Positive Peace or Peace of Life

It is difficult to overstate the importance of memory as an educating force. Once and again education for peace and proactive coexistence uses the collective memories of times and situations tainted by war and violence as something to be rejected, attempting largely to show the huge grief, loss and damage they generated. These disasters, horrors, sufferings, losses and injustices generally instil a spirit encapsulated by the words: “never again”. The whole of Europe is scattered with spaces of remembrance: graves, cemeteries, concentration camps, monuments and memorials to the dead that provide ostentatious testimony of horror, sacrifice and guilt.

However, these mournful memory as a tool for education aiming at “never again” educates for only one of the two dimensions encapsulated in the term Peace, “Negative Peace” understood by experts , led by Adam Curle, Johan Galtung and J.P. Lederach, as a “NO” to war and violence. These experts insist in another dimension of Peace interwoven inseparably with this negative peace, they call “positive peace”. The most coherent way to understand this dimension of Peace responding to basic human needs is to define it as a YES to proactive coexistence in equity, to the links among lives which help, comfort, enrich and rescue oder lives and receive help, heal, warmth from lives of others. This positive peace is a fundamental trait in the fabric of human lives motivated largely by compassion and affection towards another human, rather than a calculation of personal interest. This is why in the Strands of Peace project this positive dimension of peace is called “Peace of Life”.

This peace of life makes life possible, keeps the world together, binds history; is poetic, flows calmly, dares rebellion if utterly needed, is evident and each of us makes use of it and offers it in our day-to-day lives.

However, paradoxically, when remembering times and situations of violence, only the memories showing that war and violence are collected, while the Strands of Peace remain nelected. The rejection of violence that these memories generate is necessary, but they neglect the facet of peace more closely related to our lives, losing the strength that this dimension brings.

The repertoire in place when building the collective memories of violent times and situations is like a piano where the key of Peace strands, is missing. Collective memory built in this way, educates for the never again, for a peace of cold justice; neglecting the potential for a reconciling peace. The Peace Strands project, inserting the key of SP changes the whole melody.

Grafting stories with SP in a collective memory, introduces peace of life in a tiny dimension . These strands allow to display , in its raw state, the context of violence in which they emerge, but they also allow us to see that beneath a blanket of devastating violence, there are bonds which hold our lives together; where the humanity continues to breath .

The stories of lives saved by strands of peace produce, add colour, joy, intelligence, imagination, poetry, witt and hope to the collective memory, in which they are grafted. In addition to educating for “never again”, they inspire and educate to contribute to others life with the best of yours. The Strands of Peace do not speak for or against your own group or its opponent, but testifies the deep force of the common humanity shared by both.

As collective memories usually let aside Strands of Peace, if they are found they seem to be sporadic, rare, exceptional, heroic and strange; with only an anecdotal value. . The principal reason why they are seldom found and seem extraordinary is that they are not sought out. When we begin to search, a countless number appear, like old furniture left in the attic of a family home; acts of normal people, ingenuous, witty, encouraging. This happens all over the world, because all of us are affected by memories of times marked by devastating violence.

Peace education has opened other ways to add a reconciling dimension to the peace that simply rejects violence and war. One important step in that direction has been the dialogue between stories and questions of victims and perpetrators orchestrated in South Africa by the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”.

The restorative meetings that are taking place in Latin America and Europe among confronted people affected by violence or relatives of victims and perpetrators are an example of this. But these gatherings do not recover the peace that under overwhelming violence continued holding life together, as Strands of Peace do.

A collective memory which excludes Peace Strands, excludes a part of the past to which it refers. At the same time it purports to be the most realistic and objective version of that past. Although in order to maintain this pretension it often tries to find and reveal more hidden folds of violence – no doubt a good thing- it works in the wrong direction adding testimonies of violence to fill the gap created by the missing SP. The result is an overloaded, unrealistic, ghosty memory.

A collective memory with grafted Peace Strands allows us to situate the person affected by violence in the reality of that time, treat them with sincerity and affection, restore the damage as much as is possible, and protect them from the debilitating victimisation, so often heaped on those affected.

A memory grafted with Peace Strands, dismantles the essentialised images of enemies too often constructed and cemented in History (R. Wahlstron, Senghaas, Jensen, Mark, Volcan, etc.) where the opposite group appears as a demon with horns -endowed with an exaggerated capacity to do evil- and a tail -an enormous will to do it-, bus as a homogeneous beast, emptied of humanity.

The Peace Strands that are not recorded in the collective memory, are not lost and forgotten, but stored for generations in the intimate memory of families. The Strands of Peace project can, for that reason, try to collect them and encourage those families so that, with the help of an educational environment, committed to peace, we can make them public and enshrine them in our collective memory.