Friday, March 12, 2010

Peace, Prejudice, and Poverty

This past weekend, March 5th and 6th, was the Peace Prize Forum held at Augsburg this year. The main title for the weekend was “Striving for Peace: A Question of Will.” The last year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize was the key note speaker, Martti Ahtisaari, from Finland. His main idea was the question of will, and that in order to obtain peace you have to want it. He was a mediator between opposing sides at war to help and resolve conflict. This brought me to the contact hypothesis circumstances on reducing prejudices. The groups that are fighting usually start fighting due to some type of prejudice or oppression. I think that through this mediation and these guidelines for reducing prejudice we can help reduce oppression and also poverty. It is all so much more complicated and intertwined than this, but this could be a start. The sides need to come together in a way that allows a) an equal status common ground, b) cooperatively pursue common goals (peace), c) lets them meet long enough to see their common humanity, d) contact sanctioned by an accepted institution, and c) potential for friendship may occur, or in this case, peace. (Allport, 1954) By doing this repeatedly, touching on the emotions, or reason for fighting, and changing the stereotype of each other, peace can then be accomplished. If we can get mediators like Martti Ahtisaari in more and more countries where there is war or conflict then maybe a result will be peace. By achieving peace and reducing prejudices or working out oppressions then this can also help with the poverty levels, especially countries that are warzones, of those people who are being oppressed. This sounds so simple, but unfortunately it isn’t. To find mediators willing to put themselves in those kinds of situations is tough and also getting leaders from both sides to agree to civilly work towards peace can be very hard to do. I think that world peace and poverty can be reduced through trying these processes and guidelines. I wish I was brave enough to become a mediator in those kinds of situations and help other countries resolve their conflicts, but I’ll stay on the small scale level with individuals and small groups as a social worker.

Allport, G.W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

1 comment:

  1. I had not heard of the Contact Hypothesis and looked up more about it after reading your post. Interpersonal contact is a great way for each view points/sides to understand the other. Rather than generalizing a group it will put a individuals face and story, which would decrease the establishment of us and them. Working in policy, legislation, and a macro level is extremely challenging because it requires understanding and skills to communicate with both parties. While I would love to be able to do work in this area, I think its working with the individual on a micro level that is just as powerful and where the results of macro practice can truly be seen.