In recent news coverage of the U.S. government’s response to ISIS, a news pundit asserted, “There has always been war. There will always be war.” This cynical assertion may seem the obvious response in combating the ruthless tactics of militant groups using violence to achieve their ideological conquests. It’s almost an “easy out” to accept this reality of war as ever present in our world. It alludes to apathy and willful acceptance of violence to fight violence. But war is never an “easy out”; just ask a veteran or a soldier’s family members, or civilians who have experienced “collateral damage.” We can’t ask the dead. Our challenge for humanity is to resist this acceptance of war’s steady state in our lives. Peace building is far more complex and difficult to embrace as unequivocally. What if I had argued this: “There has always been peace building; there will always be peace”? Many might disagree because peace does not prevail in war-torn places and does not capture our attention in the media.
Perhaps peace does not exist in vulnerable areas touched by violence daily—be it the Gaza Strip or inner-city Chicago. If we believe peace building will persevere, however small-scale the effort, we can retain hope that war does not always have to be. When we give in to war as a given reality, we desensitize ourselves to its brutality. Hold on to peace. Work for peace. That is why the vision and efforts of HasNa participants, partners, and supporters are critical. A small group of farmers working collaboratively keeps people fed. A small band of youth storytellers casts new light on an old subject. A small team of journalists unites an island with fresh perspectives. Albeit small scale, collectively these groups build communication across divides, and keep conflict at bay. As Albert Einstein said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Grassroots work helps facilitate understanding that slowly spreads from neighbor to neighbor, village to village, country to country. Let’s not lose sight of a new paradigm in which peace is the predominant lens through which we view the world.