January 12, 2012
John Paul Lederach —
The Art of Peace

What happens when people transcend violence while living in it? John Paul Lederach has spent three decades mediating peace and change in 25 countries — from Nepal to Colombia and Sierra Leone. He shifts the language and lens of the very notion of conflict resolution. He says, for example, that enduring progress takes root not with large numbers of people, but with relationships between unlikely people.

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is a Senior Fellow at Humanity United, a project of the Omidyar Foundation; and a professor of International Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Pertinent Posts

Do you haiku? John Lederach shares 12 haiku based on a three-day dialogue with Krista Tippett and others. These conversational poems capture the tension, promise, and paradox of moral action and meaningful language.

Selected Readings

"The Challenge of Terror: A Traveling Essay"

by John Paul Lederach
Conflict is, among other things, the process of building and sustaining very different perceptions and interpretations of reality.

The Poetic Unfolding of the Human Spirit

by John Paul Lederach
In peacebuilding sometimes it takes twenty years to notice a seed has sprouted.

Selected Poems

Haikus by John Paul Lederach

John Paul Lederach's work led him to a fascination with the ancient Japanese art of the haiku. Here, he reads a selection of his poetry and talks about the experiences that inspired each piece.

  • The Heart of Civil Conversation: Gathering Haikus
  • "Advice from the Mediator's Fellowship"
  • "On Tajikistan"
  • "Rainbow's End?"
  • "Sister Mary's Words"
  • "Quivering"
  • "Parkinson's Cycle"
  • "Conversational Haikus"
  • About the Image

    In Kanchanpur, Nepal, two facilitators take part in a community process to work on a conflict between Forest User Groups (young woman standing) and several groups of "encroachers" including a landless group and a Kamaiya (young man standing), or bonded laborers.

    Photo by Chup Thapa

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    "Northern Ireland had fossilized in its sectarianism..." Well that is a perfect outcome for the people who profit from the arms sales and the financial loans to manufacture/buy/sell them in these "conflict" zones.

    Wonderful program about wonderful efforts and experiences. Wonderful to see the explicit knowledge Mr Lederach and others like him have gained un-doing the damages set up by ruling elites who set up these situations in the first place.

    Of course, the Protestant rulers lived well off tipping off violence between Catholic young men and Protestant young men where some kind of natural money resource imbalance was set up to begin with, which was definitely the set-up in Northern Ireland since 1500s. Elizabeth I started moving Protestants to Ireland to undermine that society and make it subservient to provide cheap food for centuries to "mainland" Britain. Cromwell kept it up. The reality is that joining the EU and bringing Ireland's economy into the 20th Century is what petered out IRA terrorism as young men from humble beginnings found real jobs with real futures in a more just and fair economy. There certainly remained damages to fix up between those with raw memories and nerves.

    Diddo what goes on in Congo and Rwanda today and probably most other places even Nepal with their only recently departed Royals. We know how Royals divide and conquer to dominate natural resources and wealth in any nation. Stirring up conflict amongst the plebes is teh way to do this, and we see it brewing anew in our own country today. Great to hear about the people who care to rebuild the broken ties and develop all these mediation techniques.

    We also need to focus energies on spotting who is behind these disasters in the first place that tip off centuries of violence and all the psychological damage that does. The conflict metals mining operators in Congo, the CIA operatives who arranged the assassination of Lumumba for the capitalists when they didn't like the way the people voted at "Independence", the foreign "investors", the bankers who bank them all, etc etc. all play a role in these hidden chains that Lederach and the Mennonites so dutifully and compassionately clean-up after.

    I wanted to write and share with you that your program never ceases to touch me. this mornings program, July 11, 2010 with Mennonite John Lederach(I hope I spelled his name correctly) left me with the preverbial "goosebumps" in particular the Haiku. Being a writer and a Pacifist myself I was very intrigue at not only his approach to Peacmaking and world view but, his approach to writing. I look forward to your program each week. I wish I had an MP3 player to download these Haiku poems and heard them spoken but, the computer will suffice. They are amazing. A true gift. The spoken word can be so simple and clear sometimes. Your program proves that each week. Thank you so much, Anne

    I am a pastor in a denomination that is struggling over whether to permit the ordination of homosexuals in leadership positions. Months before a significant meeting (held two years ago), I asked another pastor to join me in a conversation about this topic. We held in common key tenants of our faith, but we didn't agree on this issue. We met a few times, listening carefully to one another and looking at key verses from the Bible that are important to us on this topic. We then prepared papers to read before our local governing body (leaders from 70 local churches). I told the group what I heard the other pastor say to me, and he told the group what he heard me say. Then the governing body voted on the topic. Our conversation did not change the expected vote of the governing body, but many came up to me after the meeting to say that, for the first time in the many years we have struggled with this issue, they were able to "hear" both sides of the issue. I too, felt that I had been "heard" by my peer as we prepared the papers for the governing body. The response has encouraged me to try this format in other settings, and also, to offer to do it again for this governing body with other issues.

    As a psychotherapist, I witness people's transformation, or "ah-ha" moment quite often. As Mr. John Paul Lederack said, it takes a few pebbles to transform its mountain, I believe.

    I was very touched by and appreciate his work. I found it very rigorous and creative! Being a Japanese, I was re-kindled my interest on the art of Haiku. Please keep informing your stories.

    Being inspired by Mr. Lederack's work, I crated a haiku titled as "The Joy and Pain of Life."

    Under the rocks of pain
    Lies the stream of joy of life
    Let the stream meets the ocean

    Thank the Speaking of Faith very much for delivering such a work to us!!!!!

    Nozomu Ozaki
    July 27, 2010

    To Krista and all associated with SOF--

    Thank you for the work you do. It is a much needed antidote to the daily news which seems to be either trivial or brutal.

