Peacemaking among Nations

When we look around the world today, we see numerous cases of armed conflict that mar achievement of establishing God’s kingdom on earth. We wonder what we can do about it.

A Personal Calling

Some persons have a calling to become directly involved in conflict situations by seeking to mediate and to provide unarmed protection to civilians who are under attack. For instance, Christian Peacemaker Teams (sponsored by Mennonites, Friends, Brethren), Nonviolent International, Nonviolent Peaceforce, International Peace Brigades. And in various settings religious leaders serve as mediators of local and regional conflict.

Most of us, though, are unable to serve in this manner. Nevertheless we can become strong advocates for initiatives for peacemaking between nations and within nations. We can support efforts to provide adequate funding for organizations so engaged.

Kinds of Conflict

In doing so we can note that most wars in the world in 2016 consist of armed conflict within nations rather than wars between opposing states. In many instances resurgent groups are rebelling against the established government. Some of this conflict has religious overtones. Many of these cases involve authoritarian regimes that offer little opportunity for peaceful change. In some of these wars other nations are involved through support for either the government or insurgent forces. In this sense they are engaged in proxy wars with one another.

Experience has shown that peacemaking responses to these situations need to vary according to different stages of armed conflict.

  • Preventing deadly conflict uses early warning, preventive diplomacy, and mediation to stop the outbreak of conflict before it becomes violent.
  • Conflict transformation engages belligerents, seeks fair settlement of their disputes, and tries to bring a positive end to conflict.
  • Peacekeeping forces may sometimes be necessary after a truce or the end of conflict during a transitional period to stable peace.
  • Post-conflict peacebuilding is required to repair the social and physical damages of war and to develop effective governance.

International Organizations

Particularly deserving support is the United Nations which since its establishment in 1945 has been a valuable instrument for achieving peace and justice. Through the work of the Security Council, the Secretary-General, and other units the UN has played a role in negotiation of 172 peace settlements and sent 69 peacekeeping missions to various trouble spots. Its specialized agencies and programs provide food aid, refugee resettlement, development assistance, protection for children, and deal with world health concerns.

Also worthy of support are regional organizations, such as Organization of American States, African Union, and Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Likewise the U.S. Institute of Peace, which seeks to prevent, mitigate and resolve violent conflicts around the world. And a wide variety of nongovernmental organizations engage in peacemaking, refugee assistance, public health initiatives, food programs, and development activities.

Responsibility to Protect

Some of these internal wars have resulted in mass killing of persons from particular ethnic groups, such as occurred in Rwanda (1994), Srebrenica (1995), and Darfur (2003). This experience raised the question: does the international community have a responsibility to protect innocent victims by intervening within the boundaries of sovereign state? The World Council of Churches has answered in the affirmative: yes, there is a responsibility to protect populations in peril but not with a military operation to defeat a state. Other organizations in civil society share this viewpoint.

Disarmament

Although today wars directly between opposing states are relatively rare, the potential hovers in the background. Particularly worrisome is the persistent danger that war could break out directly between rival states possessing nuclear weapons. This points to the need for the total elimination of nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles. Reduction of conventional armaments and restrictions on arms trade are other objectives to work for.