This week marks my one year anniversary working for the Unitarian Universalist Association as the Program Associate for Peacemaking. Working with amazing theologians, peace activists and dedicated Unitarian Universalists, I have learned a lot about what UU peacemaking looks like. In the next few days, I will be sharing just a few of the many realizations I have made when it comes to UU Peacemaking.
• Monday: No Creed, No Peace Testament
• Tuesday: Unitarian*Universalists’ long and difficult relationship with peace
• Wednesday: Just War and Pacifism—A False Dichotomy
• Thursday: Theology of Conflict
• Friday: No Justice, No Peace
This is an updated post I wrote a year ago called Honor Your Work.
I meet a lot of people who did not realize how much peacemaking they are doing right now.
Many people I have met over the past year would tell me something like, “I want to get involved, but I don’t know where to start.” Or they would say, “My congregation wants to talk about peace but we are apprehensive about being vocal around the war.” When I met people who say things like that, I would ask them a question: What are you doing right now to promote peace? It is an easy enough question to answer. After some coaxing, I finally would reveal the good work they were already doing.
I heard stories about Welcoming Congregations working to promote dialog around Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender/sexual, and Queer issues. I found groups working on Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression work. There are churches that work with local homeless shelters. There are fellowships with community gardens. These are all peace issues. While they may not seem like much in the scale of global conflict, it is doing a lot on an interpersonal level.
Let’s take a moment to investigate the multifaceted aspects of peace. Peace theorists and researchers look to peace, conflict and violence on a three fold level: micro, meso, and macro. Each of these levels has certain characteristics. Without working on one level, the efforts on another can be lost.
Micro relations are interpersonal. For conflict, this could come in the form of an argument or fight. Micro level peace work focuses on giving individuals the skills for resolving conflicts without resorting to violence. This could be as small as tutoring a student or as large as conflict resolution training and nonviolent communication skills.
Meso relations are community wide. This is the level where power structures can really take form. We see meso relations in terms of family structures, churches and religious institutions, and school systems. Here we can even go as broad as global institutions such as the media or political systems. Meso level violence can be as small scale and apparent as localized crime to as ambient as racism and sexism. Meso level peacemaking works with the communities in order to challenge those power structures. They could include community gardens, interfaith/cultural dialog, or prison ministries. A good word to remember the meso level is “institutions”. A good image to remember it is this: where the micro and macro overlap.
The final level of relations is Macro. Macro relations are not only international, they are also intercultural. Here we see the globalized manifestation of violence, conflict and peace. It, in many ways, is the global manifestation of meso level relations. War, environmental degradation and global racism are all macro level forms of violence. Macro peacemaking works in coalitions to challenge the regimes of cultural and institutionalized violence. Here is the international/intercultural level of relations.
When we begin to look at peace, conflict and violence on micro, meso and macro levels, all work for justice becomes work for peace. To challenge the power structures that promote violent conflict through education, community building and global understanding is a work for peace. So be proud of the work you and your congregations are doing. It is up to you to find the spaces that need to be mended. It is impossible to be working on all levels at the same time, but on all levels we must work. While one group is working on ending the war in Iraq, another is working on feeding the homeless and the hungry. While one group is tutoring children at a struggling school in a rough neighborhood, another is fighting oppression in their homes.
There is so much work to be done. Honor your work. Honor the work of others. Celebrate victories. Each individual victory for justice is a collective victory for peace. And, the most difficult recognition of all, recognize that people are doing what they are doing because they can do nothing else. Individual paths take us in individual directions. Coalitions bring different goals and tactics together. And while it may bring conflict, it also brings diversity. Recognize your micro, meso and macro conflicts and work on your micro, meso and macro peacemaking. Find what calls you and follow your passions. Because as Henry Louis Mencken said, “If you want peace, work for justice.