Voices of Leadership, Part 2

by Bianca Neff, Executive Director

This is a follow-up post to the previous "Voices of Leadership" post highlighting the International Peace & Security Institute (IPSI).

Because I've been doing some further reflection on that post.

It's so easy to simply place organizations, people, cultures, nations into one of two camps, isn't it? For example, "those who contribute to international peacebuilding" and "those who thwart it"? But isn't this simplicity precisely what we're so tired of because of how it polarizes people and societies?


When Entrenchment Becomes Irresponsible

I could write a long time about my frustration with the politics in my own country of origin, the United States. Simply put, I see the US Congress and the American people as largely divided into two camps -- right and left -- who, rather than work through their differences, simply allow themselves to get so entrenched that they do little apparent good at all.

We've all rejected nuance as politically inexpedient. The result: A barely-functioning legislative body who spends more time hunkering further down in their entrenched differences than governing its citizens.

Yes, of course it's critical to take a stand, and to stand firmly when necessary. It's OK to spend time arguing, passionately if needed, as we work through disagreements. But none of us -- and here I mean from individuals in families all the way up to nations and regions in disagreement -- can afford the polarization that comes from you being in your camp and me staying in mine, keeping us from working together. Especially where we have a common interest!


Build Bridges Through Common Interests

Basic anthropological study shows us that as human beings, we have plenty in common. This is not to discount real differences in culture or worldview; they definitely exist and we are right to grant them the respect they command.

But as peacebuilders, how can we best connect to the human side of the other, the "other" who would jump in front of a train for their child or best friend just like I would for mine, who shares the same human needs for significance, for physical needs to be met, the same need to raise families and live in communities within a more peaceful and understanding world?

We must keep working our hardest to build bridges instead of retreating into our more comfortable camps. 

I was encouraged to hear this kind of talk, even just a little bit, at the Rotary Peace Conference (cross-link to 1st blog) from my colleague Cameron.


Peacebuilders On the Road Less Traveled

I like the fact that the Peace Activist guy in the other blog asked his challenging question and didn't simply take IPSI's work at face value. I probably agree with many of his views and would work really well with him as a kindred spirit on common issues.

But when it comes down to it, if I was forced to choose, I think I like Cameron & IPSI's approach even more. It's different, it's more inclusive, and we need more of it.

Peacebuilders out there who are using this type of proactively inclusive approach: Do you feel alone in this? We understand you.

How can Petra help maximize your work as you reach across the aisle so that your impact is felt even further? Remember that we're here to process life with you and to accelerate your work.