Maja Uzelac


"The way we define our world actually creates our world. Our words and concepts are incredibly powerful and you and I must become conscious of how we use them to create reality."1

Look at the words which mean peace in different languages and listen how they sound:

OM SHANTI (Sanskrit), SHALOM ALECHEM (Hebrew), SALAM ALEKUM (Arabic), der FRIEDEN (German), MIR (Croatian), la PACE (Italian), la PAIX (French), PAX (Latin), la PAZ (Spanish), PINAM KANI (Chinese)...

How do we imagine peace? What is your conception?
Put down a few of your definitions to give yourself a sense of your own power to create reality. How you define life is intimately connected to what you already have experienced and to what you will experience in the future. What is your definition of: SAFE? CONFLICT? PEACE? and ENEMY? Let's spend a little time writing just one word for each of the questionmarks. Don't analyze this too much, please.

Now I want you to know how I use some of these words to create a new way of thinking about old "truths". (These "redefinitions" are not mine, I took them from those more experienced and inventive peace authors.) Here are for example - "safe" and "peace".
SAFE: Feeling of warmth and connectedness, feeling WITH, feeling in harmony with other beings in one's environment, feeling challenging, not requiring protection.
PEACE: Feeling in a safe space; to be in concord with yourself, with other beings and with nature; a sense of "interbeing"

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper INTER-ARE. "Interbeing" is the word that is not in the dictionary yet... (Thich Nhat Hanh, Nobel Prize Winner for Peace in his book Peace is every step, Bantam Books 1992)

Now we can look at the common way of thinking about peace. For the most people peace is not only inner state of mind, but a cultural, judicial, political, social and socio-economic phenomenon. The result is that peace is considered to belong to the area of social sciences which indeed have made a great contribution in the analysis of community building relationships with their study of conflicts. Let us look at some of these most frequently used definitions of peace, and try to find which (if any) of these sentences suits us ("our" word for peace) the best.

Lawyers would insist that the solution to conflicts depends upon the transformation of the judicial concept of a fair war into that of the right to peace - or, in other words, the transformation of the law of force into the force of the law.2

The first idea of peace is considered as utopian and idealistic and stressing passivity. Peace is some kind of blissful, mellow state which we may get to "someday" - and where we are all so nice and agreeing on everything (and we may keep killing each other because those others aren't fitting into our fantasy of what peace is supposed to look like).
The second idea of peace is seen within the war-peace opposition. Peace is an interim between wars. Peace is the opportunity to heal the wounded, bury the dead and sharpen our swords so we'll be ready for the next battle when it inevitably comes.

UNESCO's Constitution states: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed". Here is the idea of peace meant as a state opposite to war, and - if the minds of men were meant as personal, internal qualities - peace is an inner state of being.

Since 1993 I have been involved with the through international nongovernmental organisation activities and projects of teacher's trainings in peace education and conflict resolution. More than three years of organizing workshops and seminars on nonviolence within Croatia - in all crises or war zones (such as Karlovac Zadar, Biograd, Dubrovnik, Pakrac, Osijek, Gospic, Zupanja) for about 2000 teachers, pedagogues, psychologists, social workers and other professionals and paraprofessionals (a lot of them under stress) with a small group of peace education trainers and activists - have given me an experience which completely changed my inner world model and my way of thinking. For me - peace is a very dynamic, difficult, alive process in which the inner feeling that you are just where you're supposed to be (= to be in harmony with yourself) is very much connected with cooperative and shared creativity, dealing with one another with respect (= to be in harmony with others) and thus with your environment undestood as (natural, cultural, national, religious and/or global). You don't need to be necessarily "nice" or quiet or unconfused; in fact this new experience of peacefulness could exist right in the midst of a conflict which leads towards greater understanding and mutual respect.
"The approach of those who work for peace, is the following:

This means it is necessary to work simultaneously on the attitudes of both sides: violent party and of those to whom violence is done.
Nonviolence is thus based on two main principles:

Peace Education

What I have experienced as a peace education trainer, during the war and after the war in Croatia, is this: peace education gave me (and my participants - teachers and students) empowerment and hope. Giving lectures and workshops in conflict resolution and peace education I realized that this non-educational goal was more important than the development of "conflict literacy". I shall not focus on the difficulties we had as volunteers in peace education: it is not hard to understand that midst in the war, when the people were full of hatred and fear, and when the Croatian government was fighting for international acknowledgment of independence - it was not easy to inspire the spirit of tolerance, mutual trust and intercultural and interconfessional connections between people.
The word peace was not liked, it was suspicious. In 1994 I visited Northern Ireland and I saw very similar hatred and mistrust between Catholics and Protestants. I saw big walls between the two communities in Belfast and I was shocked by the fact that other peoples and other countries suffer from the same desease.. From the distance I could understand much better our situation. And I saw how powerful and effective is Quaker peace education projec, of Corrymeela center and the work with children. It has been said that Corrymeela is an attitude of mind and a way of life.4 I got inspiration and I learned a lot from the books of The Churches' Peace Education Programme /"Peacemakers", "Power To Hurt", "Power To Heal" etc./.
I was encouraged. Because I realized that political conflict could be solved by other means and not by only political solutions.

