Please be aware that this post contains names of deceased persons.
What I would really love, is for people to know what the word ‘peace’ means with as much complexity as they know the word ‘violence’. If you ask people what violence is, they will be aware of its many different manifestations; from domestic violence to international warfare; from bullying at school and in the work place, to sexual assault. They will also be aware that different facets of society have a different experience of violence, with gender, culture, age, sexuality, drugs and alcohol, disability, mental health, wealth and poverty, all having a unique, but interlocking influence. This is not to say that everyone is an expert, but merely that everyone has some idea of the subject and what it entails.
When I told people though that I was doing my PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies, a common response was ‘what’s that’? I found it a little astounding, because I thought it was pretty self-explanatory…it’s the study of peace and conflict….Yet people are not aware that peace is even something that could be studied.
I really believe that our lack of cultural capital around the topic of peace has a large role in this. Few news articles reference peace; few novels focus on non-violent resistance; and few songs are about wars averted. This is to the extent that I can think of few films about revolution, which depict the use of non-violence as the primary technique. This true both of film adaption’s of ‘based on a true-story’, and complete fiction of made up revolutions from fantasy lands. Yet in reality non-violent revolutions are much more likely to succeed than violent ones are. Surely, given that, there ought to be enough personal stories, pictures, artefacts and history to create a story? Yet we don’t, despite so readily portraying its less successful cousin, violent revolution. And consequently, many people couldn’t even imagine a revolution without violence.
I believe, that the only way that we can begin to shift this balance away from violence and towards peace, is to start to tell the stories of peace publicly and unashamedly. They are dynamic, exciting, suspense-full stories. They are creative and heartfelt. They are tragic, comic and clever. In short, they are everything that makes for a good story, as well as being true, and helping culturally encourage the world towards peace…what more could you want in a good story!
So, to further prove that such stories are possible and plentiful, I have decided to list 50 possible peace story subjects. Of course, some of these stories have been told before (they have to have been, because I certainly wasn’t an eye witness to all of them).
1. Pots and Pans Revolution: Protests in the wake of the Icelandic Financial Crisis against the government’s handling of it, resulting in the government stepping down and the beginning of a process of drafting a new constitution (2009-2011)
2. Non-violent Revolution in Sudan: The over-throw of the dictator and avoidance of military rule
3. Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace: An interfaith women’s peace movement, helping end the second Liberian Civil War (2003)
4. Samoan Mau movement: Early 20th century non-violent movement for independence in Samoa
5. Stories from the Non-violent Peace Force: Who use unarmed strategies to protect civilian in violent conflicts…I’m being generous here, because this point actually represents dozens of stories
6. Conscientious objectors: Again, quite generous of me here, as ‘conscientious objectors’ actually covers lots of different stories, both of different individuals and of different wars that people were objecting to. Here in Aotearoa/New Zealand, the Baxter Memorial is due to open soon, which will be the first memorial for conscientious objects in the country.
7. Non-violent resistance to Nazi attempts to deport Danish Jews in WW2: Almost all Danish Jews survived
8. The White Rose: A German group opposed to the World War 2
9. World War two era German women’s non-violent protest: Which resulted in the return of their arrested Jewish husbands, including those men who had already been sent to concentration camps.
10. The villages of, Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon in France, and Nieuwlande in the Netherlands in the Second World War: Both sheltered people from Nazi authorities, saving thousands of lives.
11. Irena Sendler: A Polish social worker and Nurse who smuggled children out of the Warsaw Ghetto
12. The decolonisation of Ghana
13. The fact that there is only evidence that the first wars occurred 14 000 years ago, out of 300-200 000 years of Homo Sapian history
13. Antoinette Tuff: Who talked a gun-man out of a school shooting in Georgia, USA
14. Roman Plebeians: Who organised a general strike in 494 B.C.C
15. Diplomats who broke the rules to provide safe-haven to Jewish people in WW2: Again, this one covers lots of different stories, of different diplomats from and in different countries.
16. The story of how land-mines were banned
17. The story of post-genocide Rwanda, it’s re-build and reconciliation processes
18. Playground construction in war zones
19. Humanitarian observation: A process of independent bodies entering immigration detention facilities, to ensure that peoples rights are being respected
20. Ecumenical Accompaniment program in Palestine and Israel: ‘Simply’ accompanying vulnerable groups (like school children) on their day-to-day life. This presence of a ‘witnesser’ is considered to reduce the risk of violence that vulnerable groups face
21. Community gardens: fighting hunger and building community
22. The eradication of small-pox
23. The notion of Democratic Peace: That democracies never (or almost never, depending on who you ask) go to war against one another
24. Sewers: and their role in ending the spread of water-borne diseases (such as Cholera)
25. The decolonisation of India
26. Women winning the right to vote
27. Eddie Mabo, and others involved in the fight for the ending of ‘Terra Nullius’ in Australia
28. Ihumātao in Auckland: An occupation for Māori land rights
29. Anthony Fernando, of the Dharug Nation: A 19th century political activist protesting in Australia and overseas about the treatment of his people
30. Cummeragunja walk-off: The 1939 walk-off Cummeragunja station, and Aboriginal Reserve where they had been forcibly re-located. They crossed the NSW border into Victoria (at the time, illegal) where they re-settled.
31. Gurindji strike: 1966, 200 workers and their families walked off the British owned Wave Hill cattle station, (that was on Gurindji land). The walk-off lasted 9 years and ended with the return of some of their land.
32. El Salvador, Strike of Fallen Arms: 1944
33. Zura Karuhimbi: Who saved more than 100 people from the Rwandan Genocide in her fields and her two bedroom house, by posing as a witch
34. Carl Wilkens: The only American to remain in Rwanda after the genocide began, who saved over 400 people
35. Police refusing order to fire on non-violent protestors in East Germany
37. Singing revolution: Estonia
38. Great Green Wall: Africa
39. The Muslim community in Rwanda: Many of whom refused to participate in the genocide
40. The Revolution of Smiles: Algeria
41. Klaus Hornig: A German Officer who refused orders to kill
42. Soule and Cramer: Who refused order to engage in the Sand Creek Massacre
43.The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty : Which entered into force January 2021
44. Bulgarian anti-government demonstrations: 2013-2014
45. Rose Revolution: Georgia, 2002
46. The ending of Nuclear testing in the Pacific
47. Stanislav Petrov: A Russian man who helped the world avoid Nuclear war
48. Pro-dem movement Latvia: 1989-1991
49. Work to avoid violence on the day of the US election
50. Creative non-fiction: About imagined non-violent revolutions (there are plenty of these about imagined violent-revolutions)
So…..go forth and spread peace!