Guide Peace Psychology in the Balkans: Dealing with a Violent Past while Building Peace

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  2. Transitional justice and reconciliation
  3. Peace psychology in the Balkans: dealing with a violent past while building peace

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Year published Metadata Show full item record. Abstract From a history of repressive regimes and genocidal warfare, the Balkan region is undergoing full-scale transformation, politically, economically, culturally, and psychologically. These conditions make this part of the world a microcosm of peacebuilding, in terms of both the traumatic past that must be addressed and prospects for future nonviolence.

These actors are competent, take peace building very seriously, and devote a lot of energy, time, and their limited funds. Their respectable position in their community and their moral and spiritual authority give them a legitimacy and credibility that is not available to secular organizations; thus they are more effective. For example, Islam influences all aspects of life in Muslim societies; therefore it is usually not possible to separate the religious from the nonreligious.

For that reason, quite often many groups do not feel the need to indicate or emphasize the role of Islam in their work, but take it for granted. The role of Islam is thus assumed, a given, though not explicitly stated.


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There are also various organizational differences between Western and Muslim communities and institutions. Although Muslim communities have a long tradition of social services, community assistance, and charitable work, they do not have organized institutions devoted solely to peace building. Who is going to be chosen as the third party is based on the requirements of the particular situation.

Indigenous conflict resolution mechanisms such as sulha or suluh are based on the formation of an ad hoc delegation to intervene into the conflict, mostly at the request of one of the parties. In terms of the personal initiatives of individual religious leaders, their language skills add to their visibility and their ability to receive international funding and support.

These actors have a strong presence and immense credibility in communities of their faith and have strong negotiating positions with local authorities who share their faith. More visible actors are usually involved in interfaith organizations, working together mostly with their Christian counterparts. Additionally, Muslim communities are generally less individualistic and more community oriented. Members of these communities may have difficulty saying no or refusing another person directly. They might rely more on body language to avoid shame and to save face.

Building working relationships with Muslim peace actors in these regions requires an understanding of these cultural communication differences. Otherwise these stylistic differences may lead to misunderstanding between the nonregional and Muslim actors. One quite interesting observation of the authors was that women's peace organizations in the Muslim world are more visible than others, because they are included in many women's databases. The reason behind their higher visibility is that they have been documented and endorsed by very active international women's organizations.

However, their higher visibility does not mean that they are particularly more effective than other groups, although they have their particular strengths. For example, in various traditional communities, elderly women can participate in communal peace building. In others e. Women, especially elderly women, are respected highly in their communities and are listened to. Being involved in raising children, they can also influence their children more effectively. Their movement is also restricted. Still, it is important to note that it is not always so easy to distinguish these activities from each other as they are usually combined.

Many of these actors assume different roles e. This is followed by education seven actors, approximately 23 percent , intermediary six actors, 20 percent , interfaith five actors, approximately 17 percent, and two of the interfaith actors conduct interfaith mediation , and observer one actor, 3 percent. Although various organizations, such as Zene Zenema in the Balkans, engage in transnational justice activities such as the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, none of the organizations included in this study undertakes transnational justice as their main area of operation.

Additionally, eighteen of the organizations analyzed 60 percent focus on resolving conflicts mainly among the Muslim communities and twelve of them 40 percent focus on resolving conflicts involving different religious and ethnic communities. Of the eighteen organizations that focus on Muslim communities, seven of them approximately 39 percent of the organizations that target Muslims and 23 percent of all the organizations focus mainly on Muslim women.

On the basis of the analysis of these organizations, the authors conclude that the contribution to peace building in the communities of the Muslim actors included in this study has been significant in many ways see, for example, Table 2.

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Islam plays a critical role in the lives of the Muslim communities in Africa and the Balkans. Muslim leaders have moral and spiritual legitimacy to influence the opinions of people. They are very respected and listened to in their communities. For these reasons, Muslim leaders have a unique leverage to reconcile conflicting parties. The majority of actors included in this study, such as Acholi Religious Leaders Initiative for Peace of Uganda, the Interfaith Mediation Center of Nigeria, and the Wajir Peace and Development of Kenya, among others, have contributed in many ways to altering behavior.

