Positive Living Newsletter

Peacebuilding for Compassionate Communities

Victoria L. Bowers, Ph.D.

Peacebuilding is vital for human rights, social justice, conflict resolution, community building, peaceful living, and a sustainable future (Lederach, 2004). Peacebuilding helps reduce and prevent violence and supports relational solidarity for individuals, families, communities, and society. Peace is built when people learn to make decisions that plan for long-term goals and anticipate potential conflicts (Schirch, 2013). Here, we will explore peacebuilding for compassionate communities, with an emphasis on compassionate action.

Strategic peacebuilding accounts for the complexities of approaches and tasks required for peaceful relations and community building (Schirch, 2013). Peacebuilders engage in ongoing analysis, coordination, mediation, and transformation of conflict towards a peaceful way of life. The analytical tools, skills, values, and processes of peacebuilding are culturally sensitive, socially just, and global. Peacebuilding requires a purposeful and meaningful approach with vision towards a peaceful future.

Human rights is the core focus of peacebuilding and the moral guide for peaceful communities (Lederach, 2004). Beyond human rights, individuals and communities have various needs including material, social, and cultural needs. Material needs include food, water, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and resources. These needs require economic protection, distributive justice, opportunities for education and employment, and a sustainable future. Societal needs include dignity, integrity, safety, participation, and a sense of belonging.

Equity in society requires the protection of individual, social, civil, and political rights through civil engagement, social justice, and procedural justice (Coicaud et al., 2003). Cultural needs and rights include the acknowledgment and acceptance of personal, cultural, and religious identities without discrimination, persecution, or violence. People deserve the opportunity to have healthy connections and meaning making in their relationships with others. Peacebuilding demands the ethics of interdependence and partnership that works to limit violence and protects human rights.

Peacebuilding expresses the values of justice, restorative justice, human security, and human rights (Schirch, 2013). Human security is defined by the safety of individuals from all forms of violence with an aim to reduce threats of disease, poverty, crime, and other inequitable factors (Coicaud et. al., 2003). Justice exists when people respect the rights of others and people are held accountable for their actions. When justice is pursued through violence, it perpetuates further violence. Human rights maintains the upholding of individual dignity, integrity, human security, and rights to peaceful living. Living peacefully asks that people learn and apply relational skills for communication and connection that is free from any harm or violence towards others. Peacebuilding aims to prioritize human rights and freedom for individuals and to enforce justice.

Conflict is a natural aspect of life for people. Conflict can be viewed as an opportunity for peacebuilding and restorative justice (Lederach, 2004). Peacebuilding asks people to reframe and redefine narratives towards a newly defined horizon. Designing frameworks and creating maps with steps towards conflict resolution and peacebuilding is important for creating peaceful society. Conflict resolution towards peacebuilding analyzes complexity and opposition towards simplicity and peace, then creates pathways to meet necessity and goals. Conflict between groups calls for people to learn relational skills for peacebuilding. Education for people that is skill building can aid in peacebuilding efforts.

Empowering ways to develop relational skills include constructive education for people to learn self-reflection, active listening, assertiveness, appreciative inquiry, creative problem solving, dialogue skills, communication, mediation, and negotiation skills (Neff, 2023). Relational skill building teaches these constructs by helping people understand and employ empathy, understanding, and compassion in their relationships. Compassionate action towards others is the most effective tool for building and strengthening relationships. Compassionate action is taking action to be in service of others and promote wellbeing.

Peacebuilding must include the component of compassionate action and compassion building for individuals, groups, communities, and society (Schirch, 2013). Compassion is defined as the expression of alleviating the suffering of oneself and/or others through humanism, mindfulness, unconditional positive regard, active listening, understanding, empathy, warmth, kindness, concern, and compassionate action (Neff, 2023). Common humanity is inherent to self-compassion because human beings are relational beings and interconnected to each other. Building compassion in communities is a necessary aspect of peace making.

Common humanity recognizes that as humans, we all make mistakes and life challenges are a part of being human (Neff, 2023). The key element of common humanity in relation to compassionate action is the acknowledgement that human beings are imperfect and the remembrance that every human being experiences suffering during their lifetime. When individuals realize and accept their common humanity, they are able to gain greater compassion for others. Common ground gives people meaning making opportunities for stronger relationships and communities. Compassion building is the change agent for conflict resolution and peaceful living.

Peacebuilding for compassionate communities needs to incorporate education and implementation for mindful, compassionate living (Neff, 2023). When constructing the framework for peacebuilding, kindness and compassion are the elements that open the door to making lasting change. To express compassion for oneself and others, it is important that people learn and develop mindfulness for greater awareness, nonjudgment, openness, and compassion. Developing mindfulness leads people to accept and embrace suffering as an opportunity to overcome suffering and experience growth, peace, and joy in the face of hardship (Bowers & Wong, 2018). These strengths help people learn to be more accepting of themselves and others leading to better relationships, meaning-making, and more fulfilling lives.

Compassion and meaning making in relationships help individuals, groups, communities, and societies connect on common ground towards feelings of common humanity, wellbeing, happiness, and peace (Bowers, 2019). Peacebuilding calls for education and advocacy around meeting the needs of individuals and communities through compassion building where people desire positive changes and become effortful in peacebuilding goals. Community consultations and workshops create opportunities for diverse groups to listen to each other, find common ground, gain acceptance of others, and learn to be open to innovative ideas and possibilities for change (Schirch, 2013).

Partnerships in peacebuilding should include long term goals and prioritize violence prevention through education, training, research, evaluation, advocacy, and action (Lederach, 2004). Partnerships work when people embrace diversity, social justice, and common humanity. Partnerships are essential to peacebuilding and are opportunities to analyze, assess, and develop strategies for conflict resolution processes and agreed upon changes (Schirch, 2013)

In community building, common principles apply in partnerships such as humanistic values, acceptance, mutual learning, and respect (Schirch, 2013). These principles allow for individual, organizational, and structural change. It is important that partnerships maintain humanistic principles with a clear understanding of accountability, roles, and mutually agreed-upon actions (Bowers, 2019). Peacebuilding strategies with humanistic principles give people the opportunity to contribute to conflict resolution and peacebuilding on grounds of mutuality and respect.

Compassion building and kindness promotes new understandings and is the change factor for peace (Bowers & Wong, 2018). When people value common humanity, diversity, culture, and social justice, they gain greater faith in each other the future. Peacebuilding is a vision for human rights, freedom, and peace that transcends across cultures and beyond borders. Peacebuilding is key for the wellbeing of humanity.

Peacebuilding is calling for more people to become peacebuilders on an individual and community level for the design of a brighter future for the human race (Schirch, 2013). Human beings are undeniably interconnected, with every action having an impact on another element of the global system. Active peacebuilding should always include initiative-taking efforts that give people feelings of common ground, hope, faith, and meaning (Bowers & Wong, 2018).


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Coicaud, J.-M., Doyle, M. W., & Gardner, A.-M. (2003). The globalization of human rights. United Nations University Press.

Lederach, J. (2004). Little book of conflict transformation: Clear articulation of the guiding principles by a pioneer in the field. Skyhorse Publishing Inc.

Neff, K. D. (2023). Self-Compassion: Theory, method, research, and intervention. Annual Review of Psychology74(1), 193–218. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-032420-031047

Schirch, L. (2013). Conflict assessment and peacebuilding planning: Toward a participatory approach to human security. Kumarian Press.