Does someone’s truth make more violence or less?

I appreciated this question today from Father Prakash (Jesuit Priest living in Lebanon and speaking to our class via Skype) as he shared with us about the current refugee crisis (an all time high of 65 million worldwide of internally displaced persons and refugees). As I seek to learn about Peacebuilding, I must personally ask myself this question: Does my truth make more violence or less?

The question is multi-layered, and so shall the answer be each time I have the courage to ask it.

I am helped by systematically considering this question in light of the “Framework for Peacebuilding”. This was presented to us yesterday in Dr. Iyer’s introductory session. The layers of the framework are: the system (the culture paradigm or ideology of an issue), the sub-system (the institutions that carry the cultural system), relationships (the conflict between persons or communities) and the issue (the current specific concern). To consider truth from each layer helps one reflect on  personal responsibility, awareness of the dynamics of a specific reality (gender violence or racism for example), and the intended or unintended consequences of particular behavior.

Am I supporting the creation of a more peaceful and just society as I engage at each level? How could truth-telling set me free to change? I was naturally mindful of Jesus words, “the truth shall set you free”. Even when the truth is difficult and acceptance is painful, we can be free to rest alongside it. We can be  free to act in new ways. I was reminded too of The Serenity Prayer, which I pray regularly each day.

Our speaker this evening, Phil Butler representing Veterans for Peace. He was a wonderful example of the power of truth to liberate us to serve peace in the world. He spoke of his ‘three lives’, describing his early life, his years as a warrior and as a prisoner of war in Vietnam Nam, and now as a peace activist. It was clear that his mind and spirit were freed by his choice to tell the truth about his understanding of our violent and militaristic culture. He was free to use his energy, time and resources in support of peace instead.

Finally, I was inspired by the several speakers we heard today, listening to the incredibly challenging circumstances in which each serves in the world. Over years, trauma, brokenness, failure – but also success – they take one day at a time serving the effort of peace in all its complexity, through all its layers.