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Our mission is to build capacity of diverse leaders to work together for the public good.
We envision a day when a critical mass of citizens and leaders:
Every human being is inherently capable of evil, yet each human being has immeasurable and inherent worth and dignity and should be shown respect.
One of the problems of our age is that there are too many who believe that there are no absolutes and therefore nothing can be labeled “evil.” The members of the Institute believe that there are acts and omissions that must be declared as evil just as there are inalienable and universal human rights that should not be violated.
Who builds sustainable peace? It is built by a critical mass of citizens:
No person should have to abandon his or her heritage, whether familial, cultural, religious, or ethnic and be assimilated into a group in order to obtain full acceptance and respect. At the same time, we must reverse the increasing tendency toward ethnocentricism. We must be willing to enlarge the boundaries of our identities and refuse to define ourselves in terms of who our enemies are. This is only possible if the structures of society that marginalize some ethnic groups are made more just.
Many, if not most, of the conflicts in the world are rooted in systematic oppression of the weak, exploitation and/or abandonment of the poor, and absence or perversion of the rule of law. It is not enough to hone mediation and conflict resolution skills. The causes of destructive conflict must be addressed and remedied.
There are places in the world where people of different tribes, religions, ethnicities and/or nationalities have been locked in cycles of violent conflict for generations. In most cases, it is impossible to determine to the satisfaction of all who threw the first punch or committed the first transgression. Even if it were possible to ascertain the initiating act, all sides long ago lost their ability to claim innocence because all sides have committed atrocities against the other.
Ultimately, the only way to break the cycle is for one group to take the lead by first acknowledging its own contribution to the conflict then foregoing the injustice of revenge and fighting the injustice of oppression with the creative ‘injustice’ of forgiveness. Every act of forgiveness enthrones justice; it draws attention to its violation by offering to give up its claims. Those forgiven and willing to forgive can pursue justice without falling into the temptation to pervert it into injustice.
Borrowing from the Williamsburg Charter, “religious liberty, freedom of conscience, is a precious, fundamental, and inalienable right. A society is only as just and free as it is respectful of this right for its smallest minorities and least popular communities… Religious liberty is founded on the inviolable dignity of the person… Central to the notion of the common good, and of greater importance each day because of the increase of pluralism, is the recognition that religious liberty is a universal right. Rights are best guarded and responsibilities best exercised when each person and group guards for all others those rights they wish guarded for themselves.”
All reality is interconnected and interdependent. As the physicist David Bohm observed, we would be well served to see all of existence as an undivided whole. Bohm proposed that “the widespread and pervasive distinctions between people (race, nation, family, profession, etc., etc.), which are now preventing mankind from working together for the common good, and even for survival, have one of the key factors of their origin in a kind of thought that treats things as inherently divided, disconnected, and ‘broken up’ into yet smaller constituent parts.” A necessary corollary is that developing our understanding of systems thinking should be given a high priority.
Destructive cycles of conflict almost always originate in essential needs of some major constituency not being met. In many cases of intractable conflict, the genesis is a poverty trap created by systemic deficits: absent infrastructure (roads, sewage treatment, potable water, energy grid), poor education, inadequate health care system, lack of security for all persons, and corrupt governance, all exacerbated by insufficient financial capital.
Sustainable peace can only be built if the systemic deficits locking large numbers of people in poverty traps are addressed simultaneously. For example, peace will not be achieved by providing funding mechanisms for micro-development loans that promote economic growth and the meeting of essential physical needs if the rule of law is not being upheld and personal security assured. Daughters cannot be educated if they must walk miles to retrieve water during school hours.
Integrated solutions require collaboration among many disciplines. Like the blind men discovering the elephant, we need each other to have a more complete picture of the reality we seek to change, the solutions for the systemic causes of poverty and destructive conflict, and the common good toward which we strive.
Building sustainable peace is too large and complex an undertaking for an institution of researchers, thought leaders and practitioners operating under traditional command and control management structures. The task calls for a “chaordic” learning community that is unified at the core by a common purpose and a commitment to model essential principles and practices that enable the building of sustainable peace.
The Institute will ultimately be a learning community made of a network of thought leaders and practitioners powered from the periphery through the indispensable contributions of each member and offering consistent opportunities for collaboration across disciplines, freedom for creativity to flourish, and resources to accomplish the mission.
Real learning changes behavior. Those of us who would seek to build sustainable peace must be willing to engage in the hardest work of all, that of our own transformation. Forty-five years ago, Thomas Merton wrote: “So instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are war makers, hate the appetites and the disorders in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”