Starting peace by connecting people
By making it easy for people to know each other online, images of ‘the enemy’ change and peace comes one step closer. This is the philosophy of the Peace Factory, as founder Ronny Edry explained in his pitch at the interactive brainstorm ‘Innovative thinking on strategic approaches to conflict management’, which was organized by the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law in The Hague on 7 October.
Peace is a big word. World peace sounds ambitious and peace in the Middle East seems like a reality that will never happen. It is easy to think that there is nothing you can do to change the situation. Yet if you focus on one task, one simple goal, you can actually make a difference and become a part of a big movement.
In the news, people are being told which side they are on and who is the enemy. In that way they are ending up hating and being afraid of people they have never met. Governments of countries have their agendas, which may certainly differ from what the population wants.
Peace starts with people
In Israel, there is a new generation of people that have never met a Palestinian. In Palestine, all they see of Israel are soldiers. The current young generation is the future and it will be these young people that will have to come up with a solution. How can they make peace if they don’t know the people on the other side? Today it is easier than ever to connect and reach out to one another. People can meet and start a new friendship with just a click of a button and never leave their home.
Getting to know each other
With or without the guise of government, The Peace Factory focuses on connecting people in the Middle East by creating and supporting online communities. Within this online platform, people on both sides can get to know each other, communicate and express themselves safely, build bridges and make peace. This aim attempts to show that there are people, good people, on both sides and that knowing each other is the first step. In theSANdbOX for example, people from the Middle East reveal their fears, hopes and dreams. On social media channels, designed communication is posted to attract attention and create those connections.
Israel loves Iran
In March 2012, the Peace Factory launched the pages ‘Israel loves Iran’ and ‘Israel loves Palestine’ on Facebook. Many people from Tehran to Haifa, Shiraz to Jerusalem started sharing their stories, having discussions, asking questions and making new friends.
Fake weekend in Tehran
These virtual connections also served another goal - to force reality into what you want and create a virtual connection until you make it real. In the real world, it is not yet possible for an Israeli to visit Tehran. So why not fake it? Make it look so real that it opens minds to the possibility that it is happening. This example resulted in a long online conversation while staying at home in Tel Aviv and learning things about Tehran.
Making peace viral
Once you have acknowledged that the people ‘on the other side’ are just like you, you can never go back to blind hate. Peace is when we see and treat each other as people. All we have to do is talk and make peace go viral.
Join the conversation
This blog post is part of an online continuation of the conversation started at the Interactive Brainstorm ‘Innovative thinking on strategic approaches to conflict management’, held on 7 October 2015 in the Hague. The Platform and The Broker are organizing a series of online blog posts on this topic, in order to inform the Platform’s broader network about the discussions that have taken place during the event, and to invite you to join the conversation.
This series of blog posts revolves around innovative ideas on how to improve current conflict response mechanisms, ranging from prevention to reaction to rebuilding.
Photo credit: Peace Factory