We started with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) basic workshop. It grew out of the U.S. peace and civil rights movements working with alternative educators and people incarcerated in prison, who were reaching out to prevent youth from choosing violent paths. Volunteers spread it across the world. In Aceh following the thirty-year war, we expanded the AVP advanced workshop into a special topics series drawing on Re-evaluation Counseling, trauma resiliency, interrupting cycles of oppression, and organizing based on discerning a consensus of conscience. This work has now been tested and refined in a dozen countries facing war and extreme violence.
Peace depends on sharing power through the civility of greeting, friendship, clarity of purpose, social agreements, affirmation, respect, and caring for self and others. We acknowledge the power of violence, nonviolence, and life’s creative nature. We commit to rely on the transforming power of life and the power of nonviolence, not using violence ourselves and standing up against its use by others. We develop resiliency to trauma to heal from and face natural and human tragedies without becoming overwhelmed. And we develop our basic capabilities through extensive sensorimotor play (touching, lifting, carrying and pouring) that support dramatic and construction play. Without these basic skills, people often revert to the expedience of violence. Developing empowerment, resiliency, and play transform us to live as peaceful, joyful, capable human beings.
Peaceful people need loving, conscientious societies. Conscience is an inward knowledge of the whole reflected in our relationships with others and the natural world. Conscience grows as we pay attention to and act on it. Inhumane and unjust treatment, control, exploitation or invalidation form individual and collective patterns of oppression. To challenge prejudice, we acknowledge the equality of dignity and worth of all life. To challenge privilege, we invest in the simplicity of direct, loving, conscientious relationships with all life. We resist discouragement, aspirations to unfair or unnecessary power over others, and temptations to try to rescue others from themselves. These practices clear the way for discerning the inner nature and relationship of things, especially when obscure, that lead to keen insight and judgment. Experiencing conscience, liberation, and discernment in community transforms us to recognize and stand up for love and conscience in private and public life.
Peaceful people in loving, conscientious societies respond creatively to needs such as how to greet one another, show respect, cook food, speak languages, articulate faith, and meet a multitude of human needs and challenges. When we are aware of universal personal and social foundations of peaceful life, we become curious, and inspired and delighted by the diversity of cultures.