From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding

From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding

From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding

From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding

Synopsis

In recent years, religion- and culture-based approaches to conflict resolution have been implemented at both the local and regional level. The U.S. State Department, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and other governmental agencies now recognize that religious leaders, transnational religious movements, and faith-based NGOs are central players in the post Cold War era of ethnic and religious conflict. Through the Mennonite Central Committee and its International Conciliation Service, the Mennonites have been the leaders in this emerging area of expertise. This collection of essays chronicles, analyzes, and evaluates the Mennonite contribution to the new cultural paradigm in conflict resolution and peacebuilding theory and practice. Here, essayists provide a thorough account of Mennonite initiatives to prevent, resolve, or transform conflict in a variety of settings. Part One of this volume sets the subject in historical context. Part Two presents case studies of Mennonite peacebuilding in South Africa, Northern Ireland, Colombia, Nicaragua, Somalia, Liberia, Haiti, and Hebron. In Part Three, four non-Mennonite scholars look at Mennonite peacebuilding, comparing it to Quaker and secular techniques, exploring its relationship with Mennonite religious values, and assessing its strengths and weaknesses. Thoroughly researched and carefully argued, From the Ground Up is a vital resource for students and scholars of religion, diplomacy, and peacemaking.

Excerpt

During the 1980s AND 1990s, the literature on conflict resolution and peacebuilding grew exponentially. But within that literature, there have been a number of important gaps. One certainly is the sparsity of materials that assume a legitimate connection between spirituality and pragmatic international peacebuilding. A second is the limited case material documenting the full range of peacebuilding activity by religious actors. This volume fits both of these categories and responds to yet a third gap: more formal and explicit documentation of the work of Mennonite-supported practitioners of international peacebuilding.

Within the arena of track two, or unofficial diplomacy, the Mennonites' sister peace church, the Society of Friends, or Quakers, has generally provided more documentation of that community's important work in international conciliation and mediation. While Mennonite practitioners have a theological tradition of pacifism dating from the sixteenth-century Reformation and broad-based contemporary international experience in relief, development, and conflict transformation activity, the stories of such initiatives have rarely been disseminated outside of Mennonite circles, much less been formally documented, studied, and analyzed. One reason for this may be the breadth of activity, which neither conforms with a single methodological approach to peacebuilding nor operates exclusively within one level of society. Another reason may be a tendency on the part of Mennonites not to document their peace activities using the analytical approaches of social science.

With this book of reflections, case studies, and analytical chapters, we begin to fill that gap. We are indebted to our funders for making the volume possible: the U.S. Institute of Peace, which provided the initial grant, the World Conference on Religion and Peace through a grant from the Rockfeller Foundation, and the Mennonite Central Committee.

Our approach is to begin by providing a set of essays by Mennonite or Mennonite-supported practitioners that document their approaches and specific experiences in international peacebuilding. The lead essay, written by a Mennonite historian, provides a historical overview of the emergence and . . .

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