A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
I recently completed the ‘Journey of Hope’ pilgrimage with St Ethleburga’s, the Iona Community, the Corrymeela Community and a few other organisations and my question going in was ‘how do I balance my passion for justice with humility to change hearts and minds?’ By the end of the 6 month course I realised that having a justice orientated mind-set towards peacebuilding was not necessarily a bad thing, and I am not sure that my ability to stand back in debates has increased, but I have a profound respect for those who can mediate and withhold sharing their own opinion when they know it is not helpful.
Another thing I have been learning however, is that peacemaking is bigger than the obvious people involved. It is structural and political. Attacking people for their views will most likely not change their views. A soft answer does not have to be an insubstantial answer. On the contrary, this is telling us to be careful when we speak, to be grounded in knowledge, experience and understanding. Part of the peacebuilding course was to complete an action at home. I thought I might do something about reconciliation between generations but instead threw myself into something completely different, something I feel less confident about. I’m using a model of a reading group to hear voices that feel ignored to understand a conflict- Israel/Palestine. Liberal peacebuilding tends to see an outsider enter a conflict already believing that they have the answer. Instead, peacebuilding is a patient journey for all involved, and only by listening to all, listening even when it makes you angry, can we have the resources to be wise.
Patient, Loving God of all, Help us to employ mercy, seek truth and work for justice for peace, Let us value and love all of your creation, Seeing ourselves as part of your story, And learning to speak not for ourselves but for you.
Victoria Turner is a PhD Candidate at the University of Edinburgh and a member Augustine United Church in Edinburgh.