Peacebuilding is a key to making Savannah a more resilient, unified community

This commentary is by Jill Cardenas, the executive director of The Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire.

We are living in polarizing times, when divisions within families and communities often seem to run deeper than ever. However, the health of the Savannah community relies on us being connected, caring and navigating conflict successfully.

Peacebuilding can help create a stronger sense of belonging by focusing on our points of commonality while treating others with dignity. It’s important to note that peacebuilding doesn’t just happen –  it’s a highly intentional process that’s centered around behaviors, beliefs and priorities that unite people.

It’s also a learned set of skills that must be practiced. Peacebuilding requires that we treat everyone with respect, regardless of their beliefs, life experiences or perspectives. It invites listening deeply and creating space for dialogue in order to foster a sense of belonging and connection.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but the positive affirmation of peace.”

Although it might be tempting to “unplug” from the latest news headlines and social media chatter, it’s imperative that we plug in and lean in, so we can reconnect with one another across dividing lines.

A few suggestions:

  • Get involved. Volunteer, serve on a board, meet your neighbors or donate your time to help others who are in need. Focus on what you can do to make a positive impact, building upon your own unique strengths, passions and interests. Help empower your workplace, civic group or family to have courageous conversations about conflict resolution.
  • Look at your own implicit biases. Peacebuilding requires doing inner work as well, which means asking what might be holding us back from treating others with dignity. Take steps to ensure that you never harm others, even with good intentions.
  • Pause before you act. Think before you post comments on social media or speak out in public. Consider whether your words will help to create peace or result in deeper harm.
  • Develop the tools and skills to be a peacebuilder. Navigating conflict successfully is a learned skill that requires training and resources to create healthier environments for all.

Starting June 14, The Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire will offer 100 days of daily peacebuilding tips on social media, leading up to the annual Peace in the Park celebration at Daffin Park on Sept. 22.

Create space to restore relationships. Peacebuilding is about bridging divisions through constructive conversation, rather than taking a punitive approach. Create opportunities to spark dialogue, so you can restore, reinforce and strengthen relationships. Take the time to mend misunderstandings and bridge divides. Remember that peacebuilding is about acting within our locus of control and bringing conflict down to the interpersonal level.

At The Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire, we frequently help participants navigate conflict from divorces and civic board disagreements to workplace disputes or potentially violent neighborhood feuds –  and challenge all parties to see and hear those who have been impacted.

Only when we work together to create peace in Savannah can we build the beloved community Dr. King dreamed about. By navigating our differences, treating one another with dignity and developing our skills as peacebuilders, we can ultimately find beauty in our shared humanity and create a more resilient community for all.

jill cardenas

Credit: Original article published here.

Gumption Team

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