What is peace education?

It is a conscious attempt to construct the peace between people, inside people, and between people and nature. I saw in my peace education practice as well as in the mirror of Northern Ireland that being at peace with oneself (inner ecology), at peace with others (social ecology) and living in peace with the environment/nature (planetary ecology) are 3 inseparable parts of the peace concept5 building a new, more holistic paradigm.

Peace education has to be stressed as a process too, and not a quick-fix solution to the problems of the world. It is affirming the worth of each person, developing a sense for self-esteem and value, the skill of non-judgmental listening, and working together in a cooperative climate without winners and losers. "It is about never missing an opportunity to give responsibility to children", as Tom Leimdorfer, peace education worker for the Quakers, says.
Peace education fits in to the new paradigm of education. The following model will try describe it.

emphasis on content
given information
learning as product
priorily on performance
emphasis on process
personal responsibility
learning as journey
priority on self-image

What does peace education teach?

Most of us were educated in ways which encouraged competition and conformity. Neither of these gives us the skills to resolve conflicts constructively, without inflicting hurt on others. So peace ebucation develops attitudes and behaviors which foster a creative conflict resolution at every level - from marriage and the family, through our social and business affairs, ethnic and religious relationships, to government and the international scene.6
It teaches about conflict as a danger and as an opportunity for new relationships, about conflict as a normal everyday life fact. And it teaches about peace as an active process. "There is a world of difference between pacifism and passivity."7

A conflict can be presented in a form of a triangle with A,B,C corners. A means attitudes, B - behavior and C - conflict issues. Whatever occurs at any of these corners affects both the others. Different parts of peace education concentrate on each corner. Some universities in the world have specialist departments in peace and conflict studies, which analyse the common features of conflict at differenl levels, from personal to the international. But three parts of peace education should not be taught by giving information. You have to teach by creating the situations through which the students can examine their attitudes and behaviour. They learn from their own experience. Such workshops have been developing for many years, and UNICEF currently looks for ways of assessing what difference they make in pupil's actual behaviour.
If the time permits, I would like to tell you more about one of such projects carried out by Croatian Ministry of Education, Care Canada and UNICEF in 3 schools in Croatia: one in Pakrac and two in Osijek. It was a pilot training and research project involving upper level elementary school pupils (Fifth Graders) and aimed to provide data and resources concerning trauma, conflict resolution, bias and prejudices and children rights that could be disseminated to other areas of Croatia and even to the other parts of former Yugoslavia. Three of us - a teacher, psychologist and pedagogue - prepared a manual /Za Damire i Nemire, A Door To Nonviolence/ which included all three parts of peace education: attitudes, behaviour and conflict issues plus aclivities for trauma healing. The training program was designed for 20 sessions with children, and after the initial teachers training the teachers themselves decided who would start with the programme. At 4 schools all teachers, headmasters and parents were informed and involved in the planning and implementation of the project. The peace education programme started in the second half of the schoolyear (ending in June 1996) with final testing). It might be thought by some that plans to evaluate attitudes and behaviour are inappropriate in a time of crisis. But if the teachers, parents and children are involved in the planning and developing programme - and the instruments are made so that the children are "listened to" - they whole process is a great success. I had three supervisions in Pakrac school (with 3 groups of children) and one in Osijek, and I was surprised by children's and teacher's feedback, enthusiasm and changes in social atmosphere anb relationships between children. You must take into consideration that Pakrac was one of the heaviest war zones and in these classrooms are children from different sides it means, Croatian and Serbian children. I coulonl believe my eyes and ears how sensitive ana approachable were the children to the training. It was for me the real evaluation. The results of the research are not available yet.

Due to the unfortunate circumstances - I mean war in Croatia - there have been a lot of projects of peace education supported by national and international organisations as well as a lot of different approaches to peace education.
The majority of peace education initiatives was carried out in front line cities. They have been done in a form of extra-curricular activities at primary school level.
Due to the war constant conflicts and disintegration of social values in their environment, the children are not able to satisfy their psycho-social needs and the cosequance is: poorer school performance, restlessness and conflict behaviour. The sensitiveness of desplaced population to war trauma (panic when leaving homes, loss of parents, other members of the family or friends...) was often in danger to turn into potential or open agression on the basis of general psychological mechanisms. The children in Croatian schools are more agressive today than before the war.
I would like to mention only one peace-education model called Savonskl Brod Model (front line city in Eastern Slavonia), where the teachers made immediate experience in peace education with school children during the hardships of the war - confirming that creativity and art has an immense power to protect from war reality, and at the same time the power to promote the values of peace and dialogue.
To create a distance between themselves and the reality of war - the teachers and pupils started to play in the cellers and shelters using creative and cooperative games and painting activities.
Slavonski Brod is a town in which every second citizen was a refugee. Although almost every second day in the cellers - the children from the primary school that carries the name of children writer Ivana Brlic Mazuranic (called Croatian Anderson) have painted about 100 paintings with the characters from her stories. Children have painted (during bombing) the walls of the school and a twelve meter long canvas in which all characters from the stories - usually in conflict - engaged in peace and love.
Slavonski Brod has also become a focal point for conflict resolution and there have been organized seminars for teachers of music, art and literature from other front line cities in Croatia.

