How to Make Peace, Not War

It starts with listening, says peace educator Barbara Wien.

Breaking the cycle: There are levels of conflict, and they’re all related. Legal violence. Domestic abuse. Gang violence. Gender violence. Mass incarceration. It’s a continuum. We have to end it at all levels, from bullying on the playground to bullying on the world stage. We have to interrupt these cycles; teach people to respond to conflict with skills instead of violence.

The fundamentals: I’m on the advisory board of Little Friends for Peace [an area nonprofit promoting peace and nonviolence to children]. We make peace exciting and fun. We have a choo-choo train that moves them around an imaginary world and at every station they learn a different skill. The first station is love and respect for the people you struggle with. I like the phrase that “peace and nonviolence are the grand road map.” Conflict resolution skills are the way to drive the car to get there.

On rough days: Sometimes my kids will say, “Mom, you’re being hypocritical, you’re not doing the cooldown. Mom, you are not being a peacemaker today.” I love it when they call me out.

At the table: I’m part of a beautiful network of Jewish and Muslim women, the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, here in the U.S. It started as Jewish women inviting their Muslim neighbors for Shabbat dinner on Friday night. We’d sit down with those we disagreed with and break bread together and have debates. It was a healthy exercise in deep listening. There were robust discussions. And the hummus was so good.

Where does peace begin? With a recognition that we don’t have to live with violence and war. That there are alternatives. It begins with awareness.

Do this: Reach out to those whom you usually would not. Make new friendships. Show young people that you care. And be neighborly. Be a good neighbor and build community wherever you go.


Madelyn Rosenberg lives with her family in Arlington, where she writes books for children. Her most recent book, Take Care, is about taking care of the world and each other.

Categories: People