One of the biggest challenges to peacemaking is the very way in which peace is often viewed: namely as an absence, or a state void of war and violence. At best this perspective means peace is simply boring. No wonder violence is then so appealing, even fascinating (in its ancient sense of sacred attraction or compulsion). It was therefore good to be reminded recently, at a conference at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba, of the considerable work that has been done in recent decades in developing the concept of 'positive peace'. Speaking to a mixed body of academics, faith and local community leaders, diplomats and government representatives, Dr Lucas Misseri (from the National University of Corboba in Argentina) opened up the subject beautifully. Developing the theories of 'positive peace' by Galtung and Maliandi, he outlined deeply constructive philosophical grounding for the work being done in Toowoomba towards 'building a model city of peace and harmony'. If peace is actually truly dynamic, then it requires convergence, enabling all that is best in the variety of human life to engage, share and create even more new, life and energy. Inter-religious dialogue, he thus opined, was a vital convergent vehicle to positive peace. Dialogue indeed represents a crucial 'space in-between' our differences, offering respect and a cherishing all that is of value . It is not necessarily about seeking consensus, for that might actually deny the potential of creative conflict. For peace is impossible if it is about settling things down. True, positive, peace is about enlarging life, bringing all that is good in the past and present into a more fulfilling, yet never complete, but always open future: what the Judaeo-Christian tradition calls shalom. As such, inter-religious dialogue should also include others who do not see themselves as religious, or may even see themselves as a-religious. For everyone needs to be involved to find more convergences and the necessary values for peace.
As well as examples from Poland and the Phiiippines, the rest of the USQ conference involved considerable input from Toowoomba, showing how such dialogue is being developed locally at a whole host of levels. Deepened by our international sharing and insights, we locals were thereby strengthened in our lived dialogue, recognising it more fully as an essential resource to building the foundations of 'positive' peace:
* creating spaces for convergence
* establishing symbolic ways of interacting in the face of violence and 'negative' peace
* acknowledging human diversity and enhancing mutual respect
* contributing to a democratic lifestyle.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.