Visual Peacemakers

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Connecting with people across lines of difference is a fundamental goal in conflict resolution and this process has, in some ways, become more accessible due to the presence of the internet and social media tools.  Through a course I am taking focusing on Art as a means of social change, I came across the online resource visualpeacemaker.org.  This site is essentially a host for the collaborative project coordinated by the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers.  Working with such partners as Peace Catalyst International, the Guild of visual artist and photographers challenge stereotypes and prejudices by capturing the beauty of diversity.

The International Guild of Visual Peacemakers resource consists of collections of photographs, documentaries, and photo blogs that work to promote the message of the Guild as described in their manifesto.  By capturing the human elements of cultures, the project seeks to build peace.

Throughout history people have fallen into the trap of making enemies with, demonizing, stereotyping, and fighting the “other.” There has been a flood of conflict based on ethnic, cultural, and religious identity in the post-cold war era that has ended the lives of millions, destroyed economies, and torn apart families.

Much of this has been fueled by the growing availability of technology, especially photography and videography. While the written word carries an expectation for honesty, there is a void regarding the ethics of images due to their subjective nature. This void has opened the door for photographers to exploit people’s desire to confirm their thoughts about the “other”—mobilizing innumerable people towards slander, violence, and other fear-based responses.

Since 9/11, conflicts between Muslim cultures and western cultures have been growing in intensity. There are deep misunderstandings and stereotypes that are producing widespread fear and anger.

The International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP) was created to build bridges of peace across ethnic, cultural, and religious lines through visual communication that is both accountable to an ethical standard and created by those who authentically care about people.

This resource can be used in both the formal and informal learning space due to its accessibility and the intelligible nature of the content.  Visually the images are powerful and the stories that the pictures tell are worth sharing with students and learners of all ages.  This resource can incite discussions about toleration, diversity, and the beauty and dignity of human life which is aptly illustrated in this project.  This approach to facilitating understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures while also educating the international audience about global issues is creative response to the political, social, and religious conflicts that are prolific in our contemporary landscape.

Using this resources students will not only be exposed to global conflict as humanized by the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers, but will also gain insight into the varied approaches experts in the field of Conflict Analysis and Resolution are tackling and implementing.

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