Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Unfortunately, conflicts are all around us in every shape, way and form; from the interpersonal to the international. At the very center of every conflict resolution and/or peace process is the peacemaker. Despite their vital roles in these critical events very little is ever written or known about who they are and why they do what they do. My interest in learning more about them was sparked by my introduction to nineteen of them this past week as we descended upon Bangkok from around the world to learn how to become better peacemakers. From outward appearance, as you would expect, our differences are noticeable. What is not so noticeable is that we actually share a lot in common. There are two common characteristics that stand out above all else: our senses of humor and our individual passion for good food. Using the theme of food I attempt to use some humor to offer a recipe for a peacemaker to help us collectively better understand what makes a good peacemaker and to bring some lightness to what otherwise tends to be a heavy subject matter.
As with any good research, I started by Google-ing the recipe for a peacemaker to ensure that the work that I was about to attempt had not already been done and, if it had, to make sure I cited it correctly. Unbelievably, there are actual recipes for a peacemaker. Unfortunately, as explained below, the recipes I found, although varied, were not accurate and were not in line with what I knew to be the real ingredients. Here are the core ingredients that I found online and the reasons why I think they will not work – with this group of peace-makers at least:
• Italian Bread – The problem with this is that we don’t have an Italian in our group. We do have a Greek but I do not think psomi will work.
• Bacon – We have vegetarians in our group and some do not eat pork products so bacon could not be included.
• Oysters – Again, we have vegetarians and besides I am from Maine so it ideally it would have to be lobster.
• Flour – According to Wikipedia, “[flour] is the main ingredient of bread, which is a staple food for many cultures, making the availability of adequate supplies of flour a major economic and political issue at various times throughout history.” I think we are dealing with enough major economic and political issues in our course work so I think we would be best to leave flour out for the time being.
Since the internet has failed my quest to better understand what makes a peacemaker, I will have to rely on my gut instincts solely based upon my impression of my fellow peacemakers (and from others I have met before). I should probably provide a disclaimer at this point. Much like any recipe, the amount and type of ingredients vary – such is the case for my recipe for peacemakers. However, there are generally core ingredients that are common throughout different recipes for the same end product. With that in mind I attempt to present here those core ingredients for a genuine peacemaker. There may be other ingredients that can be added in smaller qualities to vary or even improve the recipe but the following are absolutely necessary. I also subscribe to the Jamie Oliver way of cooking which is to skip exact measurements such as pounds, grams, cups or teaspoons and instead use the less than exact measurements of handfuls and pinches. Therefore, I do not provide any exact measurements. The amount of the following ingredients is at your sole discretion. Consequently, you will never get the same result if you make more than one but as long as you use fresh ingredients (preferably organic and environmentally sustainable), you will never go wrong. With all the above in mind, here are my key ingredients for a true peacemaker:
• Passion (not the fruit): The first thing you notice about any peacemaker is that they are deeply committed to the cause and to the respective involved issues. I can assure you that this passion has nothing to do with the salary we get or for the supposed travel to exotic locations – for the most part neither of these exist in our work. We truly believe in the cause we are working for and are passionate about finding ways how to resolve conflicts no matter the place it occurs, no matter the people involved and no matter the temperature.
• Empathy: It is not surprising that Rotary International is heavily involved in peace efforts as their motto is “Service above self”. Peacemakers enter this line of work to help others – not ourselves. We understand (sometimes all too well), the suffering that people involved in conflicts are feeling and above all else, we are hoping to alleviate some if not all of that suffering.
• Creativity: Every conflict is as different as the issues or the parties that are involved. Consequently, a peacemaker is required to continually and creatively think and adapt their approach to meet the unique challenges and circumstance of the respective conflict.
• Boundless Energy: Rarely are conflicts easily resolved or in a timely fashion. Consequently, we are like marathon runners – in it for the long haul. It is therefore not surprising that coffee is usually a key instrument in our peacemaking tool box.
• Open Mindedness: By their very nature conflicts are a convergence of differing ideas. Naturally then, as a peacemakers we rarely if ever agree with one side let alone all sides. We are not meant to be in agreement with any side as our job is to understand the different perspectives with an open mind and mediate or facilitate a working plan to resolve it. We must be open and inclusive of all ideas – especially those that are inherently and perhaps naturally different from our own.
• Confidence: If nothing else a peacemaker must believe in themself and in the peacebuilding process. Uncertainty is often the catalyst for conflicts so a strong, clear and confident approach is often needed to resolve it.
• Thick Skin: Even in the most perceived benign situations the peacemaker is at the very least in the verbal line of fire. The peacemaker can easily become one of the victims of the conflict.
• Nuts (again, not the fruit kind): You have to be crazy to be involved in this line of work. Typically peacemaking is not a 9-5 office-type job. Our work becomes our life as we carry it home in our internal briefcases. Eventually this causes varying levels of conflict in our marriages, within our families and occasionally with our friends. It seems somewhat ironic that we set out to resolve conflicts for a living and inevitably we create them. You have to be nuts to do this work.
As previously stated, it does not matter that the above ingredients are added in exact amounts or that you add pinches of other ingredients, such as tolerance. What matters is that we make more of them.
Stephen Brimley, USA
Rotary Peace Fellow
June 2013 Session