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First Quarter, 2005
Preventing violent conflict - can humanity move beyond band-aid solutions?
The Golden Rule as conflict prevention

Summary:
Sustainable conflict prevention and conflict transformation call for deep reflection within people. A commitment to pursue the most basic and universal of values, the Golden Rule, could prevent many conflicts from escalating, and contribute to peaceful and just relationships.

THE LORD'S RESISTANCE ARMY in Northern Uganda abducted a young adult named James. For several months he was forced to witness atrocities – adults abusing children and children forced to kill or maim other children.

His break came when a former school age-mate assisted his escape. Then came the most important turning point for James: would he choose the path of violence and vengeance? or was there a better way?

James was a Christian; he knew that Jesus had said:

"Do to others what you would have them do to you." – Luke 6:31

Something clicked inside him. Rather than escalate a cycle of conflict, James chose a path of peaceful engagement. He helped establish a World Vision programme for rescued and escaped children. With his passion for peace, and desire to help traumatised children of war, James continues to work for peace in Northern Uganda (despite attempts to re-abduct him), and leads an East Africa Peace Network.

The "Golden Rule" is not unique to Christians. All major world religions include some version of this teaching:

Islam
"Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." – Fortieth Hadith of an-Nawawi, 13

Hinduism
"This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you." – The Mahabharata, 5:1517

Buddhism
"Hurt not others in ways you yourself would find hurtful." – Udana-Varga, 5:18

Judaism
"You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord." – Leviticus 19:18

What does this have to do with conflict prevention? Isn't that about building relationships across conflict lines, programmes that sustain livelihoods, or reforming systems and structures to improve justice? All of these are critical to conflict prevention. But another arena for change is just as critical: that of beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.

Every day, individuals make choices based on beliefs and attitudes that shape their own behaviour and others'. Choosing to follow the "Golden Rule" can prevent many conflicts from escalating, and contribute to peaceful and just relationships. James says: "If you embrace the Golden Rule, it becomes a life calling… God shapes you into an agent of peace."

The application is leveraged further when organisations embed this into their core values and modes of operation. What if NGOs treated other NGOs the way they want to be treated? What if UN agencies applied this value to all of their relationships with other agencies and states? What if governing authorities applied it to citizens? It would be na�ve to think that this can happen across the board. But it is just as na�ve to think that systemic changes and relationship networking alone can prevent conflict.

Sustainable conflict prevention and conflict transformation call for deep reflection within people and a commitment to pursue this most basic and universal of values, the Golden Rule. In World Vision, when we say that we seek to follow Jesus in working with the poor and oppressed, that is a challenge to every staff member to be transformed daily from the inside out, and to do to others what we would have them do to us. ■

– Dr William O Lowrey, Director of Reconciliation and Peacebuilding, World Vision International.

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