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Jessica Murrey for CGN – WNN SOAPBOX

Peace sculpture

A 2002 sculpture of hundreds peoples hands across the globe as a statement for peace can be found at the top of the steps at the Queen’s Gardens the centre of Kingston upon Hull, England. This sculpture represents the ability for all of us young and old to be an active part of the global peace process. Image: Jess Therese/Flickr

(WNN/CGN) Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: Washington, DC – 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.

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“The Mother of Female Empowerment: Peace, Security and the Integrity of the Person” was the subject during a recent global conference on women and peacebuilding at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium on December 4, 2013. At the event Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, takes the conversation to a personal level. “If we are going to speak about peace and security I think we need to think about what we are talking about. Peace is not simply the absence of armed conflict as we know. Sustainable peace has to be build on a different framework of security…We need to redefine security in terms of ‘human security’,” said Williams. “If we want to change this world we have to start talking about the continuum of violence…what really needs to happen is to ‘stop war’…war is a choice,” she added as she explained the sometimes difficult avenues it takes to be honest in saying ‘no to war’. Williams is accompanied by others on the panel who talk to the issues of war, and the suffering that must be stopped. This November 28, 2013 video is a production by WIP – Women in Parliament Global Forum.

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Jessica Murrey is the Communications Manager at Search for Common Ground, a global organization dedicated to “transforming how the world deals with conflict.” 

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2013 WNN – Women News Network
WNN encourages conversation. All opinions expressed here in WNN SOAPBOX belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of WNN – Women News Network. This op-ed has been brought to you through a WNN partnership with CGNews. Copyright permission is granted for publication.

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