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Review:Moral Imagination: the Art and Soul of Building Peace

URI Global Support Staff member Barbara Hartford reviews John Paul Lederach's Moral Imagination: the Art and Soul of Building Peace , wherein he asks "How do we transcend the cycles of violence that bewitch our human community while still living in them?"

By Barbara Hartford, United Religions Initiative Global Support Staff

In John Paul Lederach's new book, Moral Imagination: the Art and Soul of Building Peace, he addresses the question: “How do we transcend the cycles of violence that bewitch our human community while still living in them?”  URI's approach to interfaith peacebuilding through our Principles and networked organization are thoroughly validated in this call for the moral imagination; at the same time we’re challenged to make our efforts more effective through strategic and intentional networking.

Lederach addresses peacebuilding as both a learned skill and as an art.  He suggests and explores moral imagination as “the capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist.” 

The Moral Imagination is built around four guiding stories, using concepts and metaphors from the arts (Haiku poetry) and nature (spider webs).  He eloquently articulates the importance of seredipity as "the gift of life… It keeps us alive to constant growth and unending potential, if we develop a capacity to see what is found along the way and adapt creatively while keeping a keen sense of purpose."

Charles Gibbs has said: “What excites me about the book is Lederach’s identification and unpacking of the four disciplines and the two directions of exploration. In his efforts – including working with the skill and art of peacebuilding – I find a great deal that both supports URI’s work (we are doing so much that is resonant with his articulation of the art of peacebuilding) and a great deal that challenges us to take our efforts to a deeper level – developing more of the skill of this discipline, and, in the context of his understanding of critical mass – being strategic in our web building so we engage the people who can leverage large scale change.”

As John Paul Lederach says: “Stated simply, the moral imagination requires the capacity to imagine ourselves in a web of relationships that includes our enemies; the ability to sustain a paradoxical curiosity that embraces complexity without reliance on dualistic polarity; the fundamental belief in and pursuit of the creative act; and the acceptance of the inherent risk of stepping into the mystery of the unknown that lies beyond the too familiar landscape of violence.”

His two broad directions of exploration are to “understand and feel the landscape of protracted violence and why it poses such deep-rooted challenges to constructive change” and to “explore the creative process as the wellspring that feeds the building of peace.”

John Paul Lederach is a leading peacebuilding teacher, trainer, and practitioner (Northern Ireland, Nicaragua, Somalia, Tajikistan, The Philippines), teacher and trainer.  He is currently Professor of International Peacebuilding at the Joan B. Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and Distinguished Scholar at Eastern Mennonite University’s Conflict Transformation Program.  He has been an inspiration for URI peacebuilding since Christine Kisembo and I first studied with him at EMU/CTP several years ago. He sees his work as a religious vocaton.

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