The Role of Identity Difference in Conflict and Peace
Nobel Economist Amartya Sen stresses that identity politics tend to reduce the reality of human complexity to one or two dimensions - often religion or language - thus distorting peoples' conceptions of themselves versus the (presumably threatening) "others." He urges that education needs to combat these divisive and dangerous oversimplifications. GPS believes that cultural sharing and knowledge of identity overlapping and commonality should be introduced in education of younger-age children who are seldom reached in today's peace education programs. GPS has been exploring partnerships to put together the components for practical applications of Sen's concept in places where antagonism has in varying degree characterized groups living in close proximity. We are looking at the roles that education, religion and language can play in shaping perceptions of identity, and thereby attenuate and resolve violent conflict rather than foment it. We are actively exploring research and pilot efforts in this area in Hawaii and Rwanda.
Peace Education in the Professions
We have been exploring partnerships for several years with nursing schools, reaching out to the nursing profession, where the need for conflict resolution is encountered daily in multiple dimensions -- with patients, with doctors and other health professionals, and among nurses, themselves. We pilot-tested an innovative curriculum through which nurses – often first responders in emergency situations – can contribute to peacemaking and peacebuilding. Recently, thanks to a seminal paper written by Board member and published last year in a new online journal, International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice and Peace, we are seeking continuing relationships with professional engineering organizations to promote the role of engineers in preventing and resolving violent conflict. Engineers involved in the design and implementation of projects have often been deeply involved in conflict environments. However, properly designed and implemented, engineering projects may instead contribute to conflict amelioration and avoidance. GPS is developing initiatives aimed at adding awareness and guidelines for taking these conflict potentialities into account in the education of engineers and in professional dialogue.
There are many ways to share in this work. Other examples of our cooperative ventures have included:
An interactive network with peace service programs abroad
Inter-religious dialogue on peace service in diverse religious traditions
A Congressional initiative for a U.S. Department of Peace which will fund peace service education