The Seven Steps of Just Peacemaking

Have you ever considered what active peacemaking might actually look like? In his book, Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace, Glen H. Strassen makes the observation that maybe we’ve all been too negative:

Ever since [Constantine, Ambrose and Augustine] there has been a debate between pacifism and just war theory: Should Christians give clear witness to Christ by remaining non-violent, or should they fight for injustice for their neighbour when they can do so by just means? It is still an important debate today. But unfortunately, the debate has focused Christian ethics only on the negative side of the issue: Are Christian prohibited from making war? It has turned attention away from the positive mandate of active peacemaking: What should we do to make peace?

This is my condensed summary of his Seven Steps of Just Peacemaking

  1. Affirm Common Security. The first step is to affirm our common security partnership with our adversaries and build an order of peace and justice that affirms their and our valid interests.
  2. Take Independent Initiatives. We need a new strategy of independent initiatives, directed towards transforming the reaction of the adversary.
  3. Talk with your enemy. Talk to your advisaries, in a manner designed to resolve conflict.
  4. Seek Human Rights and Justice. Seek human rights and justice for all, especially the powerless, without double standards.
  5. Acknowledge Vicious Cycles. We need realistic acknowledgement of the vicious cycles we are caught up in, and our need to participate in a realistic peacemaking process.
  6. End Judgemental Propaganda, Make Amends. Instead of judgemental propaganda, we can acknowledge to others that we have caused hurt and want to take actions to do better.
  7. Work with citizens groups for the truth. The final step is to participate in groups with accurate information and a voice in policy making.

3 thoughts on “The Seven Steps of Just Peacemaking

  1. When I look at that list, I wonder how it can possibly work in practice.
    They are utterly contradictory. 1 and 3 are often in direct conflict with 4. If the main aim of your adversaries is to deny human rights and justice, then 1 and 3 will betray the aim of 4.
    Much will of course depend on the situation the author has in mind, but it seems to me that they are abstract and quite impractical. It seems to me that there need to be a lot more branching steps at every stage – if, then, else.
    If your adversary has all power and is utterly unscrupulous, then A; else if your adversary might be amenable to negotiation on some points then B. And so on.


  2. In the book he makes the point that this is all pre-emptive work, not to be suddenly initiated in the middle of a crisis. That’s too late. The thing I found most interesting was the central premise, that much debate about the topic is too negative in focus and that more debate about pre-emptive work is required. Even if his answer may need some work I think his question is a good one.


  3. Thinking that about it a bit more, it seems to me it is something that could and should have been tried in the former Yugoslavia.
    But when I think of South Africa in much of my lifetime, it seems hopelessly inappropriate, so I still think more thought needs to be given to the “if – then – else” approach.


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