Spirituality as an Integral Part of “Sustainable” Peacebuilding by Ali Nnaemeka, o.m.i

Abstract

how_to_build_sustainable_peace__In spite of all the economic investment involved in
peacekeeping missions, our society is still faced, today more than ever, with a
series of conflicts—from armed to economic conflicts. And even though different
organisms and governments invest, not just money, but also time and human
resources on peacekeeping, it does not seem to have the required positive
long-lasting effects. Could it be because peacebuilding is an art and
demands a lot of technic like the moral imagination?

This article explores how sustainable peace could be
achieved. It explores among others, the importance of approaching peace and
reconciliation through spirituality. But it had to, first, examine the working
terms. Then, I explored how spirituality could have helpful or harmful effects
on the restoration of sustainable peace.

Keywords:
Sustainable peace, moral imagination, peacebuilding, spirituality,
interconnectivity, intersectionality
.

Introduction

In
his article,
Ethics
and Spirituality of Sustainability: What Can We All Do?

Satinder
K. Dhiman
wrote,

We have to start viewing our organizations as “living
systems” rather than as “machines for producing money”.Thus,
true sustainability is not possible without a deep change of values and
commitment to a lifestyle at the individual level and the organizational level.
It cannot be achieved simply as an expression of economic functionality or
legislative contrivance.” (S. K. Dhiman 2016)

 Our
economic driven society continues to ignore the effects of human activity on the
future of our planet. We have been, since the time of Protagoras, wrongly made
to believe that man is the measure of all things and thus master of the universe
who could do with it whatsoever pleases him. These our quests include ignoring
the other dimensions of our existence. This goes as far as seeing the world only
from the material perspective. And it is this and many other false conceptions
of our relationship with the physical world that Dhiman criticizes in this
afore-cited quotation. He believes, rightly, that our universe is not just a
passive part of our ecosystem which could be exploited at their guise, ignoring
its impact on our own existence.

For
him, there is an urgent need to reform our relationship with our social
environment. We ought to change our values and commitments both at individual
and public level to achieve the true sustainability our human progress. But
unfortunately, modern man unfortunately, continues
in several ways to make sure that humanity and the
society take a very important distance from any reality that goes beyond human
empirical and experimental cognition.

In peacebuilding too, spirituality has been one of the
areas that little or no attention is really accorded to. But the recent
persistency and reoccurrence of conflicts show that something is missing in the
peacebuilding process as practiced today. And the spirituality is one of those
domains that lack most in our peacebuilding process
today.

In this text, we will show how spirituality is the sine qua non of sustainable peace
building. And for so doing, we will explain what we understand by spirituality
and “sustainable” peace. Then, we will discuss how the former contributes to the
foundation of the latter. And finally, we will discuss how spirituality could
hinder sustainable peace building. 

Spirituality

Spirituality is the overriding term that describes
engagement in things transcendental—that is to say, in things purely rational
as in contrary to experimental facts—in its ultimate aims and goals (P.
Feldmeier 2016
). Spirituality is also a way of relating with all that exist.
It is what permits us to connect with the non-material parts of the universe.
That One feels the need to share in the joy and sadness of his or her fellow
creature is because one has this immaterial part of our human existence, which
can link one to the more-than-humans. It is this force that gives values to our
human existence and which can push one even to face physical threat on one’s
life without fearing death.

A
good example of this is the attitude of Campesino leaders in Colombia (J. P. Lederach, 2005, 13–16) who though,
knew they were facing the enemy-other, never feared death because they believed
in our transcendental human existence. They believed that human existence goes
beyond the conservation of our individual human life. Their quest for peace
became so strong that each was ready to sacrifice his or her individual life to
procure a sustainable peace for the entire community. They believed that life
in their community, in their social spaces and their relationship with their
environment were so sacred that dying for them was an option worth embracing.
Spirituality
could as well be seen as this characteristic of complexity called Holism by De
Coning (2016). “
Holism
is the idea that the properties of a given system cannot be understood by its
component parts alone; that the system needs to be understood as a whole, where
the emergent properties of the whole co-determines the behavior of the parts
produce, by virtue of their interactions, some form of system-wide
behavior”

(2016, 168).
It
is what links humanity with one another and with the more-than-human. This is
exactly where interconnectivity and intersectionality which are both important
aspects of indigenous ecology and the ecofeminism become paramount.
Intersectionality,
the comprehension that women experience oppression differently both in
configuration and degrees of intensity (A. Hooper
2015) or the fact that cultural patterns of oppression are not just interrelated
but are woven together and are influenced by the intersectional systems of
society like race, gender, class, ethnicity, skin color, religion, sexual
orientation, believe, etc., (S. Clarke
2016
) is a very important aspect of spirituality.
This particular reason explains why spirituality is
very important to a sustainable peacebuilding.

