Working as an in-home therapist for abused children and their families, I would walk into a home that was often in chaos and experiencing deep pain. My job was then to look for the positives, the protective factors within a dysfunctional environment that could offer safety and love to the child and his or her family. It wasn’t easy. It was like trying to complete an extremely difficult puzzle without having the top of the box and not knowing where the pieces were or how many pieces were out there to begin with.
What was certain, though, was that every family, no matter how difficult and often ugly the situation, did have these wonderful, positive pieces. Each puzzle was completely unique. There was not a formula that worked for all or even two of them. And the big challenge was to help the family be able to search for and recognize the ever-changing pieces that were needed to keep their fluid puzzle as complete as possible. It was never perfect; you were never really finished, but life would not be life if it was perfect. My current job has me doing a lot of the same things as in my previous one — but at a different scale.
“Working for peace” sounds lofty and abstract, but we are basically walking into a chaotic house — or region — where horrible things are happening, and we have to look for the those unique protective factors that are a piece of the puzzle for that particular case. There is not one piece that will provide an “aha moment,” or a solution to the whole problem. We have to dig in and be OK with finding little pieces that might for now not fit in with the other pieces.
With families, those protective factors might be a caring aunt or teacher; the family eating dinner together; the child loving sports; or even just having a safe park close to the home.
With peace, the protective factors can be political advocacy; an informed and organized civil society; attention from the media; appropriate laws and enforcement systems; effective methods of communication; and an engaged diaspora.
Stepping back a bit, and looking at peace on a longer timeline, something interesting happens: the protective factors that are good for the families are also good for promoting peace. How do you break cycles of violence, victimhood, and suffering? We must work at the community, family, and individual levels. Education is key. I have heard it over and over again since I first stepped in a refugee camp in 2005, and today I heard more of that message. They want an opportunity to create their own realities. They want to grow as complete human beings and to be able to take care of each other. They want to sing and play.
I still cannot see exactly what the Darfur Peace Puzzle will look like, but with our little team we’re working on our pieces — with lots of help from people like you. Joining many others that are also working on their own pieces, let’s figure this out soon.
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