A POST FOR PEACE: Lessons from 

New York

Welcome to Post for Peace Part 2: Lessons from New York.

 

Post for Peace started as a visual journal last year during my fieldwork in Jordan. Jordan has been one of the countries where humanitarian activities have shaped the lives of the people. When I first started this visual journal, my main goal was to share my experience there, particularly to bring the light to how close peacebuilding elements can be found in the livelihood of everyone there. 

Today, as I continue to reside in New York, I wanted to try to share how peacebuilding efforts are implemented in the world's most notorious and busiest city. More importantly, I wanted to share the lessons learned about peace that I encountered through both my personal and professional life.  

Post for Peace is not an e-learning platform, nor do I have the professional capacity to educate anyone about work. But learning about peacebuilding has helped me process a lot of changes that happen in this world, and I hope by reading this visual journal you too will be able to reflect on how peace exists (or doesn't) in your city, in your life. 

New York has offered plenty of privileges and learning opportunities, so hopefully to this visual journal you too get to read some of them, no matter where you are in this world!

Scroll through to see the entries —

A POST FOR PEACE: ENTRY I

 

I must admit, writing about what I have learned from New York about peacebuilding was hard at first. This city does not usually resonate with the word 'peace' nor 'peaceful', simply because that is not how most of the world describes this concrete jungle.

 

But this city, regardless of its hostility and unfriendliness, is still one of the centers for global peace discussions. From being the home to numerous peace institutions and the famous United Nations Security Council, New York is like a plate full of high-level discussions about peace having to serve the world's enormous appetite for self-interest and conflict. 

So when talking about peace in New York, I think it's important to reflect back to the one thing that both New York and peace promote: the element of

freedom.

If I could describe this city in one word, it would be 'liberating'. As cliché as it sounds, New York is honest when it comes to pursuing your freedom. When put in the context of peace, freedom sits in the heart of the foundation. It is a fundamental element and you can't achieve peace without it. 

Write about peace in this urban context is certainly not the same as when I tried to write about peace in humanitarian. In humanitarian settings, conflict, and post-conflict environments, the need for peace is not only obvious but also easy to visualize. But in New York, despite its business and toughness, there are undeniable privileges and comfort. So I reflect back to myself, a young South East Asian woman living in the Big Apple, what is the most unsettling thing I found here when it comes to pursuing and understanding peace?

Through my conversations with colleagues and work, I then learned how often all of us who live here to feel anxious. Maybe it's because we work in a global institution, maybe it's because we are young professionals working in the most competitive city. 

I then came across the article that Mona Chalabi wrote on Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), apparently here in the United States "people between 26 and 49 are 44% more likely to have experienced GAD in the past year compared with those who are younger, and 70% more likely than those who are older." 

Here in New York, to me, my colleagues and other young people, it seems like:

freedom from anxiety

 

sounds like a luxury.

This may all sound like a mental health issue. It is, but it also goes beyond that. According to Hertog, the relation between one person's inner state of mind and how they express themselves externally creates an impact on the society they are living in: "inner peace in individuals is not only a sign of mental health but also essential for inclusive peacebuilding."

If you think about it, living in a New York is a challenge in itself but how are we expected to be free from anxiety when our generations continuously face the ticking time of climate change clock, the rise of global political turmoil, and on top of that having to experience the uncertainty of the global economy (which by the way, the three areas constantly influence each other and hence create a circle of endless challenges for global communities).

 

Imagine, working at the center of peace dialogues but not having the luxury to pursue your own inner peace because of the urban city you are living in and all of these global challenges, the experience itself must have been exhausting. Or if you want, let's forget about the peacebuilder context. Everyone is capable of being agents of peace in their community and in ideal utopia each citizen is working actively to promote peace in their society, how do you expect global citizens to have their peacebuilding spirit goes on and on while in reality everyone is already burned out by the day-to-day anxiety created because of these global challenges?

To young professionals like me, both the present and future seem unrest. It is only natural for us to aspire to not only experience freedom in our bodily aspect but to also achieve freedom in our state of minds. So how does one achieve it then in this time of uncertainty? While everyone has their own way of coping, I find reflective journaling practice as a tool that is applicable in peacebuilding and beyond.

Lederach, came up with this method to basically help peacebuilders create transformative change by not only addressing the issue but also to reflect back to yourself how your personal and past experiences have shaped your response to these issues in the first place. To me, this helpful because even if you don't work as a field practitioner or a peace mediator, this is one of the ways you can assess your worries and anxiety, eventually you can measure the impact of your response to your communities and whether or not you have successfully contributed to building peace there or not. 

So through this first entry of Post for Peace: New York Edition, my hope is that you will be able to see how the little things that build our daily lives and to the global trends that seem to be far from our reach, essentially both of these factors influence our ability as effective agents of peace in our society, and in this world. I hope you find this light article useful or by the very least relatable, and I hope you realize that 

 

 

to contribute to global peace, you,

yourself must find peace first