Visual Peacemakers


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  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.

How about a day for peace?

Actor turned filmmaker Jeremy Gilley founded Peace One Day after realizing that there was no starting point for peace, no day of global unity, no day for intercultural cooperation, and no day for when humanity came together. Gilley felt that if we united as one then that might be the key to humanity’s survival. He started his advocacy for his Peace Day by writing letters to every state leader, their ambassadors, Nobel peace laureates, NGOs, faith based organizations, and other various organizations. Then in 1999 his dream of Peace One Day came true. In 1999 all the member states of the United Nations adopted the 21st of September as Peace Day. This day is recognized as an annual global ceasefire and non-violence day.

Jeremy Gilley’s Peace One Day is recognized every year, but unfortunately the day hasn’t gotten the full attention it deserves. Gilley was to make a statement with Kofi Annan on September 11, 2001 to advocate for his event, but because of the attack on the World Trade Center the statement never happened. However, the events on September 11, 2001 made Gilley work even harder. He was even more empowered and inspired to move forward with Peace One Day. This led to Gilley, along with actor Jude Law, to start work for peace in Afghanistan. Because of the pair advocating for Peace Day the Taliban sent him letter and said they would observe the day, and not engage in violence. The Taliban doing this led to 1.6 million people vaccinated for polio and violence on that day was down by 70%.

Due to this success Gilley has initiated a new plan for 2012, a Global Truce Day. This day will show younger generations that we can make a stop to violence with small acts of non-violence in our everyday lives. Gilley wants to utilize all kinds of resources from dance to social media and globally network with government, intergovernmental, and education leaders.

Gilley’s idea of utilizing education into his plan for 2012’s Global Truce Day helped persuade me to write this blog post about his event. Gilley wants to get young people to be the driving force to inspire individual action, so he has complied an educational resource for teachers to implement non-violence and other peace concepts into the classroom.

I can see this educational resource implemented in almost every formal grade level classroom. The students would need a little background on what conflict is, so because of this, starting at the fourth or fifth grade level would probably be best. However, this could fluctuate determined on how the students are influenced by conflict in their everyday lives. By implementing these resources in a classroom setting these children can practice non-violence in their schools, and also bring what they learn outside of the school setting and teach others.

Ways to use this resource:
Gilley includes many different types of lessons in his educational resource. This comprehensive resource includes 21 one-hour lesson plans for exploring issues of peace, nonviolence, and the protection of the environment, with extended projects for Peace Day on September 21st. I think this resource would be best integrated by first starting with showing Gilley’s documentary for one day of class, doing the lesson that corresponds to that, then moving on to the individual lessons maybe once a month until the actual Peace Day on the 21st. The students could help plan how they want their school to recognize and celebrate the event. In addition to using Gilley’s lesson plans I think it would be important for each teacher to incorporate their own discussion in their classrooms on non-violence, and other peace education areas. This would help each individual classroom relate to what types of conflict are going on in their societies.

The goal of each lesson, whether it be with Gilley’s lesson plans or the teacher’s, would be to spread knowledge about ways to bring about peace in small ways. These can be from their knowledge on non-violence to their knowledge of eco-resolution. Each lesson will more than likely encourage a student to go out and spread what they learned to another, and therefore spread the movement of peace.

“We should oppose violence in all situations and of course there’s no better way of bringing that about than through the power of education.”-Jeremy Gilley

Peace One Day website:
Peace One Day’s educational resources:

The Dhanak Film Club


I first came across this film club through a friend in my Globalization and Culture (CULT 320) class last year who was specializing in South Asian relations.  The Dhanak Film Club is sponsored by the Institute for Peace and Secular Studies in Pakistan.  The Institute is a community supported voluntary effort for the attainment of a peaceful society through non-violent means.  The Dhanak Film Club is one manifestation of this effort.  According to it’s promotional poster, it’s a “film club which goes beyond the black and white categorization of our usual cinematic experience.  Dhanak represents a rainbow of ideas, theme and issues thus providing a unique experience every week” (  One university student, Umer Latif, said “the basic idea behind Dhanak is to raise social and political awareness among the masses as well as underline the importance of common human heritage transcending the bounds of caste, creed and nation” (  The club, hoping to promote empathy and peace through the movies, briefly introduces each movie and follows it with a 15 minute discussion (