    This morning my husband and I were shaking our heads as we listened to the news of the terrible violence in Mexico. After reading the newsletter about the Art of Peace, my spirits were lifted. His comments about not being overwhelmed and paying attention to our human relationships was just what I needed.

    Thank you and keep up the good work,

    Maren Masley

    Hearing and reading about John Paul Lederach's work (July 8) reminded me of the Art of Peace festival two summers ago, when paintings by Iraqi and Twin Cities artists seeking peace were showcased at Open Book in Minneapolis. The show was the brainchild of local writer Michael K. Moore, who teaches on writing and peacemaking.

    I came to the site to download the interview; I was able to listen to only a part of it. I did hear about the photo and it's nice to see it.
    I so valued the observation about how "going around in circles" may be more than it appears! I've been involved in various situations with a Teacher in the oral tradition that I attended many times for what was ostensibly the "same" thing, and it was different each time so it didn't feel like the same thing. This is hard to convey to those who have never been in this situation.
    But what Mr. Lederach brought out that was completely new to my ears was the idea that there was a space being created that I re-entered in order to re-set something, to regain a perspective or even just a simple state of quiet so that I could listen, and that this was an experiential value that I experienced underneath the experience of hearing something new each time, which was my intellectual justification. I new there was something else, but have never been able to put it in words before.

    This was very thoughtful and interesting. But it seems to me that reason is not sufficient to bring about peace. As Father Peyton used to preach 'A world at prayer is a world at peace' - until we bring the presence of God into the situtation, we can analyze it brilliantly, but we won't have peace. The person of God is needed.

    The reason why the world is in anarchy is because majority of the people have forsaken God, they have gone their separate ways. They have rejected the Prince Of Peace Our Lord JESUS CHRIST. If we seek Him, we will find Him.

    While I truly appreciate and admire the practice of peace building, I keep coming back to the central question: why don't we take our American expertise and put it to work in our own country? The US is one the main purveyors of violence and conflict worldwide, and I find it ironic that we don't focus more of our efforts in our own country, both in terms of domstic issues as well as international policy. This would be go beyond, as Lederech says, the common malady of "solving the problem but not creating real change."

    Lederach's work is sincere and well-intentioned, yet in Nepal, where I have worked for almost two decades in community-based natural resource management, he is riding the wave of years of hard work by local groups, NGOs and others. I have worked in over twenty countries on this topic, many in conflict or post-conflict situations. And while Western notions of peace-making can be an important part of the process, it is, in many ways, simply another idea...not the only, and not the best. The way the Nepalis framed the problem and opened the dialogue is an example of how evolved their own thinking/actions are. But this too, is simply a beginning, and could easily go the way of so many efforts. The country (and many others) is littered with the detritus of good beginnings. But it is the sustained effort, over the long haul, that really matters. Peace building can begin the conversation, but it must be followed up by years of sincere and intelligent work toward lasting economic security for all groups concerned. Otherwise it becomes another somewhat indulgent act of well-meaning outsiders.

    Poetry, art, music, nature - all are important tools for healing of all kinds. I am glad that Lederach has figured this out, but given his expertise, I wish he could teach us something new.

    Saturday mornings
    listening to On Being
    Soul tiramisu.

    Haiku form constrains
    yet evokes mindful practice.
    Choose words carefully.

    Writing haiku and
    sipping Darjeeling. Anti-
    dotes to life's venoms.

    Haiku have become
    addictive. "Small, faltering
    insights" sustain me. (quote from Harry Eyres, The Slow Lane column in the Financial Times)

    Haiku reduces
    experience as a chef
    reduces a sauce.

    Knowing is a ledge
    with just enough room to stand
    for the time being.

    Moon punctuating
    the pre-dawn sky. A backwards
    comma. Morning pause.

    John Paul Lederach
    sparked New Year's Resolution.
    Write daily haiku.

    On Being Reflections “The Art of Peace” The stories behind,”the Art of Peace” the touchable and interesting story to listen. The guest was named John Paul Lederach,he is a professor at Notre Dame and a lifelong Mennonite activist. He is one of those who are committed to serve other in their needs and most esteemed global mediators in the world today. He background comes from a long line of Mennonites, protestant reformer who took on the biblical command for Christians to be peacemakers with a special passion. In his interviewed he applied to the Mennonite central committee to go to the middle which instead he been sent to Europe which was time when he real introduced to the world politics. It was a time when he meet a large student, from Africa, Latin America and northern Africa at housing project in Brussels, Belgium, that mostly occupied by student. Since this entire student comes from different background especially those who come from the country which colonized for many years and most the families die at war especially West Africa student. The communication he had with this students come across to help him understand how he can build peace among those country, community and family as well. For example in his interviewed how he comes to negotiations of peace by setting principles. One of their principles was ‘’we will seek to understand those who do not understands us”. He mentioned that this principle a systematic way of set conversation we arm group. In his interviewed he also talks about his daughter Angie how she has followed his footstep to West Africa Sierra Leone, with communities devastated by the experience of child soldiers. He said most her work was with how and what ways communities and particularly women work with the reintegration of child soldiers. Also he mentioned about time were she interviewing young women who were child mothers soldiers about their experience that found a very sort of flat effect of their life story. She helped this community child soldiers back into their community who actually committed violence for survival. To me these stories was very touch because I been through this kind violence and the people still living in it ,problem which the Government abounded myself, my parent and all Oromo people in East Africa, Ethiopia by torturing our parent and children as well. I wish if this kind of person heard the Oromo people who are fighting for freedom day in, day out to be free from current dictator government of Ethiopia. Gemado Koji