By Michael Fryer
“We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us — the labyrinth is thoroughly known.” – Joseph Campbell
I’ve been walking, sometimes stumbling, through the labyrinth known as the world of peacebuilding since 1996. Having finished university that summer, I began an ongoing and deeply rewarding connection with The Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland. It is where I learned my trade. A few years ago I explored with them the possibility of a project about gathering the anecdotal wisdom that people involved with its work had accumulated over the years. It was not that it wasn’t being shared, but that it wasn’t being collected systematically. There’s an African saying that states “When an old man dies, a library burns down”. That’s how I felt about so much of the unwritten wisdom floating around in spoken stories and reflections about why a riot didn’t happen, the moment two former enemies met, mistakes made and lessons learned. Sadly that project never got off the ground, but my desire to help gather the wisdom of people working to help cultivate a more peaceful world has not diminished.
As Joseph Campbell says, the labyrinth is thoroughly known. As I stand looking at two potential paths, someone somewhere, has been in my position before. They could advise me on which way to turn, what to expect along that path and the reasons why it might be wise to turn left and not right. Much can be gained from acknowledged mistakes but a map giving some tips and advice would at times be very helpful.
When I reflect on the past 17 years, I have not written enough. I wish I’d been more systematic about journaling or putting down on paper reflections about the work I was doing. I’d love to be able to read through those thoughts, to chart the journey I’ve taken over the years and for them to offer insights into how I’ve arrived at how I view things now.
I could have started blogging over a decade ago but I didn’t. The list of ‘could haves’ is embarrassingly long. I first voiced the idea of Peace Practitioners in December 2012. Assorted things distracted me and nothing concrete developed. My desire to learn from others and belief that not enough spaces exist through which ideas can be shared is as strong now as it has ever been. That’s why I’m writing this today.
Over the past 17 years I’ve been grateful to meet thousands of inspiring people working on issues relating to peace, conflict and development. From those conversations, I know that I’m not alone in either my desire to write and reflect more, or the challenges faced in turning desire into action.
This is why I’ve created Peace Practitioners.
This space aims to fill the gap that exists for peace practitioners who wish to explore their work through the written word, but who do not have the time, capacity or desire to jump through the hoops required for publication in an academic journal.
It aims to encourage practitioners to reflect on their work, explore lessons learned, share emerging ideas and to help build connections and relationships among those working towards building peace.
Many practitioners write blogs or share ideas and reflections among colleagues. However, these tend to be in ‘silos’ based on geography or theme. The common denominator throughout all our work is human relationships and dynamics. Peace Practitioners aims to create a broad platform that helps identify and establish links between seemingly disconnected groups or areas of focus.
We all have a great deal to share. So much of that lies in the stories and examples we gather through our everyday interactions with the people and communities we work with. Peace Practitioners is a place in which these stories, case studies and reflections can reach others. Your stories and the learning points that those stories and examples illustrate about peace work are valuable and need to be shared.
All of us have grounded, practical wisdom that might be relevant to someone else. All of us could probably benefit from writing down our ongoing reflections and insights on a more regular basis. All of us have experiences and ideas whose messages speak to issues that impact everyone.
All of us have libraries in our heads that have been closed for too long. It’s time to brush the dust off those books.
There’s a labyrinth out there that needs to be mapped. It’s time to start writing.
Michael Fryer has been working on issues related to peace and conflict since 1996. He is from the UK but lives in San Diego. He has spent most of the past decade designing and delivering training workshops as well as lecturing. He is the founder of Peace Practitioners and also one of the co-founders of The SongStream Project, a non-profit organisation that explores social issues through the lens of music and memory.