10 Dec

Inclusive peacebuilding means peace for all

Anna Sisko during a workshop of the Peace Messengers training in Jerusalem. Photo: LWF / Ben Gray

The Lutheran World Federation organized its first interfaith “Peace Messengers Training” in September 2017. Young people from different parts of the world and faith tradition gained skills and tools on advocacy, negotiation and mediation. They also learned how to combine such capacity with individual experiences, faith and cultural traditions. 

During Advent a blogpost prepared by one of the participants is shared every week alongside a prayer inspired by their words.


The importance, relevance and necessity of having 100 percent of the voices heard

We, Anna and Sem, have the privilege to live in two countries that are among the wealthiest, most stable and most equal in the world. We both grew up in the absence of war, we don’t know what it is like to be displaced from our homes. We don’t know what it is like to try to start anew after atrocities. And, what it is like to move on after everything has collapsed.

Despite this, we have both chosen to engage in conflict resolution. We have chosen studies and careers that take us close to conflicts and make us part of it. We do not wish to take sides, but to support in the transition from conflict to peace. We have chosen the path of a peacebuilder.

We both experience what it feels like to live in a free and peaceful country, and we have grown up learning that all—women, men and the ones who do not fall in the two categories—are created equal. Even though our home countries are repeatedly in the top ten regarding peace and equality, we know that these are achievements that took long to reach, not something that came naturally. Like in other parts of the world, inclusivity remains a timely topic. By inclusivity we mean that everyone has a voice and representation in decision making. In this blog, we focus on inclusivity in the roles of the two main genders, men and women.

We know, that inclusivity is something hard to achieve, and a topic on which the last word has not yet been spoken. Discussion on this topic is ongoing also within The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and thanks to quota system, the LWF can steer inclusive processes and fundamental discussions do not any longer hinder required action. According to LWF Gender Justice Policy, the governing bodies, namely Assembly, Council, and Meeting of Officers, and all other committees and task forces should be composed of 40 percent men, 40 percent women and 20 percent youth. As the name suggests, the quota is a tool for implementing justice. As we repeatedly learned during the Peace Messengers training in Bethlehem, there can be no peace without justice.

Whenever you think about peacebuilding as a process of decision making, it’s not possible to omit a fair and balanced representation of both genders.

Whenever you think about peacebuilding as a process of decision making, it’s not possible to omit a fair and balanced representation of both genders. Why? Because decisions made in the peace-building process have an impact on the grassroots of all engaged parties. The grassroots is where the conflict has the biggest and most long lasting impact, and thus needs to be represented also at the highest decision-making level. The grassroots are not necessarily synonymous to women. Inclusion in decision-making refers to the inclusion of all facets of society in the process of finding resolutions to disputes.

According to statistics provided by the United Nations agency for women, UN Women, women’s representation in peace processes between 1992 and 2011 accounted for only two percent of chief mediators, four percent of witnesses and signatories, and nine percent of negotiators. The statistics further show that when women are included there is a 20 percent increase in the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least two years, and 35 percent increase in the probability of an agreement lasting at least 15 years.

According to the World Bank, women comprised 49.6 percent of the world’s population in 2016. Comparing this number to the figures provided by the UN, one can conclude that fair and balanced representation of women within peacebuilding has a long way to go. The effects of inclusion also seem to make sense. How could agreements on peace last if half the population is not represented in the process?

During our Peace Messengers training in Bethlehem, we had an in-depth group discussion on the topic. The discussion was eye opening for us. Not because we all agreed, but because of the different views about this subject. Among our diverse group members, coming from Nigeria, Colombia, Palestine, Romania, Netherlands, USA and Finland, we didn’t encounter views speaking of the fundamental difference between men and women, but of the different views on the roles that men and women have in society. One of the key points mentioned was that in many cultures, the place, roles and responsibilities of men are often related to the public sphere, whereas women are more tied to the private sphere of decision making. When it comes to power sharing, one has a formal, the other an informal role.

We believe that in order to achieve a sustainable, future-ready, balanced and well represented peace solution, we can’t miss half of the world’s population.

Taking into consideration the different views on gender roles in different communities, we even pledge for more balance in decision-making processes leading to peace. We believe that in order to achieve a sustainable, future-ready, balanced and well represented peace solution, we can’t miss half of the world’s population.

But what has to be underlined is that there is no one-size-fits-all or a just-add-women solution. There is no simple and culture-free and context-free path to inclusivity. But we can all start raising awareness on the topic, focusing on the facts, and providing safe spaces for those not included to make themselves heard. Let this point be a start for a peaceful, critical, yet difficult process and dialogue that helps us to learn to re-examine our gender roles within our own decision-making structures. 

We wish you and each other good luck! And if you need any help from the LWF Peace Messengers, we are always there, eager to help.

Ms Anna Sisko TERVAHARTIALA, 29 years old, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland works with Finn Church Aid, which hosts the Secretariat of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.

Mr Sem LOGGEN, 20 years old, from the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, is a student of International Relations and Organisations and was a delegate at the LWF Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia.


Prayer

God of solidarity and light,

During this Advent season, we remember the good news that you were not content to stay away while conflict and oppression excluded your creatures from the hope of justice, peace and abundant life.  Your Spirit came down, so close that you took on our same flesh.  You entered into solidarity with all of creation so that every creature would know that we are included in your reign of justice, mercy and peace. We grieve that so many of your children are still excluded by violence, power, and prejudice.  Come into our lives, inspire us by your spirit so that we may not be content to watch from a distance, but enter into solidarity with all who are excluded, especially women and children, and welcome everyone into your beloved community of life.  Be born in us today, so that we can bear that good news of the inclusive, reconciling grace of Emmanuel, God with us.  Amen.

Second Sunday of Advent: Peace Messengers from Lutheran World Federation on Vimeo.


Peace Messengers

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of Lutheran World Federation policy.