This concept of promoting alternative discourse through popular movies is definitely transposable to all cultures.  I believe film clubs would not only be applicable to U.S. educational settings, but would also be very popular among students.  Who wouldn’t want to watch a movie?  There is also a natural desire to discuss the movie with friends afterwards.  I think the key is the way in which that discussion takes place.  This peace-building activity would be very useful in the high school setting where teachers often eliminate most forms of creative learning from the curriculum in an effort to increase the efficiency of lecture-style teaching.  Using popular films in the classroom to engage students in thinking about the nature of societal issues would encourage many students-at-risk in conflicted urban neighborhoods to continue coming to school instead of dropping out.

Logistically-speaking, the teacher could spend one-third of class lecturing on the historic context and educational knowledge needed to understand the film; one-third on watching the film; and the final third of class on discussing the implications of the themes in the film.  Considering it is impossible to watch the whole movie in class, the scenes selected could be used to promote a full-length screening of the film after-school in a film club meeting.  With the use of a TV, a DVD player and access to a public library’s DVD collection, the teacher could easily incorporate this concept into the classroom.

The key is using the film for educational purposes rather than simply making it a free day with no work.  It’s important to use this resource as a pedagogical means to encourage critical thinking on the values promoted through film.  The teacher should make equal time in passively watching the film and actively discussing how the film could be viewed through a peace-building lens rather than a violent one (as is often the case).  The teacher may also choose a film that specifically highlights problems also present in the students’ environment to not only give students alternative endings, but to make students question why these problems are present in their community.  The application of film can be used to promote first empathy and then, community building.  The goal of using this film concept is promoting human rights education in the classroom by teaching students the skills (critical thinking and public speaking) to fight for democratic justice in their own community.  I think both high school teachers and film students/human activists could benefit from starting film clubs in their schools/communities.

Resources: – The Dhanak Film Club website – An article from the January 2011 edition of “Trail Blazer” (An Indian youth magazine) describing the power of film screening as a peace pedagogy

Video Games for Peace

Three of the top ten best-selling video games of 2011 are characterized by explicit violence and main objectives which celebrate using various means by the user character to destroy other characters (1). While there has been very little clear evidence linking violence portrayed in video games to violence by users, the game market is notably void of games made explicitly for peace.  Video games can be used by educators to promote peaceful ways to conflict resolution without distracting from the education system’s core curriculum.

Video games as explicit means of peace education do not form an established genre in the gaming world. But, some games have been developed that reward peaceful means of conflict resolution and penalize violent behavior. For example, the video game Civilization tasks the user with building a thriving civilization from the ground up, but the user is penalized if major violence and riots occur in the user’s civilization. The 2007 video game PeaceMaker, tasks the user with taking one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and implementing a peaceful two-state solution, all the while being challenged by realistic events occuring during the user’s play.

A short video on PeaceMaker

In what context can video games for peace be used in learning? What type of lesson plan can be used with the goal of peace learning in mind? One possible context is for these video games to be integrated into the computer classes present in primary and secondary education. Simple point-and-click mini-games, which reward win-win situations between the user and computer intelligence and penalize aggressive behavior, can demonstrate peaceful ways to deal with conflict and are appropriate for users with relatively basic computer skills. These games can be used by educators to reward excellence and progress in computer classes, and since they are cheap and easy to produce, can be integrated into existing computer literacy programs. Certain classes in the social sciences could play a short video game that explains peaceful methods of conflict resolution and challenges students with finding the most peaceful solution in relations between people and groups of people. Students with advanced computer skills could play role-playing games, such as Civilization and PeaceMaker, in classes, clubs, and camps. In all these examples, it is essential for the educator to review the rewards-and-penalties systems existing in the game and prompt the students to reflect on how these games simulate decision making in conflicts.

Implementation of a lesson plan using video games is hampered by two problems: a lack of resources and a lack of pedagogy. Many education systems do not have computers available for student use aside from special computer literacy courses or lack adequate computer labs for students to use in this lesson plan. The use of video games geared for peace in a school curriculum could face problems in implementation because video games are often associated with laziness and distractions from education, rather than a form of education itself. Peace education through video games would receive less criticism in being implemented if educators demonstrated the success of other interactive games in teaching educational topics and assisting core curricula.

