Updated: Mar 28, 2022
The growth of intolerance, extremism and violence is at a significant high. We need to recognize the importance of interfaith and intercultural dialogue, its potential to bring people across religious traditions and diverse cultures together around shared social and political challenges. This article aims to point out the importance of the idea of a civil society and also the need to reinforce it effectively. It sheds light on the crucial role that non-faith-based organisations play amidst conflict, understanding religious differences, the importance of religious literacy, the emphasis on dialogue as well as transforming ways communities interact with each other and the most important of all is the search for common ground.
The objective is to show that peace can be achieved and bridges can be built through dialogue but the pursuit of peace should never stop even when it is achieved in a particular conflict.
Peace is a mode of behaviour, it is a deep-rooted commitment to the principles of liberty, justice, equality and solidarity.
We say that we live in a diverse society, a society where different types of people who do not share the same race, culture, ethnicity, beliefs, practices, traditions etc ‘come together’ and form a community. But can we say that we live in a truly inclusive society? An inclusive society is a society that overrides the differences of race, gender, class, generation, geography, and ensures inclusion, equality of opportunity as well as capability of all members of the society to determine an agreed set of social institutions that govern social interaction (Expert Group Meeting on Promoting Social Integration, 2008).
People sometimes use these terms interchangeably, but they are quite distinctly different. We certainly do live in a diverse society but often it can be seen that our culture does not embrace different perspectives which makes it is almost impossible to retain diversity, social exclusion is an evil that is still prevalent in society.
Many studies have shown that social exclusion is one of the common causes of conflict1. Which shows us the importance of the concept building bridges in order to engage with our differences.
This article aims to shed light on the importance of searching common grounds amidst peacebuilding, alongside emphasizing on various aspects of peacebuilding like building bridges between communities, dialogue, reflection on personal identity, religious literacy, accountability and the importance of servant leadership through the lens of Ubuntu methodology.
PEACEBUILDING AND THE UBUNTU METHODOLOGY
The goal of peacebuilding is to establish constructive relationships across ethnic, religious, class, national, and racial boundaries. It aims to resolve injustice in nonviolent ways and to transform the structural conditions that generate deadly conflict.
In order to make it work over long run and at all levels of society to establish and sustain relationships among people locally and globally it must focus on connecting people and groups on the ground such as community and religious groups, grassroots organisations etc with policymakers and powerbrokers (governments, the United Nations, corporations, banks, etc.) It should aim not only to resolve conflicts, but to build societies, institutions, policies, and relationships that are better able to sustain peace and justice because a just and sustainable peace requires a far more holistic vision that links together activities, actors, and institutions at all levels.
Building bridges between different communities is one of the most important aspect of peacebuilding which advances conflict transformation by facilitating those involved in hostilities to break the cycle of violence and revenge by appreciating the humanity of their opponents and the power of empathy.
In order to build sustainable bridges we need to search for common ground and recognize the the importance of common humanity because the first and the foremost common ground of all is the fact that we are all humans.
In essence, Ubuntu, addresses our interconnectedness, our common humanity, and the responsibility to each other that fows from our connection.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DIALOGUE IN PEACEBUILDING
The purpose of dialogue in peacebuilding is to understand and share different perspectives and in order to understand and speak one must listen, allowing feelings, to look for others strengths, drawing out commonalities, shared struggles, creating a safe and inclusive environment and above all it showcases the will to change.
Storytelling is known to be one of the most effective ways of communication and starting a dialogue, it is also one of the key activities the Ubuntu methodology focuses on. Our stories connect us to our inner self and to those around us. 'To tell one’s story is a human right'- says Masha Hamilton, The Afghan Women’s Writing Project.
The aim of storytelling is to be empathetic, empathy is one of the five pillars of Ubuntu methodology and one of the largest contributors to building peace.
As Mother Teresa said, 'if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other'. This state of belonging to each other stems from the fact that we are not only individuals, but also a part of the whole that constitutes the universe.
REFLECTION ON PERSONAL IDENTITY
One has to look inside and work out on their own contradictions , one needs to know themselves. One has to be perfectly honest and develop awareness. The Ubuntu methodology reiterates the idea of self knoweldge and reflection on self identity, research also suggests that it can promote an open mind and decrease conflict (Davis, 2020).
Realistic awareness of individual strengths and weaknesses is an essential quality for empowerment, leadership and peacebuilding. Our ability to find ourselves again depends on stepping out of ourselves sometimes.
It is critical to know how to establish a critical distance from ourselves in order to understand the essence of our inner selves. Through this glance, we can see areas of personal weakness from which we can learn.
IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION AND RELIGIOUS LITERACY FOR PEACEBUILDING
Religious literacy is of extreme importance in a world where information can be found at our finger tips, there is still a large deficit in understanding when it comes to religions. There are many stereotypes about people of different faiths, which fails to address the wide range of diversity found among various traditions.
These stereotypes can be perpetuated by the media, closed social circles, and by people without access to resources to support learning about the vast diversity and change over time that exist within religious traditions.
Religion can play an important role in peacebuilding in various ways. The idea of human dignity and the common humanity of all, derived from the notion that all are created in the image of the Divine, are foundational to true peace. Religion plays an important role in post-conflict reconciliation, providing resources to help societies cope with the ravaging effects of war.
For instance the accomplishments of groups like the Community of Sant’Egidio’ among whose achievements include successfully brokering the 1992 peace agreement in Mozambique after 30 years of civil war, examples of interfaith reconciliation efforts in South Africa, especially of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, grounded in his Christian faith, his legacy as a peacebuilder through his anti-Apartheid activism and promotion of peace and justice is unparalleled.
IMPORTANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY FOR PEACE BUILDING
Accountability not only aids in the establishment of a historical narrative of the conflict by identifying the victims, perpetrators and the spectators of human rights abuses and other crimes.
The culture of accountability helps set a standard for peace.
In this society, accountability is often synonymous with punishment, shame and/or retaliatory harm,” says Ann Russo, Women and Gender studies professor at DePaul University, in her essay on practices of accountability “What if it became synonymous with taking responsibility for harm, making things right, being willing to understand, change, and transform the harmful behavior and its underlying motivations?”.
The difference between accountability and punishment has to do with relationships. Punishment breaks a relationship; it’s rooted in isolation, shame, and disconnection. Accountability, by contrast, requires communication, negotiation of needs, the opportunity to repair harm, and the chance to prove that we can change and be worthy of trust again, it bends more towards the concept of reformative punishment.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SERVANT LEADERSHIP FOR PEACEBUILDING
Servant leadership is leadership philosophy in which the goal is to serve those around you.
Servant leaders lead with others in mind because they care about them you cannot lead a community unless you care for them, you cannot serve that community unless you care for them. So, servant leadership has got to do with the kind of leadership where one serves first and leads second where one does not use their leadership as an opportunity seize power, these values extremely important in context of peacebuilding because one needs to have an altriuistic perspective, the sheer belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others should be of paramount importance.
The Ubuntu methodology specifically emphasizes on the importance of servant leadership because everyone can be a leader because everyone can serve. Servant Leadership is focused on the common good, seeks to generate consensus and mobilize the collective will, in search of solutions to concrete problems.
By highlighting the key aspects of peacebuilding through the lens of ubuntu methodology this article attempts to exhibit various ways in which peace between communities is achieved.
Peacebuilding plays an important role in creating an inclusive society, by reinforcing the principles of common humanity, empathy and resilience. Building bridges, starting a dialogue, reflection on personal identity, religious literacy, accountability and servant leadership are just some of the few aspects of a much-needed effort to combat conflict and building peace, but they are crucial to it and can help make a big difference.
In the light of the above-mentioned approach in peacebuilding it can be seen that the ubuntu methodology can and has played a vital role amongst the various aspects of peacebuilding.
Arthur, Dominic Degraft, Abdul Karim Issifu, and Samuel Marfo. "An analysis of the influence of Ubuntu principle on the South Africa peace building process”, American Research Institute for Policy Development, Vol. 3;Issue 2, http://hdl.handle.net/123456789/1264
Joshi, M., & Wallensteen, P. (2018). Understanding Quality Peace. Understanding Quality Peace: Peacebuilding after Civil War.
Berkley Center, Common Ground: Engaging Religious Dimensions in the Search for Peace 17-12-2021, https://youtu.be/4xr0VR1V9NY
Adam Seligman, Berkley Center, Engaging with Difference, 2021 february 18th, Religious Pluralism, and Building a Tolerant Civil Society, https://youtu.be/LVcBzqp2OOY
Kirthi Jayakumar, Story telling for peace, 14th may 2015, Peace Direct, https://www.peaceinsight.org/en/articles/storytelling-peace/?location=&theme=culture-media-advocacy
David R. Smock, January 1 2006, Religious Contributions to Peacemaking: When Religion Brings Peace, Not War, Peace works, https://www.usip.org/publications/2006/01/religious-contributions-peacemaking-when-religion-brings-peace-not-war
Amber Henshaw, Amina Aden, Callum Foy and Henriette Chacar, Accountability and Reconciliation in Peace Processes, December 2015, Democratic Progress Institute, https://www.democraticprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Accountability-and-Reconcilication-DPI-December-2015.pdf
Building Bridges Ubuntu Servant Leadership- Instituto Padre António Vieira, 15-Jul 2019.