By Jessica Murrey
(November 25, 2013) – Genocide, school shootings, rape… it’s easy to express outrage after the fact. It is obvious that senseless violence is wrong. But what about the root cause?
Bias. Fear. Hate.
They are alive and kicking in every community. None of us is off the hook.
It could be towards people of different ethnicities, religions or ideologies. Or maybe you just think people who eat at McDonalds are ignorant. Or you think people who refuse to eat fast food are stuck up.
If we want to end violent conflict, we must eradicate prejudice, understand life in one another’s shoes and see conflicts as opportunities – not threats. We must discover constructive solutions to our mutual problems, rather than letting our relationships – or even the government – shut down.
This is the thinking behind Join the Search, the global movement to end violence. United Network of Young Peacebuilders, the Peace and Collaborative Development Network, and dozens more local youth organizations are already onboard. By International Day of Peace 2014, we’re aiming to get one million people to take the pledge to end violent conflict and join the movement.
Violent conflict means physical and sexual violence, but it also includes verbal abuse, bullying and systematic discrimination. Violent conflict is a root cause of hunger, poverty, low education and poor healthcare. It disrupts trade for decades and destroys the environment.
Eighteen of the world’s hungriest countries experienced recent violent conflict. While varying from conflict to conflict, civilian deaths in war have increased in the last century, up to 90 percent of all deaths, with the vast bulk of these being women and children. The total cost to contain violence is U.S. $9.5 trillion, equal to 11 percent of global GDP.
It has to end.
It starts with you and me, but it’s got to go global. Join the Search strives to raise awareness about the impact of violent conflict, shift attitudes on how relevant and preventable violent conflict is, and empower a network of people with the skills to handle conflict in their own lives.
That’s why my Marine and pacifist friends both took the pledge. It’s not about being a doormat. It’s not about changing your beliefs or who you are. It’s about changing your response to conflict. It’s about having the skills to create constructive dialogue in heated situations, with uncomfortable topics.
We’re all wary of clicktivism. So how does signing a pledge online help us end violent conflict? Each month pledgers receive one email with: 1) A Join the Search challenge to exercise their conflict-solving muscles, 2) an inspirational story from the field, showing peacebuilders in action and 3) an invite to a virtual event with amazing speakers all over the world.
Each month the JTS Challenge will dare us to better ourselves by pushing us to look outside our own selective scope. The movement provides loads of opportunities to connect with other pledgers all over the globe, giving us a chance to understand violent conflict in a different context or country. When you put it all together, that is a mass of people on every continent equipped to constructively deal with conflict on both an individual and global level.
If a million people thought twice before writing off the other side, led their communities to constructive solutions during troubling times, and believed that ending violence was possible, think of how the world could change.
It starts with you and me. Take the pledge today.
*Jessica Murrey is the Communications Manager at Search for Common Ground. This article, first posted on The Huffington Post on 7 November, is published with permission in the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).