Global Peace Initiative: THE PRICE OF VIOLENCE

Price of Violence and Dividends in Healing the Wounds of History

The Spiritual Council for Global Concerns Working Group of the NGO Committee on Spirituality,Values and Global Concerns (CSVGC-NY), chaired by Mrs. Sharon Hamilton Getz, held a one-day conference on “The Price of Violence and Dividends in Healing the Wounds of History” at the Nigeria House, on February 15, 2012. Supported by the International Law Development Organization (IDLO) and Universal Peace Federation (UPF), the purpose of the one-day conference addressed the importance of the healing of nations through the work of reconciliation and forgiveness, which are indispensable conditions for real and lasting peace. Afternoon interactive discussions centered on how to deal with these issues and how countries can heal from genocide and war through these programs.

Distinguished speakers in the Opening Session presented successful models of reconciliation and peace that have occurred at the United Nations and in their own countries. Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, UN Under-Secretary General and High Representative (2002-2007), has been at the forefront in promoting a culture of peace at the UN. In 1999, as President of the Security Council, he was successful in adopting a resolution at the General Assembly for the Declaration and Programme of Action of a Culture of Peace. His work has been bolstered by broad-based support from civil society until today, when he can take concrete steps towards having a resolution adopted declaring peace as a human right.

H.E. Mrs. U Joy Ogwu, represented by H.E. Mr. Bukun-Olu Onemola, Deputy Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, spoke about the tragic circumstances of violence that have flared up in her own country, however, he expressed that “meetings such as the one we are having can play a central role in bringing an end to conflict. By encouraging mutual respect and appreciation, there can be greater harmony not only among people, but among nations as well.”

H.E. Libran N. Cabactulan, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations recalled his experience in his own country: “Our episode of blight – of dictatorship and authoritarianism – has caused deep wounds and has rend us apart. But we forged on with our healing…the value of dialogue, we believe, cannot be overstated as we try to bridge stronger bridges of mutual understanding, respect and tolerance that can serve as an effective check to the counter values of violence, extremism and intolerance.”

H.E. Mr. Jean Francis R. Zinsou, Permanent Representative of Benin to the United Nations, spoke about the efforts made in Benin, a peaceful country with a strong multi-party democracy, by its leadership in building a coalition government through reconciliation among differing sectors. It is one of the countries with the strongest democracies in Africa. Receptiveness and collaboration built a framework of stability.

The Panel Discussion of experts exposed best practices in reconciliation through the work of their NGO organizations. Mr. Patrizio Civili, Permanent Observer to the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) in Rome, Italy spoke about projects developed in Nigeria with “Schools of Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

Dr. Eileen R. Borris, Director of Training and Program Development for the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, spoke about her work with the “Schools of Forgiveness” in Nigeria, Lebanon, Rwanda, and South Africa and how she got involved in this work. She spoke of her recent trip to Nigeria and her involvement in a fascinating project sponsored by IDLO as well as her experiences in Beirut, Lebanon, a country grappling with its own healing process and the work being done with the “Garden of Forgiveness.’ Her training programs are set up to create communities of peace that heal the wounds of conflict and encourage reconciliation. The program supports people in their healing process by giving them the opportunity to tell their stories, transform their narratives, and being a healing process by understanding their perpetrators.

Michell Breslauer, US Progam Manager for the Institute for Economics and Peace, presented a power-point called “Monetary Value of Peace”, in which statistics were presented over certain periods in various countries, exposing the economical losses due to conflict and war. There are huge costs to violence: economic, social and psychological costs which countries cannot maintain if they are to prosper. There are great financial benefits to countries that are able to maintain peace and stability for their citizens.

The afternoon session, facilitated by Dr. Eileen Borris, guided the participants to look into themselves and their circumstances, on the ways in which we express violence, and how we can use the training to transform our own perspectives which cause violent circumstances. Respondent, Mr. Peter Nelson, Head of NY Office of “Facing History and Ourselves” talked about the reason why authoritarian leaders and dictators commit genocide and wars, and the value of education for prevention of conflicts.

The training projected a clear message that those who are able to bring forgiveness into their hearts, as transformation does take place, become forces of good, ending violence and creating new histories based in peace.