“If you want peace, work for justice.” – Pope Paul VI
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Build Peace conference at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The conference centered on the idea that we can harness technology for use in peace-building efforts around the world. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I mean, building peace sounds awesome, does it not? And harnessing the power of technology to bring about peace? Super awesome. And although I felt that the theme of the conference would fit well into my professional goal of learning more about using social media for prevention efforts, I really wasn’t certain exactly what I would gain from this conference. But, based on the description alone, I felt confident it would be a good use of my time. And I was pretty stoked to attend a conference that was a bit outside of the “sexual violence prevention” box (and where I had no workshop presentation or exhibiting responsibilities – let’s be honest here). So, off to Cambridge I went.
What I learned is that many of the efforts that are happening in this peace-building arena are so aligned with our sexual violence prevention efforts, it’s scary. Good scary. I heard Ignite Talk (think TED talks, only 5 minutes long) speakers describe the efforts they are implementing in places like Libya, Kosovo, Somalia, Israel, Palestine, the Dominican/Haitian border, Egypt, Northern Ireland…the list goes on and on. Using technology for change, using art to promote mental health, engaging community members and looking for solutions within the communities, implementing citizen empowerment programs, providing space for civilized debates and peaceful interactions, harnessing the therapeutic power of storytelling in post-conflict societies, conflict transformation efforts, mobilizing youth to create youth-driven service projects, using technology to counter misinformation in conflict-prone areas of the world – these are just a few of the many approaches that are being used to build peace in communities all over the world. Many of these efforts fall pretty clearly in line with the prevention efforts we see in our own work – community mobilization and engagement, youth-driven and youth-led programming, using storytelling, using technology to end harassment and create change in communities. It was exciting to speak to people who are seemingly outside of our “bubble”, make immediate connections, and talk about the complimentary nature of our work. Although we may be working on different paths, in different communities, and in different parts of the world, our prevention goals are very similar.
Over the next few weeks, I plan to highlight a few of the programs that were featured at the conference. I hope you’ll be as inspired as I was with the talented people doing amazing, culturally-specific, peace-building work throughout the world.