With the media focused on the wars and conflicts in the Middle East, I sometimes wonder if there can ever be world peace. Over and over we see the images of devastation of war and ongoing conflicts. Is peace ever possible?
And then last week I learned about peace in Columbia after more than fifty years of armed conflict there. They have announced the final peace agreement betweeen the Columbian government and the leftist rebels Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbus (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). This conflict has killed more than 200,000 people through the decades.
But even though there are generations of Columbians who have know nothing but brutal armed conflict, the people of Colombian people never gave up hope for peace. They have negotiated off and on for years. And at long last, with the support of Pope Francis and the United Nations, agreements have been reached and decisions are being made about how rebels will disarm. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier this month that the U.N. mission will operate in 40 widely dispersed locations and require about 450 observers and a number of civilians in support of the disarmament and keeping of the peace.
There is much involved in peacemaking and keeping of peace. The people of a country must be in support of peace and must support leaders who are also supporters of peace. The agreement in Columbia is groundbreaking in that it includes women's perspectives, "which are rarely considered in peace negotiations, says Kristian Herbolzheimer, Colombia program director at Conciliation Resources, and international advisory group on conflict resolution. A 2012 United nations analysis of 30 peace processes between 1992 and 2011 shows women make up only 4%of signatories, 2.4% of chief mediators, 3.7% of witnesses and 9 % of negotiators.
"The fact that women are included in the deal at all is largely thanks to demands by women's groups that they be included in the peace talks. Their ultimatum: There won't be sustainable peace unless women are included. They weren't only trying to influence the content of the agreement, but the manner in which peace was built.
"Men build it with weapons, with their uniform, with vertical power," she says. What we women are telling men is that there are other ways to relate to each other."
"Pressure from women's groups resulted in the creation of a gender subcommission charged with going through the agreement line by line to ensure women's perspectives were represented. LGBTI rights were also considered, likely for the first time ever in any peace process around the world.
"The inclusion shows. Everytime there's a mention of the word 'men' it is followed by 'and women'. 'Women' on its own appears dozens of other times in whole sections devoted to policies designed to work their own land and rural daycare centers to facilitate that; educational programs to promote their political participation, and a special emphasis on bringing justice to those who harmed women."*
War is often built into the economy of a nation. And it must be replaced with an economy of peace at the local level on up through the national level.
An organization called Code Pink has created a daily email newsletter called Growing a Local Peace Economy. You can subscribe at http://www.codepink.org/splash?utm_campaign=lpe_daily_194&utm_medium=email&utm_source=codepink&splash=1 and follow the daily suggestions to create more peace in your neighborhood, community, and world.
In past blog posts I have noted other organizations working for peace. If more of us become active in creating peace, in becoming true peacemakers, Peace IS possible. Share what you know about peacemaking efforts where you live in the comments below.