“If war were a tool to bring peace, wouldn’t we have it already?” Jonathan Rudy, peacemaker-in-residence, asked during his presentation “The Cutting Edge of Peacemaking” at Bowers Writers House on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
Rudy started by establishing these four elements of peacemaking that he had discovered: subtle energy, mystery, the role of change and the role of the human heart in peacemaking. “The first time I had a child soldier point a gun at me, it rattled me,” Rudy said. This experience caused Rudy to leave the first country on the verge of conflict he had worked in, discouraged that he would not be capable of fostering peace in a warring country. However, this belief changed in 2012 while Rudy was working in Kabul. He saw videos of a battle occurring one mile away from where he was in a lockdown, and on one of the videos, Rudy witnessed a dove flying from tree to tree. Rudy said that in the midst of warfare, the dove reminded him that, “the face of love is a force more powerful.” Rudy also realized, “I could live in fear … or I could choose a different response. I could choose to offer love.”
The second part of Rudy’s lecture focused on the role of change. The goal of peacemaking in violent countries is to generate a shift from violence to a more holistic view, thereby causing a shift to peace. An analogy for change that Rudy gave is one he learned while in a class on international development in graduate school. His professor had the students learn gardening, and Rudy stated that, although he does not garden much anymore, composting made an impression on him. The first part of compost is the refuse needed, and Rudy compared this to the shame, pain and anguish caused by violence. The next part is water and air. Water is called the universal solvent, and Rudy explained the common element is “bringing people together. It’s remembering we’re all connected.” The third part of composting is manure, which makes the soil rich. The combination of these elements forms good soil for gardening; however, the compost alone cannot effect the change. He can only put certain elements together and watch the soil emerge from the refuse, water, air and manure. Rudy related this to peacemaking. “I can’t make it work. It does it automatically,” he said.
This brought Rudy to his third point – mystery. Rudy described this as the “thing that is beyond my vision” but is actively at work in the situation. The idea of mystery was applied to Rudy’s own experiences when he was invited in 2012 to teach mediation to the Philippines’ military. To end the violence in the Philippines, the military wanted to learn more soft skills, such as mediation, because all it had been trained in were hard skills and violence to solve problems. Rudy stated that it was mystery that brought a Mennonite to teach mediation at a Philippines’ military camp, and to have people at the camp willing to learn new techniques for peacemaking.
The fourth topic of Rudy’s lecture addressed subtle energy. Rudy began this part by asking how many people talk to their pets, or to animals in general. He shared an experience in which he negotiated with a spider on two occasions to retract its web and move off his clothing or away from the flower garden rather than taking violent action to kill the spider. Peacemaking involves initiating communication between two sides, which leads to respect and empathy between the two. Once empathy is achieved, the violence becomes nonexistent. “Why does that stop with humans?” Rudy asked. He shared that some of the earliest people in certain nations were very in touch with nature and the world and suggested, “Maybe it’s those of us who have forgotten to do that who are messing up the whole world.”
Rudy added that, to help make peace in one’s own job, a person should establish goals and a personal code of conduct. “If you don’t imagine it, how can you actualize it?” Rudy asked. The next step is to associate with those who share a similar code of conduct and personal values. However, Rudy also said, “I think, ultimately, the only thing I control is my own attitude. Anything else is a gift.”