its living beings. Scientists are now saying that human activity and technology may have pushed our planet to the point of no return in terms of climate change.
People in developing countries and communities living in poverty are disproportionately affected by climate change, from floods and hurricanes to droughts and wildfires causing mass deaths, injuries and displacements. (Read about the unprecedented flooding in southern India that killed over 350 people and displaced more than 800,000).
Harmony’s programs help students and educators reflect on the intrinsic connection between environmental and social justice; Click here to explore our series of podcasts on environmental justice. How can we further deepen our environmental consciousness as educators?
We can start by asking ourselves:
- Am I at peace with the Earth? How can I be more connected to nature and all living things?
- What role am I playing in protecting the environment? What is my contribution to environmental justice?
- How do my daily actions reflect my commitment to protecting our planet?
By thinking about the ways that we can be more at peace with ourselves, others and the Earth we can find a new meaning in celebrating the International Day of Peace.
*Image source: www.pexels.com