Full-spectrum peacemaking

If you want to read about conflict resolution, you have an abundance of choices.  Similarly, there is a large and rapidly growing literature on restorative justice, on non-violent activism and on peacemaking in general.   Numerous books analyze violence and its roots as well as the dynamics of power and privilege.   Few attempt to bring these together in a practical, integrated framework.

Unfortunately the fragmented nature of this published literature reflects the reality on the ground.  People who work in conflict resolution, for example, rarely realize the potential restorative justice offers for addressing the justice dynamics inherent in conflict.  Likewise, peacemakers may write off justice advocates as trouble-makers, while non-violent activists often see peacemakers as glossing over underlying wrongs.  Those of us in these fields don’t interact with each other enough, nor do we often see ourselves as working toward the same goals.

To bring these approaches together, Elaine Enns and Ched Myers offer in their new book, Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Vol. II, the metaphor of “full-spectrum” peacemaking. Each of the approaches in this spectrum has an important part to play in creating what my former colleague John Paul Lederach has called “justpeace”  – or what the biblical tradition calls shalom: right relationships with one another, our creation and our Creator.  To truly work in this direction, however, each of us must recognize our connections and contributions to the whole.

Enns and  Myers don’t just bring us together; they also challenge us to go deeper.  Building true justice and peace requires that we do more than work at immediate or “presenting” injustices and conflicts.  We must also be aware of and address underlying factors that contribute to and shaping conflict, such as inequities of power and privilege and structural injustices. Fortunately, the authors offer analytic tools to help understand these dynamics.

Their full-spectrum peacemaking provides an intuitive and practical framework for understanding how the work fits together and the place that each approach has within it.  The authors use the metaphor of a tree, acknowledging the importance of attention not only to the roots of our life together but the soil that nourishes it and the way that the various branches of peacemaking can contribute to a just and peaceful world.

Enns and Myers bring to their marriage (yes, they are a couple) and to this book practical backgrounds of experience in restorative justice, conflict resolution, and non-violent activism.  They speak from these real-world places, but they also acknowledge their limits and blind spots as relatively privileged European-North Americans.  So they have also listened to, learned from, and here offer to us voices of those who have directly experienced the harms of violence and oppression and those who are actively working to address these harms.  That is the focus of the second part of this book.

The authors have an ambitious goal in this two-volume series:   to bring an integrated Christian perspective to the work of justice and peacebuilding for both practitioners and interested laypeople.  As an academic and practitioner who is committed to connecting with the same audiences, I believe they have succeeded.  While their perspective is Christian, it is not exclusively so, and much in this volume will be of interest to non-Christians. And although (hallelujah!) the volume is not written in formal academic language, those of us in the academic world will learn from it as well.

Note:  Elaine and Ched’s website is www.bcm-net.org.  Ched has an additional website with a variety of resources: www.ChedMyers.org

(From the Forward to the book.)

6 comments on “Full-spectrum peacemaking”

  1. Thanks for bringing this book to our attention, Howard. I’m a fan of Ched Myers for how he can use the Bible to help me see contemporary economics and politics in fresh ways.

    FYI, for others reading this blog who want to read some parts of Elaine and Ched’s book, amazon.com lets you “look inside” the book and read excerpts. It looks like there are a lot of inspiring stories in there.

  2. Following Michael, I’m very grateful you brought this book (and its two authors) to my attention, Howard! Within the past week, my theology prof favorably mentioned Ched’s “Binding the Strong Man,” and if I’ve been shaping and describing my ministerial approach as “restorative theology,” then clearly I need to check into their work.

    Oh, and Howard…you forgot to mention that you wrote the forward for this book! 🙂

  3. This looks really interesting… From my understanding as a layperson, before having read the above-mentioned book (!), the apostle Paul’s approach to achieving reconciliation seems to be through creating communities (i.e. churches) – which will inevitably be small initially -of reconciled people from divergent backgrounds who can model this lifestyle to the surrounding communities. Hence his epistles climax with passionate appeals for unity between – for instance – Jews and gentiles, and between slaves and slave-masters, within the context of the local church of redeemed individuals.

  4. Federico Reggio says:

    Hello Howard!

    Very interesting that those authors suggest to think of marriage and family as a vital example of the search for peaceful and just relationships through daily experience.
    According to the view of ‘classical’ philosophy (From Cicero to the very peculiar approach of G. B. Vico to the theme of natural law) ‘family’ is the ‘cell’ of society and the first place where sociality and regularity are experienced. Therefore – he argues – families are the ‘place’ where law and justice are born and first experienced (see Vico, Universal Right, 1721).
    Family shows, in facts, the vital role of mutual and caring relationships, requires an experienced attitude to the common good, the daily composition of partially differring interests. Family daily experiences the continuous ‘dialectic’ between the value and the specific role of individuals and the unifying and self-standing value of the small community that a family is.

    If this is true, then there is much to do in our contemporary societies, in which the ‘cell’ of marriage and family is continuosly under the attack of disgregating factors.
    Most of all – and this, as you know, is one of my biggest concerns – there is the need of ‘building bridges’ between ‘justpeace’ issues and a wider reflection on moral and legal philosophy.

    Do you agree with me?

  5. Howard Zehr says:


    I certainly agree with your last point about building bridges between “justpeace” and wider moral and legal philosophy. I also agree that our families are where we often first learn about relationships, positively and negatively, though I’m not convinced that family is the source of law as we know it.

    I am concerned, however, that we be open to changing definitions of family and that “family” not be used as a code word for a host of often nostalgic and anti-progressive values and beliefs. (George Lakoff has argued that how we envision “family” shapes how we think about a host of other social and political issues, at least in the U.S. – See, for example, his book “Don’t Think of an Elephant.”)

    For me, justice is about living in right relationship. A functioning family unit is the place where this ideally begins, but other venues such as schools and religious communities could be doing much more to teach this as well.

  6. Federico Reggio says:

    Thanks for the reply, Howard.

    I am not convinced as well that today family is the source of law as we know it.
    The ‘classical’ vision I was mentioning was someway ‘defeated’ by the individualistic vision of modern nature law theories, whose well known product was a formalistic, state-centered and relation-careless vision of law. As you know, I argue that a rethinking of the way law is envisioned is urgent and much needed.

    I am not sure, instead, that I fully understood your second point about ‘family’ as “host for nostalgic and anti-progressive values and beliefs”: do you mean that ‘family’ might be a sort of ‘commonplace’ for traditionalistic visions of society?
    (Maybe I am strongly underlining family as a value since in Europe we can witness how the post-’68 ‘attack’ against the idea of family as social institution has actually increased the individualistic and hedonistic attitude of our societies..)

    No need to say that I totally agree with you about the role that schools and religious communities can play in helping the development of dialogical and respectful relationships among persons.
    (Sadly, nevertheless, there is often no plain correspondance between ‘religious communities’ and ‘teaching respect’. The question turns to be a rather problematic point, since it might imply that we stop being politically correct and automatically presume that each religion/religious movement equally promotes human brotherhood and mutual respect.. (isn’t it here that a deeper inter-religious and inter-confessional dialogue should begin?)

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