Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services

Special Issue on Building an Understanding for Peace

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services

Special Issue on Building an Understanding for Peace

Article excerpt

Now what we have here is failure to communicate

--Captain, in the film, Cool Hand Luke

The heart of peacemaking will never change, the core principle is love the enemy and consequently one will not have an enemy. Of course one will have a conflict, but not an enemy. This is the core of conflict resolution, which strives to distinguish the parties in the conflict from their positions and focus instead on their interests and the issues at stake. This, in turn, allows us to work out each other's differences with minimal destruction. Obviously this does not always work, and we sometimes have to restrain the conflicting parties so that the violence does not escalate. Thus we see the importance of peacekeeping, which is the central theme of this issue (i.e., policing social and/or political conflict). The violence will continue until parties begin to forgive and take responsibility or be accountable for their actions, which is a key goal of peace building.

The predominant form of justice in the West is based on adversarial processes and punitive sentencing. Pursuing justice within this framework encourages participants to close communication channels and focus their actions on offence and defence. This model places retribution over restoration, and thus perpetuates victimization. Rather than transforming criminals and healing victims, this regressive increase in punishment is far from being correctional or rehabilitative. A case that truly puts into question how the United States deals with conflict is the recent execution of the co-founder of the well-known gang the Crips, Stanley Tookie Williams. He was convicted of a number of murders, then in prison turned his life around and dedicated himself to articulating the pitfalls of gangs and violence. He published a number of children books, for which he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. (1) For this remarkable personal transformation Williams was not honoured in California, but rather was put to death. This sounded the message that even when an individual strives to restore the harm they have caused, they are rejected and punished.

The United States could greatly benefit in learning from Canada's integration of Restorative Justice Programs, which have reduced repeat offences and increased victims' satisfaction. Restorative Justice, a set of principles practiced in many indigenous cultures and articulated by peace churches like the Mennonites, Quakers, and Brethren, strives to bring the victim and offender together in dialogue focused on accountability, healing, forgives, respect, and understanding. This is an alternative to the state (courts) deciding what the punishment will be, often victimizing the offender and re-victimizing the victim. In Restorative Justice, the victim, with the participation of the offender, decides how to restore to the victim and community (or victim's family/friends in the case of a murder) their wholeness and security, and to provide closure. This system does not separate, but unifies and empowers the community.

These principles of constructively managing violent conflicts were the essence of organizing the 2004 Central New York Regional Peace Studies Consortium at Syracuse University. We assisted in organizing the conference with 12 other graduate students, faculty, and staff from the Program on the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts (PARC) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. The conference's theme was "The Role of Multiculturalism in Peacekeeping, Peacemaking and Peacebuilding," and the accomplishment of this conference was in bringing extremely diverse opinions together in discussing how to create peace.

One of the faults of the peace movement is the arrogance of believing they have the Truth and they alone are doing what is just and right. Most peace and social justice conferences you might attend will have (to no surprise) like-minded people attending. …

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