Being a peace activist is about making the world a better place. Although it may seem like a daunting task, there is no shortage of opportunities for those of you who want to make a difference in peacebuilding.
Peace advocates come in many forms: Politicians and government officials, writers and journalists, educators, religious leaders, community organizers, social workers, business people, environmental activists, mental health professionals, artists and musicians, volunteers, nonprofit organizers, scientists, and engineers, peace corps, etc.
In this article, I would like to share some tips that have helped me and others to work for peace.
The world desperately needs peace, and that means it needs people who are not afraid to work for peace advocacy.
There are many ways to advocate for peace. You can advocate for the rights of peace in your community, at the national level, or at the international level. You can take actions large and small, from organizing marches to writing letters.
The most important thing is that you start somewhere. Here is a brief guide on how you can take action for peace:
Educate Yourself About the Issues
Gather information about the issue that concerns you. You can do this by surfing the Internet or reading newspapers and magazines. This way you can learn more about the situation that concerns you and use this information to raise awareness.
The more you know about the causes of conflict, the better you will be able to explain them to others and take steps toward peaceful solutions.
Educate yourself about conflicts and conflict resolution around the world so you understand the root causes that lead to war and violence against civilians-poverty, lack of education and health care, human rights abuses.
Find Your Voice
Once you have educated yourself about these issues, it’s time to make your voice heard at every possible level – especially at the local level. Join groups or organizations that advocate for nonviolence and address related issues like hunger, gender equality, homelessness, etc.
Start Small at the Local Level
If it’s hard for you to fight tooth and nail right away. You can organize meetings and gather participants to raise awareness of your issue in your area. You can also volunteer at peacebuilding rallies to learn how they are conducted and what needs to be done to make a positive impact.
Build a Campaign
Participate in various campaigns organized by other peace advocates or organizations if you are not ready to start one yourself. When the campaign is over, you can evaluate its success and try different ways to make the next campaign even more successful, then build one too.
Volunteer With Organizations That Work for Peace and Justice
There are over one million nonprofit organizations in the United States alone, and almost all of them rely on volunteers to function effectively or at all.
If you want to join peace advocacy efforts, get started today!
Support Socially Engaged Artists
Support art that raises awareness on social issues, by attending concerts, readings, and lectures by musicians, authors, and activists working for sustainable peace.
Write letters to the editor to local newspapers on issues that interest you, especially those involving a violent conflict, and why peace matters to you.
Vote for candidates who work for conflict resolution. With our votes, we can influence policymakers.
Find Your Area
Depending on your interests, there are many different types of peace advocacy you can do. Here are some suggestions:
Peacebuilding Through Education
If you have a background in mental health, you could join a working group that advocates for youth or refugees, for example.
If you are already involved in advocacy efforts and your specialty is human rights and social justice, you could share your advocacy skills with youth.
Learn about peace and conflict resolution issues. Learn about the history of war and peacemaking, especially in your own country. It’s a great way to educate yourself and build up your advocacy skills.
If you are a student, you can join a civil society or support peace-building organizations on social media.
Join a Campaign for Nonviolent Direct Action
Many organizations use nonviolent direct action strategies as part of their overall strategy for social change and influence decision-makers!
I have been advocating for peace for a long time and am still learning new things about how to be effective.
Here are 12 principles that have guided my work over the years:
Know Who You Are and What You Stand For
It is important to reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own beliefs to become an effective advocate. Ask yourself:
- Why do I want to make a positive impact?
- What do I care about most: women’s rights, mental health, injustice, conflict prevention (e.g., violent conflict), crisis areas, trauma, law enforcement, civil society, peace process, etc.?
- What advocacy skills do I need to acquire?
- What can I offer to make a positive impact? Education and skill sharing, volunteering, my presence?
Be Honest With Yourself
Look at the facts of a situation, especially those that make you uncomfortable or upset. Are there opportunities you need to grow from? Are there difficult truths you need to face?
Do Your Homework
There is so much information out there these days that it’s easy to get confused by conflicting reports and differing points of view.
A good way to sort through it is to look for reliable news sources – ones that are non-partisan, non-ideological, and whose reporters do their homework before writing a story. (The HuffPost, the New York Times, and the Washington Post are good examples). Another useful approach is to look for consensus among multiple sources (e.g., “all major news outlets reported…”).
This sounds obvious, but it is not. Too often, people listen as if they are waiting for their turn to speak, rather than listening to what the other person is saying.
Asking questions can be a great way to show you are listening, especially if you are asking about something the speaker said that you found interesting or thought-provoking.
And if you learn to say “tell me more” without sounding like a shrink, you will always learn something new.
Choose Your Battles Carefully
Do not try to get into every issue, not even most of them – just the ones that matter most to you. And choose your battles carefully, because the more you get into political waters, the more likely you are to have a very unpleasant encounter with someone who does not share your point of view.
Be Respectful and Polite
This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people forget this when they are under stress or anger. Conflict prevention starts at home. If you are preaching about peace on social media, you should also live what you are talking about.
Be an Active Citizen
Vote. Go to your local political association meetings, city council meetings, or school board meetings and make your voice heard.
Join a working group you believe in; most have email lists to keep you informed of their activities and issues.
If something is particularly close to your heart, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or call in to talk shows. Encourage your friends and family to do the same.
Get Involved in a Working Group
There are many groups already working for peace, from religious groups to political parties to veterans’ organizations. One of the best ways to get started is to join one of these groups and learn from others who have been around longer.
Participate in Peaceful Demonstrations
No special training or permission is required for this – all you need is a strong belief in the cause and a willingness to spare time for it. Be careful not to break any laws or use violence, because that will hurt your cause and probably your future too.
Pay Attention to Your Feelings
- If you hear or read something that makes you angry, afraid, or sad, how do you react?
- Do you want to support a candidate who promises to stop what is troubling you?
- Or is your reaction more along the lines of, “That’s terrible!” followed by an impulse to help solve the problem?
Before you react, think about whether you can turn your anger or sadness into a commitment to lasting peace.
The best way to make a difference is to volunteer with organizations that work for a cause you care about. If there is an issue that speaks to you personally, start there.
For example, if your daughter was bullied at school because of her sexuality and now feels like she does not belong anywhere in the world, look for women’s rights and LGBTQ youth organizations where she can connect with other young people who may be in a similar situation.
Educate the Next Generation
Young people need to be made aware of sustainable peace advocacy efforts. Peace is not an ideal that can be forced on children, they need to learn it at home, like any other skill.
You can contribute by bringing peace to your family and community. If you do this, you will also pass it on to your children.
There are many ways families can build a culture of peace in their homes:
- Be a good role model. Show your children how peaceful you are with them, your spouse, other family members, and everyone else around you.
- Teach by example that disagreements with others do not have to lead to violence or abuse. Negotiate disagreements fairly, respectfully, and without violence and injustice.
- Talk openly and honestly with your children about gender equality, social justice, etc., and their impact on people’s lives. Help them understand why a human being can become violent and support them in finding nonviolent ways to deal with their own anger and frustration.
- If you can, incorporate the topic of peace into family life as often as possible – for example, at mealtimes or reading stories together before bed. There are many great books to help explore what peace means in a practical way.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that you have to hold an important post like at the United Nations (e.g., UN Security Council ) to be an effective advocate for peace. But remember those decision-makers and policymakers depend on people, and if you work effectively for peace, you will definitely contribute to the peace process, probably more than you think!