By: Colette Rausch
In 2012, a few months after Muammar Gaddafi’s regime fell, I was in Libya holding a workshop on how to build the rule of law in the wake of dictatorship and conflict. The workshop participants were the kinds of people I had come to expect — community leaders, academics, lawyers, human rights activists, and others with a professional interest in peacebuilding. All except for one man. He was an oil engineer, and he had never been to an event like this. He asked me if he could not only stick around for the workshop but also bring some friends. “Sure,” I said. He returned with half a dozen fellow engineers and students. Afterward, he invited me to visit his town, which had seen heavy fighting. The engineer had fought for the rebels and had lost some close friends. Now, he wanted to help his town put the violence behind it. He started organizing workshops, bringing together militia members, tribal leaders, youth, and officials to talk to each other and try to stem further fighting. It worked: Violence flared less often, and former rivals started to listen to each other and even cooperate. The engineer also became involved in monitoring human rights in prisons. For his trouble, he received death threats. But still he kept on driving around his town in his pickup, chain-smoking, and continually stopping to talk to militia fighters, clerics, and anyone else who he might persuade to give peace a chance.
As that engineer knew, protecting societies from violent conflict is not only a job for soldiers and police. Ordinary people in countries teetering on the edge of violent conflict can also tip the balance back toward peace. Their contribution to keeping or restoring the peace will not be the same as that of soldiers and police patrolling the streets, but it is no less important in the long term…….Read More
Original Post on October 16, 2017: