Be a disruptor for peace: 4 ways to generate peaceful change

Promotion of Rotary Peace Center at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.

By Rebecca Crall, Areas of Focus Manager, Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention

In a recent conversation with a group of professional peacebuilders, one of my colleagues (and a new Rotary member) surprised me when he referred to Rotary as a “disruptor for peace.” A disruptor for peace? That was something new and unexpected.

Disruption signals significant, rapid change. Disruption often feels like it’s taking place at a dizzying pace and is associated with chaos and displacement. It’s not something we often view positively or that we gravitate towards. However, my colleagues’ comment made me think about disruption for good: how can we use our platform as Rotary members to disrupt violence and create peace? Can we use this idea to build a future where peace is our norm?

When we think about the future, unlike past generations, many of us lack optimism for the years to come. There is often deep skepticism of change and sometimes feelings of fear and dread. This is logical given the news: the climate crisis, geopolitical conflicts, displacement, high levels of division, and toxic polarization, the list goes on. We are left feeling unsure about the future.

But as we begin 2023, I am challenging myself to disrupt this way of thinking: to look at our challenges as opportunities for growth and change.

John Paul Lederach, in his famous theory of The Moral Imagination, challenges us to use our creativity in peacebuilding. He describes this creativity as understanding the current situations that exist, such as destructive behaviors and violence, but then pushing past to imagine a world that transcends this reality.

This may seem trite but if we truly think about how much we take for granted in our day-to-day, we recognize there is so much room for improvement.  As we think about the future and try to be creative in building more inclusive and resilient societies, we should consider Lederach’s four disciplines as a guide:

  1. The importance of relationships. Peace is fundamentally about relationships. As we acknowledge our interdependence and connection to one another, we can understand the context in which violence happens but also the context where we can transcend violence and build peace.  
  2. Practicing paradoxical curiosity. Paradoxical curiosity is a matter of respecting contrasting truths by acknowledging different sides in a situation and looking for what lies beneath the face value.  In looking beyond appearances, we can discover new opportunities for healing and peace.  
  3. Providing space for creativity. The creative act is at the heart of believing that humans can create something new. Typically grounded in everyday interactions, our creativity allows us to imagine and eventually love something new and unexpected.
  4. The willingness to risk. When we risk, we step into something unknown. While it may seem counterintuitive, many communities subconsciously stay in conflict because it is what they know. Building peace is about risking to journey into something unknown while letting go of what we know or hold to be true.

Moral imagination is ultimately the capacity to imagine and generate something different without denying our current realities. While this may seem impossible at times, we can, by applying these four principles ask the right questions, hopefully find the right answers, and build strong relationships to create a more peaceful future.

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