Think of a classic image of war. Got one? Now try to think of a similar image that defines peace. Not so easy, is it? London based charity Peace Direct is aiming to change that, along with our whole understanding of what it means to build peace.
For many of us treehuggers, the struggle for sustainability goes hand-in-hand with the struggle for peace. Yet it can seem hard to envision a viable path towards lasting peace. Much of the peace movement is primarily engaged in opposing specific policies and/or supporting particular causes. It is, of course, important to make our voices heard against Government policy we feel is unjust. There is, however, a danger of falling into the "you are either with us, or you are against us" trap. I have often found myself on peace marches standing next to groups supporting, for example, the actions of suicide bombers. This is not my understanding of peace. Just because I oppose the actions of my own government, does not mean that I support those taking up guns or bombs to resist it — Democracy Means You recently published a very interesting article meditating on this subject here. Peace Direct are aiming to build a slightly different type of peace movement. The charity actively supports peace building efforts between communities around the world, funding grass-roots efforts from Iraq to the Congo to the UK. They are also working to raise awareness of peace studies and conflict resolution within wider society. In 2005 the organisation was awarded "Best New Charity" at the UK charity awards. Carolyn Hayman OBE, Chief Executive of Peace Direct, welcomed the award:
'Part of Peace Direct's mission is to bring conflict resolution within the mainstream of charitable activity and government policy. We are thrilled to win 'The Best New Charity Award'. This is an important first step in beginning to bring the issues of peace and security within the mainstream of charitable activity.'
The charity's latest project is taking on our visual perceptions of peace, working with BBC camera man Ted Giffords. There are, they argue, plenty of iconic war images, yet images that truly define peace are much harder to come by. So far, Ted has taken trips to Sri Lanka, Kenya and Uganda, and more are planned. Peace Direct is also calling for supporters to submit their own ideas for images that they feel capture the essence of peace. Ted Giffords described the project as " probably the hardest task as a photographer that I have ever faced. We're so motivated by images of conflict in the media that it is almost impossible to visualise the absence of conflict without being incredibly naff. I guess that whatever the resulting images, success will be judged by how much debate we stimulate."
As the charity's website says, "doves just don't do it anymore".
[Written by: Sami Grover]