Full-spectrum peacemaking

If you want to read about conflict resolution, you have an abundance of choices.  Similarly, there is a large and rapidly growing literature on restorative justice, on non-violent activism and on peacemaking in general.   Numerous books analyze violence and its roots as well as the dynamics of power and privilege.   Few attempt to bring these together in a practical, integrated framework.

Unfortunately the fragmented nature of this published literature reflects the reality on the ground.  People who work in conflict resolution, for example, rarely realize the potential restorative justice offers for addressing the justice dynamics inherent in conflict.  Likewise, peacemakers may write off justice advocates as trouble-makers, while non-violent activists often see peacemakers as glossing over underlying wrongs.  Those of us in these fields don’t interact with each other enough, nor do we often see ourselves as working toward the same goals.

To bring these approaches together, Elaine Enns and Ched Myers offer in their new book, Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Vol. II, the metaphor of “full-spectrum” peacemaking. Each of the approaches in this spectrum has an important part to play in creating what my former colleague John Paul Lederach has called “justpeace”  – or what the biblical tradition calls shalom: right relationships with one another, our creation and our Creator.  To truly work in this direction, however, each of us must recognize our connections and contributions to the whole.

Enns and  Myers don’t just bring us together; they also challenge us to go deeper.  Building true justice and peace requires that we do more than work at immediate or “presenting” injustices and conflicts.  We must also be aware of and address underlying factors that contribute to and shaping conflict, such as inequities of power and privilege and structural injustices. Fortunately, the authors offer analytic tools to help understand these dynamics.

Their full-spectrum peacemaking provides an intuitive and practical framework for understanding how the work fits together and the place that each approach has within it.  The authors use the metaphor of a tree, acknowledging the importance of attention not only to the roots of our life together but the soil that nourishes it and the way that the various branches of peacemaking can contribute to a just and peaceful world.

Enns and Myers bring to their marriage (yes, they are a couple) and to this book practical backgrounds of experience in restorative justice, conflict resolution, and non-violent activism.  They speak from these real-world places, but they also acknowledge their limits and blind spots as relatively privileged European-North Americans.  So they have also listened to, learned from, and here offer to us voices of those who have directly experienced the harms of violence and oppression and those who are actively working to address these harms.  That is the focus of the second part of this book.

The authors have an ambitious goal in this two-volume series:   to bring an integrated Christian perspective to the work of justice and peacebuilding for both practitioners and interested laypeople.  As an academic and practitioner who is committed to connecting with the same audiences, I believe they have succeeded.  While their perspective is Christian, it is not exclusively so, and much in this volume will be of interest to non-Christians. And although (hallelujah!) the volume is not written in formal academic language, those of us in the academic world will learn from it as well.

Note:  Elaine and Ched’s website is www.bcm-net.org.  Ched has an additional website with a variety of resources: www.ChedMyers.org

(From the Forward to the book.)