Where Peace, Reconciliation and Conflict Transformation Begin

pebble stones

The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God — if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.

~~Maya Angelou

Where Peace, Reconciliation and Conflict Transformation Begin

By Craig Gilliam

I know conflict.
And not only because I have lived among, or
observed, it.

I have felt it within me, even toward those I love,
even toward those with whom I worship,
even toward those with whom and to whom I minister.

If my heart can rise in anger toward those
I care for deeply, how much easier must it be to rage
toward those I have never known
or taken the time to get to know.

Ah, but I do know them.

This recognition is where peace begins.

They, too, are people with whom I am called to relate to in an I-Thou way.
Our looks, our religions, and our languages may be different. We may eat different
foods and play different games. But these and other
outward differences obscure a landscape of inward
similarity.

For while our beliefs may be different, we share
reverence for belief.

While we may use different words,
we use them to express similar thoughts and feelings.

While our favorite foods may vary,
we are each sustained by the generous fruits of the earth.

And our games — while they may be different, do
they not reveal that since childhood we have all
loved to play?

Those who look back at me from beyond human-made
barriers of separation are very much like someone I
know well.

They are very much like me.
“Fair enough,” one might say, “But I am a builder
of peace, not a purveyor of conflict. I work with but am
not myself one of those who are embroiled in
conflict in my family, congregation or workplace.”

No? Is that what those who have lived, worked
and ministered with me would say?

Have I been a builder of peace
in the dark corners of my own life?

Perhaps I have had the good fortune of living at a
distance from heavy conflict zones or in congregations
highly anxious in deep conflict.
Perhaps I have not suffered the tragedies that many
have known — the loss of property, of land,
of loved ones or church friends and families.

If so, how fortunate I have been.

But have I not known the emotions and feelings felt by those
who have had to suffer such tragedies and misfortune?

I may not have experience with bullets and bombs,
or the toxicity of a congregation torn, divided, broken by hurt and pain,
but do I not know anger, envy, jealousy, bitterness, pain, rage?
Have I not myself, too, been divided from others
and estranged?

As I have struggled with these challenges in my own
life, have I been able to find my own way toward
peace and reconciliation and to find it in a way that has helped those with whom I have been angry or in an I-It way toward to find peace and reconciliation as well?
Like Jacob and Esau, have we been reconciled and made more whole? Are we on the journey toward this way of peace?

Where I still struggle, is this still my quest?

If I am to be a builder of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, I must remember to
think small: peacebuilding and conflict transformation begins with recovery of
peace and transformation in my own soul and with those around me;
those nearest to me which cross my path.
As John Paul Lederach once said, “Don’t ask the mountain to move.
Just take a pebble each time you visit.”

For what is peace between many but the sum of the
hearts and souls of many who have found a way
to transform conflict, find forgiveness for self and other and journey toward reconciliation?

And who is not equipped to invite such peace and way of the heart — the person
who is not humbly trying to transform conflict and journey toward reconciliation
himself/herself/themselves or the person(s) who is?

It is my commitment to learn from and transform the conflict places within myself that give me the understanding I
need to help others do the same;
to find their path toward reconciliation
both without and within.

With respect to building peace, finding forgiveness, journeying on the path toward reconciliation and transforming conflict, I am my own project.
I-Thou begins with and in me.

I am about to do something new;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
~~Isaiah 43: 19

You can have the other words — chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly but I’ll take it.
~~Mary Oliver

Then misery stems from a loss of perspective.
~~Mark Nepo

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