Agape International Political Camp, 15-21 August 2015, Prali, Italy
Peace Pedagogy: Towards New Paradigms for People’s Security
1. We are a group of more than 50 activists, students, social workers, artists, teachers and pastors coming from different regions of the world, from different religions and from different backgrounds and social contexts. We have gathered together at the Agape Centro Ecumenico in Prali, Italy from 15 to 21 August 2015 to critically examine the current deathdealing geo-political and economic order and to articulate new paradigms of people’s security as well as a pedagogy of and for peace.
2. We recognize that we live in a time of empire that is generating tremendous insecurity for the majority of people in the name of security for an elite minority. In contrast, we envision a world where all people, regardless of class, gender, race/ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation, experience genuine security, that is: a nurturing and healthy ecosystem as well as freedom from all forms of poverty and violence. Towards this end, it is our urgent and crucial task to cultivate and practice a pedagogy of and for peace founded on justice.
3. We understand empire as the coming together of political, military, cultural and economic powers constituting a system of domination led by powerful states and transnational corporations, in collusion with national elites within states, to protect and defend their interests. Empire manifests itself in many ways: from the more obvious global war on terror that has claimed the lives of millions of innocent civilians and triggered massive migration from strife-torn lands to the less apparent austerity measures and structural adjustment programs enforced by global financial institutions in many countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean for many decades and now in indebted European countries such as Greece.
4. Empire peddles a false sense of security and, through a media apparatus that sows suspicion and fear, narrowly defines security as the prevention of acts of terrorism, where the terrorist label is now increasingly applied to minority groups and those who dare to challenge or critique the prevailing system. In the name of national security, wars are being waged in many parts of the world and legalized systems of surveillance and control have been imposed on – and curtailing the rights of – entire populations, especially those who are considered different on account of class, gender, skin color, religion and sexual orientation. In this way, empire deepens divisions and inequities along class, gender, racial/ethnic and religious lines.
5. Motivated by the objectives of economic expansion and profit, empire dispossesses and therefore impoverishes already marginalized peoples and communities. Resource-rich lands are being grabbed from indigenous peoples and plundered by transnational corporations with the complicity of military and para-military forces. In diverting national budgets to military expenditures and imposing economic austerity, empire strangles resources for health, education and other social programs. It is invested in keeping youth in poverty, and then promotes the military profession as an avenue to escape from poverty. It uses the prison industry to deal with ‘problematic’ groups: it is easier to lock these people up than to ensure the provision of decent and fulfilling jobs. At the same time, empire profits from never-ending war. A mass of investment banks, military technology developers, arms and weapon dealers, privatized prison systems, etc. make up the military industrial complex, which is worth trillions of US dollars.
Redefining security from the perspective of people
6. Language affects how we perceive and construct reality. Therefore, if we are to break destructive cycles of war and violence, we must create a new vocabulary of peace that will promote a culture of peace. We must reclaim and redefine such terms as ‘security’ and ‘democracy’ from the perspective of people, rather than the perspective of states, corporations and other powerful institutions.
7. From the standpoint of people and communities, genuine security may be articulated as the holding together of justice, peace and integrity of creation. Therefore, promoting people’s security entails protection against such threats as hunger, homelessness, joblessness, disease, violence in all its forms including against LGBT communities, and human-induced ecological disasters such as nuclear contamination and global warming. People’s security is based on the principles of democracy, self-determination and sovereignty: all of us have the right to participate in political and economic decision-making processes that impact our lives and communities. It is concerned with closing socio-economic gaps including through the design and implementation of equitable financial and economic structures and policies, creation of dignified employment and the universal provision of quality healthcare and education. It is preoccupied with safeguarding the health of our increasingly polluted and fragile ecosystems.
8. All over the world, various movements – feminist, LGBT, indigenous peoples,’ antimilitarism, pro-democracy, anti-globalization and ecological movements – are already engaged in realizing alternative visions and paradigms of people’s security. Their struggles are a deep source of hope.
Pedagogy of and for peace
9. Now, more than ever, we believe it essential to expound a pedagogy of and for peace in order to have the tools and the means to: challenge dominant narratives that rationalize and justify wars; resist violence and oppression in all forms; defend life; and advance social, economic and ecological justice which form the foundation of a genuine and lasting peace.
10. While the contents of a peace pedagogy will depend on our varying contexts and circumstances, some fundamental principles and defining features may be identified. A peace pedagogy teaches us to value and respect the intrinsic rights of all human beings, communities, and the whole creation. It entails a careful listening to voices that have been deliberately silenced. It enables us to engage in: critical personal and collective reflection on how we may be imbibing or contributing to a culture of violence and domination; creative dialogue with “the other” – or those who are different from us – according to values of transparency, respect, and acceptance of diversity; and activism for and together with the victims of an imperial world order.
11. A pedagogy of peace exposes the root causes of wars and violence: greed for power and profit. It equips us with methodologies that will help us to make everyday choices as well as deal with conflicts at varying levels without resorting to violence or abuse of power. It necessitates continuous dialogue between theory and practice: theory must enrich practice and practice must enrich theory. It involves a constant process of unlearning the logic of exploitation and accumulation and (re)learning how to build just and equitable relationships from the level of households to the global level. Such a process rarely happens in the formal confines of the classroom alone, but in our everyday interactions with society and the rest of creation. A pedagogy of peace has to be open to all and developed by all in a participatory and democratic manner. It is a way to recognize our personal and collective responsibility for constructing a better world and cultivating the conditions for peace. Such a pedagogy takes us nearer to a spirituality of resistance and transformation as an ethical political and religious stance.
Strategies to overcome empire, promote people’s security and a pedagogy of peace
12. In summary, we discern the following as important strategies:
· Expose and confront systems and structures that sustain empire such as the military industrial complex, the neoliberal economic agenda, classism, patriarchy, racism, and religious fundamentalism through deconstructing dominant narratives of security and development and mobilizing our communities to protest against injustices in all its manifestations;
· Dismantle economic structures of militarism by challenging the commodification of security and the justification for huge industrial prison complexes, and by demanding transparency and accountability from our governments with regard to military budgets and the costs – financial, human and ecological – of national security programs;
· Lift up and amplify the voices and stories of the many victims of empire and develop and expand networks of solidarity from the local to the global level; and
· ‘De-school’ by re-appropriating and re-imagining what ‘security’ and ‘democracy’ mean from the perspective of people and by actively practicing a pedagogy of and for peace that enables: critical awareness about self, others and the systems and structures that maintain empire; consciousness of the sacredness and inherent dignity of all life forms – human and non-human; and a spirituality of resistance and transformation.