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Book review: Voices of Harmony and Dissent

This past June, the Canadian School of Peacebuilding came out with a new book, Voices of Harmony and Dissent, a collection of essays from real peace practitioners in the field. See our previous post on its release here. Some of the essays were focused simply on story telling, while others helped illuminate theoretical concepts pertinent to peacebuilding through real-life examples from their experiences.

The table of contents range from essays exploring the ideas of citizen advocacy in a Canadian context, to peacebuilding through an inter-faith choir in Bosnia-Herzogovina; to circle process training and lessons learned from driftwood. In my reading of the collection, I found the strength of this book in its variety of voices from not only different focuses in peacebuilding, but also from different cultural contexts. These are the types of stories that we need to tell; the kind of stories that awaken our imaginations.

Some of the voices were quite challenging to me, coming from backgrounds that I have little experience with. I think particularly of the author who described herself as a “Feminist, Buddhist, Anti-Oppression Peace builder.” I have primarily considered Peace from an Anabaptist viewpoint, so it was interesting to read a perspective on peace that was rooted in something other than Christ’s example and notice where we had a lot of agreement, and where we might have to compromise if ever we worked together. Many of us teach in countries and regions of the world where our greatest allies may be people who have different belief systems than our own, and wrestling with how we can still be peacebuilders together when we disagree on some things is something we need to seriously consider. I appreciated how that essay stretched my thinking in that area.

The essay that got my wheels turning the most however, was Karen Ridd’s “Teaching Peace, Being Peace” article. I will share a quote that sums up her stories and thoughts about mentors and guides, compassionate teachers, and peace “tricksters” that consider the world differently in how they approach their work, and also leaves us with something to ponder:

“Teaching peacebuilding comes with the requirement that we live as peacebuilders, or at least that we be seen to be trying to live our lives in concordance with what we teach. If we don’t, then what we do (an do not do) will undercut anything that we try to teach. Grace Kyoon describes it this way: “Practitioners are invited to think of themselves as being the ‘mothers of peace’ and, in that position, to strive toward being the best they can be. If we accept that teaching peacebuilding requires being a peacebuilder, then questions need to be asked, including the questions What does that mean? and Who is a teacher of peace?” (Voices of Harmony and Dissent, Pg 304).

What does living as a peacebuilder while being a teacher mean to you? 

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Contributing Author

Abigail Long is a 2012 graduate of Messiah College in Grantham, PA, and a member of Fairview Ave Brethren in Christ Church in Waynesboro, PA. She spent 14 months teaching English in South Korea at the Connexus Language Institute and is deeply interested in the connections between language learning, teaching and peacebuilding.

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