Because of gross violations of human rights and excessive violence, communities involved in conflict are usually traumatized and have deep injuries. Painful memories of conflict, loss of loved ones, and other injuries suffered have caused deep emotional and psychological stress. When that is the case religion provides emotional, psychological, and spiritual resources for healing trauma and injuries see also Gopin, Islam, like other religious traditions, is usually a source of healing in these cases.

Together, the Islamic values of peace building, reestablishment of harmony and order, respect for others, and the Islamic ideals regarding fate, predestination, and total sovereignty of God, among others, serve as a basis for healing and reconciliation. Organizations such as the Interfaith Mediation Center, for instance, focus on healing trauma and injuries inflicted during times of conflict.

From War to Peace in the Balkans, the Middle East and Ukraine

Through sermons and lectures, these actors connect various issues to Islamic values and principles and thus influence their constituents. For example, involvement of Muslim religious leaders in the Coalition of Peace in Africa COPA of Kenya seems to have contributed to the dissemination of democracy and human rights in the Muslim community. Being Muslim and having the necessary training and background is crucial for their effectiveness. The quality of their work in their own communities and the respect they have earned based on their work is also crucial.

Transitional justice and reconciliation

Muslim groups have a broad community base, which provides a wide pool from which to draft committed and unwavering staff. This staff can devote the necessary time to mediation, reconciliation, or peace education as part of their service to God. Muslim leaders have access to community members through mosques, community centers, and educational institutions, such as Quran schools. This allows them to reach out to a larger number of individuals than secular groups, and thus increase their effectiveness.

Some of these traditional structures include hierarchical social structures and discrimination based on religious affiliation and gender. Along these lines, by providing successful examples of reducing violence and resolving conflict, and by involving religious leaders and elders, Wajir and the Sudanese Women's Initiative for Peace Network were able to challenge and change traditional perceptions of women's role in society in general and in peacemaking in particular. At times, to overcome these difficulties, women's groups initially need to work within the traditional social structures and garner the support of sympathetic religious and other community leaders, as was the case with Wajir.

Many women in these societies were not initially confident that they could make a difference, as stated by the Sudanese Women's Peace Initiative survey answers , because they were used to their traditional roles. The advocacy work of the Sudanese Women Civil Society Network for Peace in developing a women's agenda for peace contributed to orientation of the Sudanese peace agenda toward civil society groups and other community members as well; educating these groups on the peace process thus led to policy change.

This novel development contributed to the inclusion of women's perspectives and issues in the peace process, thus challenging traditional perceptions and structures in which women's perspectives and voices were excluded. They were also able to build solidarity among Sudanese women from different religious and ethnic backgrounds Africa Faith and Justice Network and survey answers. Their moral and spiritual authority and their reputation as honest and evenhanded people of God places Muslim actors in a better position to mediate between conflicting parties.

Islamic practices of conflict resolution are important for the Muslim community because they are familiar and local, and thus considered authentic and legitimate. For example, ARLPI mediated violent conflicts between the Acholi and their Jie neighbors, between Teso and Karimojong rural communities, and also between rebels and the government.

In another example, some of the founders of the IRCSL acted as a bridge between the government and rebels throughout the Abidjan peace talks in Although the IRCSL could not prevent the coup in and stop the violence completely, they actively pursued dialogue with the coup leaders, listened to their complaints, and condemned the coup and human rights abuses committed by the junta.

Peace psychology in the Balkans: dealing with a violent past while building peace

Their engagement with the junta prevented greater abuses against civilians. The IRCSL launched a campaign for a negotiated settlement and recommended the convening of a national consultative conference, the closing of the border with Liberia, and the appointment of a peace ambassador. The council appealed to President Charles Taylor of Liberia, who they suspected had great influence over Col.

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