Video games can be used as an educational resource for peace. Video games designed specifically for demonstrating and rewarding peaceful solutions to conflicts can be integrated into existing educational settings and can fit into larger lesson plans on conflict and peace. Peace educators can use video games as a way for students to explore peace in an accessible environment and apply peace education topics to simulated conflicts.

(1): These three games, (Call of Duty: Black Ops, Mortal Kombat and L.A. Noire), are noted by the Entertainment Software Rating Board for blood, gore, and intensive violence.  The best-seller rating comes from a CNBC article.

Useful Links:

Antony Adolf article on peace-based video games

PeaceMaker video game official website (can be purchased for download)

From Hostility to Hospitality

William Ury’s TED talk from October 2010 is an excellent tool for introducing new learners to the field of conflict transformation. The simplicity of Ury’s language, his use of stories and visuals, and the brevity of the lecture make this video appropriate for a broad audience, and it would be best suited for students in high school or older, in both formal and informal settings. The lecture is a wonderful way to introduce the field of conflict/peace studies to students because it incorporates key concepts such as creativity, interrelatedness, perspective, narrative, and humanization through specific examples that make these ideas easy to understand for novices.

Ury’s lecture would be a good way to begin a course or training session (such as training students and/or adults in mediation or facilitation), and should be followed with small-group discussion in order to draw out and reinforce themes. As the screening and discussion could be conducted in as little as 35 minutes, this program could serve as an “icebreaker,” allowing participants to get to know one another informally (through discussion) but also setting the scene by introducing key concepts, and inspiring the group with both emotional and rational appeals.

This program incorporates aspects of multiculturalism, conflict resolution, international relations, and even human rights. Its implementation would ideally develop a basic understanding of important themes in conflict transformation, as well as a positive attitude and optimism toward the creation of peace. Ury’s talk also inspires creativity, analysis, and reflection.

(By Emily Ludwin Miller,

Yoga for Peace in Afghanistan

Yoga in schools has been one topic covered here on PeaceLearner, but another area where Yoga and meditation are being used as approaches to peace and nonviolence is actually in Afghanistan, through the Amanuddin Foundation. Started by French human rights activist Amandine Roche, Amanuddin facilitates yoga programs for Afghan people. The program there is called Sola Yoga – “a peace initiative based on the ancient/ancestral science of Yoga and meditation,” where “participants will develop the tools they need to control their feelings and temper negative emotions such as frustration, anger, hatred, and revenge.” Sola Yoga focuses on teaching breathing exercises, concentration exercises, and non-violent practices.

Roche told Reuters: “It’s a new solution to an old problem. War starts in the minds of men, so peace starts in the minds of men. You cannot bring peace with the means of war, it’s as simple of [sic] that.” Roche believes that peace cannot be imposed from the outside, but must come from the inside of an individual.

Roche is also focused on bringing yoga to Afghans because she believes it will help them begin rebuilding their society after the devastations of war. While some might call Roche, who was detained by the Taliban in 2001, crazy for working with these gunmen, she says: “My vision is to teach meditation to all the insurgents, to organize vocational training for them to become mediation teachers, so … they can go back to society, they have a job, they can reintegrate, and they will become peaceful” (Reuters). Roche has worked with the Dalai Lama and members of the Gandhi family to learn about non-violence and meditation. She also worked for the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping and helped to organize the first Afghani presidential election.

The Amanuddin Foundation is just getting started and will surely be growing in months to come. The foundation has gotten a lot of press in recent days – to read more, see these articles:

Can yoga and meditation help bring peace to Afghans? – Reuters

Sola Yoga: Can Meditation Bring Peace to Afghanistan – Huffington Post

For This Yogi, Afghan Peace Plan Needs More Downward Dog – Wall Street Journal

Reading about the Amanuddin Foundation can be a meaningful way for learners to realize the power of nonviolence and have an example of just how effective and helpful the practices of Yoga and meditation can be. By seeing how Roche and her colleagues are affecting peace in Afghanistan, we can explore different approaches to peace and possibly adapt them to use in our own contexts. Amanuddin’s work is also a moving example of the nonviolent transformation of conflict – especially Roche’s goals of arming insurgents with vocational skills to help them rebuild their lives in Afghanistan.

