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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Despite being something we all value, the exact meaning and nature of peace is much more complex and elusive than we might at first expect. Many of us think of peace as the absence of war. As such, we consider countries and regions like the UK, the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia as living in a state of peace, while regions like Middle East and countries like Syria, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, to name but a few, exit in a state of war or violent conflict. Johan Galtung has described this understanding of peace as negative peace. Just because there may be an absence of war and violent conflict does not necessarily mean these countries experience peace.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds How Galtung conceptualises peace relates very much to his understanding of violence. In week one, we saw that conflict is not necessarily always bad and always violent. We also saw that violence is not necessarily always physical or what Galtung refers to as direct violence. There also exists a form of indirect, non physical violence, which Galtung labels structural violence. The absence of direct physical violence equates with Galtung’s notion of negative piece. There may be no or little presence of direct physical violence and threat of physical harm, but this does not mean that a person or a community experiences full or what Galtung calls positive peace.

Skip to 1 minute and 45 seconds For an individual or community to experience positive peace, the existence of structural violence must also be addressed. As such, positive peace is not just about ending a violent conflict, but also about ensuring the safety, security, and well being of a population in the long term.

Religion and peacebuilding - part 1

This video introduces key terms in understanding the concept of peace.

Drawn from the work of Johan Galtung, you will be introduced to the key ideas of: positive and negative peace, direct and structural violence which are important concepts for later steps.

Up for debate

  • How would you define peace? Does it fall into the categories discussed in the video?
  • What do you think has informed your understanding of the term peace?
  • Is peace a universal concept and why do you think so?

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This video is from the free online course:

Religion and Conflict

University of Groningen

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