Sustainable
Peace

Sustainable
peace is as difficult to define as the term peace itself. But in our case, we
are defining sustainable peace in relationship with peace building. It is a
situation of social coexistence in which interpersonal relationship is governed
by certain equilibrium in the interaction of a population and its environment.
This internal order known as social equilibrium (
Encyclopedia
Britannica 2002)

emanates
from a collective effort of the group to construct a society that takes into
consideration the need of the community—based on the local culture, history and
socio-economic context—and their resilience (De Coning
2016, 167
). Sustainable peace is built through symbiotic actions of
different actors and draws its force from the theories of peacebuilders and the
day-to-day life of the local inhabitants
(Mahmoud and Makoond 2018). Through
this daily actions like singing together
(Conrad 2014, 85) intellectual
dialogues (Lederach 2005,
17
), community gardening (Shimada and Johnson
2013, 4)
which are mechanisms of resilience—that is to say,
which are actions that can permit the people dwelling in a war turn environment
to resist to the choc caused by the conflict or permits the victims to survive
the traumatic effects of the conflict.

Contributions of
Spirituality to Sustainable
Peace

To understand the need of spirituality in sustainable
peace building, one has to examine the phenomena of the cycle of violence in
protracted conflicts. In this type of conflict where violence recurs and takes
different shapes, the only way out is to touch the innermost part of our being.
In such situations, a peacebuilder has to deploy his or her moral imagination.
And from all indications, it is one of the areas where professional
peacebuilders hesitate a lot (Lederach
2005, preface
). Moral imagination, which is the capacity to generate
intuitive responses and initiatives that amidst conflicts and challenges could
transcend and ultimately break the destructive patterns and cycles of violence
(Lederach 2005, 182), is a form of
spirituality necessary in making a sustainable peace. But owing to its
serendipitous character—the fact that what could be the outcome is not always
known at the beginning and also the demand for a continuous vigilance of the
peacemakers—many peacebuilders remain skeptical of moral
imagination. 

Spirituality is thus very important in sustaining peace
because it creates space for a creative act which is, according to Matthew Fox,
a place where the divine and human meet (Lederach
2005, 38
). As a matter of fact, to take risks in peacebuilding, requires
abandoning oneself to this creative imagination of every human community. And to
abandon oneself to the creative imagination is to trust the goodness of our
human nature. It is also to trust that the truth will always triumph. Lederach
explains this through “Web weaving” process where the spider, in addition to
being smart flexible is called to be adaptive to shifting contours and constant
changing of its environment (Lederach
2005, 83
). Maureen Sibanda Shonge (2017) explores this very well in his
article on creation of sustainable peace in Zimbabwe.

Spirituality is also very important in creating
sustainable peace because it helps in the promotion of paradoxical curiosity,
which permits peacebuilders to approach social realities and conflictual
environments with respect for complexity (Lederach
2015, 36
). This paradoxical curiosity is very necessary more especially in
relationship to environmental justice because it is what makes the peacebuilder
go beyond the visible, thereby not only facilitating a holistic
approach—intersectionality and interconnectivity—to the cosmos but it also
reminds him or her to avoid relapsing into historical traps of the cycle of
violence (Lederach 2005, 37). Every
well-informed peacebuilder knows that once a conflict relapse into a cycle of
violence, it becomes very hard to manage and could last for generations and
thereby creating not just a hostile environment but turning into a very long and
hard to resolve protracted conflict.   