DCPEACE: Cultivating Peace in D.C. Schools

DCPEACE is a program supported by the US Association for the UN University for Peace. The goal of DCPEACE is to teach conflict resolution and peace building in elementary classrooms through teachable moments and other classroom techniques. Their focus is on younger students to help them develop non-violent skills to combat violence at the earliest ages possible. The hope is that these non-violent skills will be developed before the tendencies towards violence. They host educator trainings, parent workshops, and hold Peace Clubs after school hours to further supplement their in-class programs.

Most effective, though, have been their Skills for Understanding Workshops and the Curriculum Enhancement they have been able to have teachers implement. In the workshops, they use theater, art, physical activities, and bring in outside facilitators to teach students effective skills to choose non-violent conflict resolution.

As one of the teachers in the video said, the goal of the program is to “give students the tools to solve their own problems.” Through these workshops and peace clubs, they have transformed student attitudes at Malcolm X Elementary School. Their confidence levels and self-esteem of students have increased, and they are focused on their own and others success. There has been a transition to a more community-based environment where students look out for one another.

Their website houses a program evaluation after the 2008-2009 school year at Malcolm X Elementary School. After the initial year of programming, 100% of teachers and administrators reported an increase in the students’ abilities to manage conflict. The program itself is reported to have decreased violence at the school by an average of 53%. This evaluation has great information in it, and I encourage you all to check it out. It can be found here on the main DCPEACE website.

There are not a lot of recent articles or blogs about what DCPEACE has been doing in the past year or so, as it was only a pilot program housed at Malcolm X. However, their results are promising and their data is accessible so the programs could be replicated or supported in a new setting. Their most recent updates are from the middle of 2010. I’m not sure why this program has not caught on in more high-risk DC schools. It has proven results and focuses on violence prevention and conflict resolution, which help classrooms and entire schools run more smoothly. Their evaluation does not state where funding comes from, but a lack of funding could be why the program is not expanding.

Let’s talk about peace and possibly get rewarded for it: National Peace Essay Contest for High School Students

The National Peace Essay Contest for high school students sponsored by the The Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding, the education and training sector of the United States Institute of Peace, is a way to incentivize high school educators and students to include peace talks as part of curriculum especially for history, government and social studies content areas. According to the institute the goal of the contest is to “promote serious discussion among high school students, teachers, and national leaders about international peace and conflict resolution today and in the future.”

The incentives for educators include the fact that the activity complements existing curricula and other scholastic activities and meets National Contents Standards, which is the direction that most school districts, including the District of Columbia is heading in. Students’ incentives include skill building in the areas of research, writing, and reasoning skills. Additionally, first place state winners receive scholarships and are invited to Washington for a five-day awards program. The Institute pays for expenses related to the program, including travel, lodging, meals and entertainment. This unique five-day program promotes an understanding of the nature and process of international peacemaking by focusing on a region and/or theme related to the current essay contest.

Educators can incorporate this contest as part of a reframing history activity by having students analyze past national or world conflicts and reevaluate outcomes applying the concepts of peace studies such as exploring approaches to peace and how those past violent conflicts could have been transformed non-violently. Students will be exposed to a different way to view conflict in the world and begin to generate ideas about how to resolve those conflicts while maintaining peace, justice, human rights and security in the world, as well as begin to examine what their personal roles are as global citizens in the effort for peace.

Check out contest information at:

New resource from Educators for Social Responsibility

Book by Book, by Carol Spiegel, is a valuable resource for librarians, teachers, guidance counselors, and parents to find books to complement the standard language arts curriculum for teaching important peacemaking and social and emotional learning concepts. Written by a veteran peace educator, Book by Book leads adults to children’s literature that will help students explore themes related to conflict and its resolution, social justice, and appreciation for diversity.

Learn more…

Remembering Elise Boulding

Elise Boulding, 89, a sociologist who was instrumental in establishing peace studies and conflict resolution as an academic discipline, died June 24 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at a nursing home in Needham, Mass.

Read full article

Elise Boulding will continue to be an inspiration to all the peace educators, researchers, and builders in the world.  Her commitment and advancement of the field has put the study of peace on the map in monumental ways and the ripples of those efforts continue to expand.

If you are not familiar with Boulding’s work, be sure to check out one of her more famous books, Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History.