The title of this blog is a quote from Willie Stokes referencing gang members wondering how they can stop the violence in which they participate.

The presentations on the theory, history and scope of Peacebuilding shared during the first week shifted in Monday’s session to the real life scenarios where conflict studies may be applied. The presentations were “The Impact of Conflict and Violence” by Ed Laurence, Julie Reynolds on the “Prisons to Streets Connection” and “Redemption”, the witness of Willie Stokes. The presentations focused on how to solve the problem of violence in their respective contexts, including civil war as well as gang violence. The latter is a local and persistent challenge, but also a global reality since the end of the Cold War gave rise to substantial increase in civil wars around the world.

The processes used to stop violence and rebuild a society are challenging. Success rates are hard won in all phases of Peacemaking and Peacebuilding. The long-term transition to a significantly more peaceful society requires trust building, sincere intention and strategy at every turn. It is a generational task as changes in behavior and social attitudes take hold. Practitioners must work with local resources and contexts to design processes. There is no ‘one size fits all’ to be applied to the variety of violent contexts in the world today. From gangs in America to post civil wars in Africa, ideas may be shared across the globe but must be locally tested.

Professor Laurence shared his lifelong journey of first being committed to the ‘tools of war’ as a member of the military, and then making the major career shift to working with the ‘tools of peace’. I appreciated a specific comment he made about his work with countries seeking “disarmament, demobilization and reintegration”, the first steps in ending active violence. A process question he uses when seeking to implement these initial three steps to peacemaking is, “While doing something good is important, the first concern is, does the strategy have “utility” toward helping a country resist sliding back into violence?” It was a good reminder that there will be times when the non-negotiable need for less violence will subordinate other important matters. Diminishing violence is the critical first step to initiating stability in a post-war society. Development cannot begin to take hold until this is achieved.

Finally, with all our speakers on Monday of this week, I was humbled and inspired by the hope and commitment so apparent in their sharing. Each in their own way expressed a moral conviction and commitment to their work that undergirded their ability to offer valuable years of work to Peacebuilding.