Spirituality as an
Obstacle to Sustainable
Peace

However, spirituality can also be an obstacle to
sustainable peace building. I protracted conflict areas, spirituality could be
an obstacle for a peacebuilder. When the gap created by the conflict has pushed
the parties involved in developing internal affinities within subgroups, that is
to say each party involved in the conflict will regroup within them and see the
other group as the enemy-other and thus ruin the possibility of engaging one
another (Lederach 2015, 551–552).
One of the characteristics of a protracted conflicts is the gift of pessimism.
Pessimism is an enemy of peacebuilding process and a major obstacle to
sustainable peace. It is also a very big challenge to moral imagination as it
questions the authenticity of peacebuilding process. In such environments, there
reigns a sort of situation, which prevents the members to see the realizability
of peacebuilding. And in such a moment of despair, seeking peace from within
becomes very challenging as the community members lose every hope of moving
forward because all they remember is awful moments and narratives of loss. Good
examples could be seen in protracted conflict zones where peace accords, mainly
established through top-down methods, have severally failed to achieve a
sustainable peace. The space becomes infected by hopelessness that prevents
inner movement and the will to see the enemy-other as a fellow human. The
other, in this case, instead of becoming an alter ego, becomes an enemy other.
   

Conclusion

It
is unquestionably important to reaffirm that spirituality is really necessary
for sustainable peace building. And it is important not just because it is the
internal soul of peacebuilding process, but because it reconnects both the
peacebuilder and the victims of conflicts to the essence of human existence.

In
this text, I examined how spirituality effects sustainable peace building
process. And to do so, I examined the two major concepts of this topic. I said
that spirituality which interconnects all that exists and permits us not just to
interconnect with the more-than-human but also gives us the possibility
appreciate both human and more-than-human occupants of our ecosystem to their
just values. I also discussed sustainable peace which is the
situation of social coexistence in which interpersonal
relationship is governed by certain equilibrium in the interaction of a
population and its environment.

Furthermore, I examined the effects of spiritual
approach to peace building. I started discussing how spiritual aspects permit
the peacebuilder to tap, in more convenient way, into the moral imagination.
Spirituality, we observed, gives a peacebuilder the possibility to be open to
serendipity and smart-flexibility.

However, I noted that though spirituality is very
important to sustainable peace building, it could also be an obstacle in certain
circumstances. And to that effect, I explained how, in protracted conflict
zones, the incessant reoccurrence of conflicts awake in the citizens a sort of
pessimism that abhors the idea of seeking the peace from within as they have
lost hope in reconnecting with the enemy-other.

Bibliography

1.  Amanda Hooper (2015), Let’s Talk About
Intersectional Feminism,

Available at
https://nwlc.org/blog/lets-talk-about-intersectional-feminism/

2.  Cedric De
Coning (2016) From peacebuilding to
sustaining peace: Implications of complexity for resilience and sustainability,
Resilience, 4:3, 166–181,

Available at
https://doi.org/10.1080/21693293.2016.1153773

3.  Satinder K. Dhiman, (2016) Ethics and Spirituality
of Sustainability: What Can We All Do? The Journal of Values-Based Leadership:
Vol. 9: Iss. 1, Article 11.

Available
at: http://scholar.valpo.edu/jvbl/vol9/iss1/11

4.  Keziah Conrad (2014) Dwelling in the place of
devastation: Transcendence and the everyday in recovery from trauma, University
of California, Los Angeles.

Available at
https://uottawa.brightspace.com/d2l/le/content/76756/viewContent/1774276/View

5.  John Paul Lederach (2005) The Moral Imagination:
The Art and Soul of Building Peace, Oxford University
Press.

6.  Maureen Sibanda Shonge,
2017, Spinning the Web: Grassroots Human Rights Work Inspired by Peacebuilding
Approaches, Oxford University Press.

Available at
https://academic.oup.com/jhrp/article/9/3/447/4735133

7.  Peter Feldmeier (2016) “What Is
Spirituality?” U.S. Catholic: Vol. 81: No. 5, pages 20–24).

Available at
http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201604/what-spirituality-30626, published on
April 25, 2016.

8.  Samantha Clarke (2016), Intersectional
Feminism: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Available at
http://www.comicwisdom.com/intersectional-feminism-what-it-is-and-why-its-important/

9.  The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica (2002) Social
equilibrium, Sociology.

Available at
https://www.britannica.com/topic/social-equilibrium

10.                Youssef Mahmoud and Anupah Makoond,
(2018) Can Peacebuilding Work for Sustaining
Peace?

Available at
https://theglobalobservatory.org/2018/04/peacebuilding-work-sustaining-peace/.
Published on 10 April 2018

Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I

Writer & Blogger

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