Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Little Big Peace in Streatham

It was great hear that Anna Nolan ( @annapannalondon ) has been awarded £5,000 toward the Little Big Peace event which started in Streatham last year.

She won the money after entering a nationwide competition.

For the uninitiated, Little Big Peace (@littlebigpeace) is a festival that takes place in September. It celebrates peacemaking, and coincides with the International Day of Peace.

What is refreshing about the event is that is it seeks to engage with the reality of everyday life and explore difficult questions about what peace might mean in local communities, rather than being something untenable or ethereal.

Peacemaking raises tough questions of course, but they are ones that need to be asked. Neither are there simple answers. Peacemaking is messy. I know this from painful experience having been involved with a number of peacemaking initiatives both abroad and in the UK, including working with peacemakers taken hostage in Iraq.

But unless we are prepared to ask difficult questions and explore alternatives we will make little, in any, progress, in making our communities more peaceful.

There are however many examples from elsewhere in the UK, and indeed around the world that we can draw upon for our own local communities. There are restorative justice initiatives, for example, in policing, the criminal justice system and in school discipline, which pursue a more peaceful - and indeed more satisfactory outcome for the actors involved. (see for example: http://www.restorativejustice.org.uk/ for a range of resources) They tend to reduce reoffending, and mean that the community play a bigger part in ensuring just outcomes.

International examples too, show that in order to tackle violence, we need to identify and be honest about the root causes. This is something being hampered by politicians who continue to insist that the recent riots were "just criminality". The local community can play a part in challenging that, and insisting that such responses are inadequate.

And then of course, it is about the local community learning to build peace. Peace is not the absence of conflict, but as practitioners will tell you, an active process which needs to be learned. This means among other things opportunities for dialogue, training people in nonviolent communication, and forums and spaces where people can overcome fear of others who they might not otherwise come into contact with. It means also that we need to equip people - particularly younger people in our schools - with skills of mediation and conflict prevention.

There's lots of possibilities to make Lambeth more peaceful. But it needs the political will to do it, as well as those who are willing to think creatively about it and pursue it. The Little Big Peace event is exactly the kind of initiative that can encourage us all in that direction.

No comments:

Post a Comment