Peacemaking: Where We've Been and Where We're Going

Throughout human history there has been conflict, and in every conflict there has been a group of peacemakers dedicated to resolving differences, reconciling hurts and aggressions, and finding a way to live together in community.

What are the costs of violence, the global impact of aggression and the implications of peace education? We tackle these questions and more in our infographic below.

a large infographic detailing the history and current state of peacemaking efforts.

Communities Dedicated to Peace

Peacemaking is not reserved for religious traditions or specific groups of people. Peacemakers and advocates can be found at every point in history and in every major conflict in the modern era. When peace finds a foothold among people and institutions looking to commit time and resources, resolution and mediation can finally begin.

Elizabethtown College was founded on the principles of peace, social justice and nonviolence. However, historically, education has been one of the least accessed tools for peace, even as research has indicated that early intervention can prevent a conflict from ever escalating, and is 60 times more cost effective than intervening after it has begun.

Peace and Violence by the Numbers

The United Nations has long been the global face of peace having conducted 71 peacekeeping operations since 1948, with 16 of them active at present. But what about domestic intervention? Though Syria was ranked the most dangerous country in the world in 2016 by the Global Peace Index, it very well might be the United States among developed nations. The United States homicide rate is more than 10 times higher than other developed nations, and American children are 14 times more likely to die from guns. The FBI stated, in addition to these metrics, domestically, a violent crime occurred every 27 seconds in 2013.

Violence costs life, resources and money. The World Health Organization reports that person-to-person violence in the United States alone costs roughly $300 billion per year.

War and Peace

While interpersonal violence affects many Americans, global violence is another concern. The United States is not alone in its struggle for peace. The 20th century was one of the most violent periods in human history. Globally, it’s estimated that 191 million people lost their lives in conflicts in the last 100 years. And, while this information is sobering, it’s hardly new. How do we prevent this from repeating in the 21st century?

How do we Deal with Violence?

We need to reexamine how we respond to conflict. Violence, and the systems and injustices it stems from, are complex. Solutions, historically, have included mass incarceration, war, expulsion from school, isolation and public shaming, among others. But what about education? Would teaching people about peace, peace activism and nonviolence in a practical and tactical way make a difference that these other “solutions” have not?

Noted Amish and pacifist scholar Steven Nolt thinks so. “The world is which we live is complex and so are the conflicts. Putting peace education in the context of other disciplines is important because conflicts do not happen in isolated ways but rather in an interconnected context,” said Nolt.

A More Peaceful Future

The need for peacemakers is on the rise and, all across the country, creative solutions are being put to the test. A report from the International Institute for Restorative Practices notes that in the West Philadelphia High School, within two years of implementing a new restorative discipline program, incidents of assault and disorderly conduct dropped more than 65%.

Overall, restorative justice practices are on the rise. Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., also recently implemented a program to help students work through conflict rather than discipline them through more traditionally employed methods. “The restorative process allows us to figure out what, exactly, is going on here. It allows for a conversation,” Yetunde Reeves, principal of Ballou High School, said in a recent Washington Post article. “Giving kids space to reflect, to acknowledge wrongdoing, to talk through how they felt during that interaction — I think that creates more of a relationship.”

In the end, peace education is at the core of creating sustainable and just systems for managing conflict. Peace scholar Jeffrey Bach notes that, “Peace education is essential in exploring the ways to work for peace and justice, as violent conflict is becoming more localized. It’s now less a matter of nations at war and more a problem of ethnic, religious and racial tensions, domestically. Peace education is vital because it works to understand the differences that have led to conflict and ways in which to solve it that do not include more violence.”

In other words, we can’t wait for nations to become embroiled in conflict before we advocate for and teach peace. Our efforts in peace education make the most impact directly in our communities and have the potential to positively impact the world around us. Across the country, education institutions are exploring nontraditional ways to integrate peace and social justice programming into everyday curriculum. 

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