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Learning Together for Peace: Collaborative Insights in Unarmed Civilian Protection

Date: April 15, 2024
The essence of collective safety lies in collective action and collective learning. This principle drove Nonviolent Peaceforce's (NP) Community Peace Builders to join a fellow Unarmed Civilian Protection organization, Meta Peace Team, for their PeaceMakers Weekend. While acknowledging the strength found in connection, participants engaged in an exchange of strategies and insights that renewed their dedication to build peaceful societies beyond their local sphere.

From the heart of North Minneapolis, Minnesota the Community Peace Builder team set out on a trip to Traverse City, Michigan, where they joined the Meta Peace Team for a weekend dedicated to exchanging knowledge and strategies of peaceful coexistence and collective safety.

Upon arrival, the peacebuilders were greeted by a diverse group of individuals – yet all united with a common belief in the power of unarmed civilian protection. Meta Peace Team, known for its commitment to conflict de-escalation, was hosting a PeaceMakers Weekend to share their insights and strategies with those eager to embody the principles of nonviolence.

An unarmed civilian protection organization like NP, Meta Peace Team sends Peace Teams to provide protective accompaniment and protective presence in places experiencing conflict or where there is a likelihood of violence to occur. Their teams are volunteer driven and all members are trained in conflict de-escalation. 

Ethan Quezada, a Community Peace Builder from NP, resonated with the sentiments of the group. Through open dialogue, participants highlighted the essential role communication plays in diffusing tensions and fostering understanding. Ethan reflected on the simplicity yet profound effectiveness of using "I" statements to preserve dignity and promote collaboration.

“The interesting thing about de-escalation skills is that they are very natural—talking to people with kindness, being open to collaboration, acknowledging and listening to others so that they feel heard and seen as humans, and acknowledging your own need for safety," Ethan reflected. "These skills have been integral to healthy human relationships for a very long time.”

The second day brought deeper conversations into the principles of nonviolence, guided by the wisdom of the Six Kingian Principles of Nonviolence. Through interactive exercises, participants discussed the nuances of violence and safety.

Ethan's fellow Community Peace Builder, Odell Wilson, was struck by the variety of viewpoints within the room. He realized that each person's lived experiences and personal backgrounds shape their views on safety. For Odell, this insight strengthened his capacity to empathize with community members and was a good reminder to embrace different perspectives.

It was very helpful to hear other people's perspectives as to what safety looks like and also what being unsafe feels like for others. This allowed me to start thinking about ways to consider other views when I’m out in the community and talking to people with different problems and obstacles," shared Odell.

At the end of the training, the Meta Peace Team discussed the CLARA method – a framework for de-escalation rooted in empathy and active listening. Through CLARA, Ethan, Odell, and all participants not only learned but also embodied the practice of navigating conflicts with patience and compassion, seeking not confrontation but connection. These immersive experiences offered participants greater insight into the lived reality of practicing nonviolence and its diverse perceptions in society at large.

Ethan echoed this wisdom: "De-escalation often targets a person's humanity, encouraging us to step back into our shared humanity by affirming, offering deep listening, and sometimes using distractions.”

Armed with newfound insights and skills, the Community Peace Builders returned to North Minneapolis, with new energy to continue fostering peace, one conversation at a time. At NP, our commitment to relationship-building and collaboration with peace and justice organizations strengthens our collective goal of cultivating harmony within communities.

You can protect civilians who are living in or fleeing violent conflict. Your contribution will transform the world's response to conflict.