Different forms of violence and peace
- Thinking about collective, versus interpersonal, versus self-induced violence (World Health Organization), or
- Thinking about violence at the mega, macro, meso, and micro level (Galtung).
2. Peace as a state of complete harmonyThe World Health Organization defines health as not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, but as the complete state of physical, mental and social well being. In the same way, we can define peace not merely as the absence of violence, but as a positive state or condition of harmony. It is determined by loving, harmonious acts which elicit the good in each other (direct peace), by fair and horizontal relationships (structural peace), and by a culture of peace (cultural peace). However, what happens when we are faced with conflict? This second definition of peace doesn’t necessarily help us address conflict – it is more an aspiration and guiding star. Hence, we need a third definition, because peace is not only a state of harmony, it is a dynamic, changing concept – just like health. If we talk about someone with “good health” we often mean that this person has a strong immune system, and can recover quickly when disease strikes. Health can be seen as a capacity of the body, mind and spirit to deal with life challenges in a positive way.
3. Peace as the capacity to handle conflictSimilarly, Professor Galtung defines peace as the capacity to handle conflicts with empathy, creativity and through non-violent means.
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A conflict becomes negative when we try to resolve it by turning to violence. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to talk about conflict prevention – what we need is violence prevention.The “ABC triangle of conflict” below illustrates that conflict is determined not only by the content or contradiction (that is, what the conflict is about), but also by the attitude and and subsequent behaviour of the people involved in the conflict.
What is peace work?Peace workers can try to modify any of the three corners of this triangle (attitude, behaviour, and content/contradiction). They can try to increase “negative peace” (by simply preventing, reducing, or stopping violence), increase “positive peace” (by promoting direct, structural, and cultural peace), and transform conflicts in a non-violent way.
If you would like to know more about peace and conflict theory, take a look at Chapter 1: Peace and conflict theory in Course 1 of the Medical Peace Work textbook.
Reflection pointWe’ve now gone through some basic concepts of medical peace work. Why do you think it is relevant for health professionals to learn about peace work?
Medical Peace Work
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