There is aiso a big advance done in developing different materials in conflict resolution and peace education by Croatian authors, for example: "Sukob ili suradnja" (Conflict or Cooperation) - by Josip Jankovic, "Nenasilno rjesavanje sukoba" (Nonviolent Resolving of Conflict) by Nina Pecnik and Marina Ajdukovic, "Igrom do sebe" (games activities for group and social learning) by Buncic, Ivkovic, Jankovic, Penava, "Mirotvorni razred" (Peace Education in the Classroom) by Mira Cudina-Obradovic and Dubravka Tezak, "Budimo prijatelji" (Let Us Be Friends) by Bognar, Uzelac, Bagic, "Pomozimo djeci stradaloj u ratu" (Help the children exposed to war) by Ministry of Education Croatia, "Korak po korak do oporavka" (Step by Step to Recovery) by Baralh, Matul, Sabljak and others. This and a lot of voluntary work and readiness for the peace education training will promote and potentially institutionalize the understanding and practices of conflict resolution, bias awareness and peaceliving skills through a schools trainings medium.

Work on attiludes helps people to become aware of bias and prejudice in themselves and their society. Almost all of us have been hurt by someone's prejudice, whether against our gender, our ethnic or national identity, our physical appearance, our profession or our social position.
Peer mediation, one type of conflict. resolution being explored in schcols in many countries means training children to mediate or facilitate the conflicts between their friends at school, rather than using teacher's authority and the school rules. This is a very clear example of peace education, which gives people the power to resolve their own conflicts in cooperative way.
Many schools are becoming interested in some form of peace education. They may see it as a resource for dealing with specific, problem like bullying. It is effective if he whole school policy changes: it means - that all the staff and parents and pupils know what it is and work together in harmony to create a climate in the school of "This is a place where no one need to be afraid"8

There will always be conflict in famiiy, school, neighborhood, and elsewhere. Conflict is an inevitable part of life and the only way to achieve the much-needed changes. Violence is, I think, introduced into conflicts by people who are actually afraid of conflicts. Peace education begins at home. When the home has taught a child that negative feelings like anger and fear can be handled safely, and that agreement can be reached even when people disagree strongty - that child is lucky.

What can peace education do in the schools and in the family / culture / society?

Early Christian church was pacifist indeed, pacifism seems to have constituted a major distinction between early Christianity and both the warlike Roman empire and the equally violence-prone Old Testament Jewish tradition. Many early Christian martyrs died for refusing service in the Roman legions.9
But we still have wars, somebody could say, and one of the most wicked and sickening wars was this one you had here in Croatia and Bosnia from 1991 to 1996. What is pacifism or peace education worth then? It is up to you to find out the answer for yourself. One answer is to start working on peace education.
Al the end I would like to share with you one wondrful story which also tells you the most wonderful answer for the questions you have.


There was a big fire in the forest and all the animals and the birds were fleeing as fast as they could. They were in panic and feared for their lives, all that is, except for one tiny creature. The hummingbird was flying to and from a nearby lake. Over and over it went down to the lake, took a drop of water in it s beak, flew back to the flaming forest and dropped the water.

A hawk came by and cried out scornfully, "What are you doing, do you think you will put out the fire with your small drops of water?".

The hummingbird patiently replied: "I do not think I will, but I will have played my part."

1 Danaan Parry, WARRIORS OF THE HEART, Cooperstown 1991
2 Ferencz, B.B, Keyes, K. PLANETHOOD, THE KEY TO YOUR FUTURE, Preface by Robert Mueller, Love Line Books 1991
3 Patfoort Pat, AN INTRODUCTION TO NONVIOLENCE, Nyack/London/Brussels 1990
4 Mc Creary, Alf, CORRYMEELA: THE SEARCH FOR PEACE, Belfast 1975
5 Weil, Pierre: THE ART OF LIVING IN PEACE, Towards a New Peace Consciousness, UNESCO 1992
6 Lampen, John: PEACE EDUCATION; AN INTRODUCTION, "Reconciliation Quarterly", 1994
7 Ulster Quarker Peace Education Project, Annual Report 1994
8 Lampen, John: Conflict-Busters, Hope Project 1994
9 Barash, P. David, INTRODUCTION TO PEACE STUDIES, Waldsworth Inc. 1991