Sunday, September 07, 2014

Peace Team values

We are building our team slowly, persuaded by a stubborn belief that where you stand determines what you see.
--Kathy Kelly, founder, Iraq Peace Team
(WNV/Iraq Peace Team). U.S. Marines occupy Baghdad in front of the Al Fanar hotel that housed Voices activists throughout the Shock and Awe bombing.
When a peace team is trained in nonviolence, what can it accomplish? Peace teams have done all of these things listed below, and more. Peace teams have: 
  • stood in witness against war.
  • monitored and defused violence between hostile whites and Native Americans trying to practice their treaty rights.
  • kept street demonstrations from erupting into riot.
  • stopped physical violence by police and demonstrators.
  • brought an international presence into ethnic conflict zones.
  • stopped violence between KKK, police, and angry public.
  • helped keep public demonstrations and controversial events more civil, even in disagreement.
  • helped movements and campaigns create and defend their images of nonviolence.
  • drawn attention to killer sanctions imposed on civilians.
The experiences of members of peace teams are widely varied, of course. Some have simply trained for an hour, worn an armband, and walked along with a peaceful demonstration without incident. Others have been kidnapped in war zones and a couple have been killed. Many have experienced some form of de-escalation of violence, either in-progress or highly likely. 

Those most at risk are those who operate internationally, in hot conflict zones, requiring translators. They are often misunderstood at first and only gain trust of the local people over time, which is natural. They are almost never supported by any government. 

Why do it? My answer is to refer to the button points above. What if we train and train and only stop one act of police brutality? What if we act as peace team members at six demonstrations and only de-escalate one person who would otherwise have beaten someone? What if our peace team actions only really help one campaign achieve its goal because their goal was highly desirable and we kept them from alienating the public? Perhaps for some these possibilities don't measure up to our preferred use of time. For others, the chance to help in these ways is worth some time and effort. We see the values of a peace team.

Reference List
Kelly, Kathy. 2003. "A Witness to War." Progressive 67, no. 1: 23. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed September 7, 2014).


Unknown said...

Your remark that peace teams are "almost never" supported by any government intrigued me, since I just read it (9/23) in the context of having just yesterday read news reports about the abusive treatment by Turkish police of Turkish Kurds desperate to cross the border or in some way contact and provide aid to the new flood of Syrian Kurdish refugees.

Here, on the Syrian-Turkish border, in the face of yet another ISIS campaign of massacre, is Erdogan's opportunity to make fundamental changes in Turkey's reputation and its domestic social system by standing up for the Kurds. But, no, he lets his police bully them.

What an opportunity for peace teams to make a difference!

Tom H. Hastings said...

Thanks for your observation. Peace teams need support and volunteers, all of which will most often come from an already-stressed civil society, but that's reality. Yes, we need so many more of them.