Peace Through Art: Pursuing Paradigm Shifts

By Yehuda Silverman

After taking this picture at the Étienne Brûlé Park in Canada, I looked deeply at the image which presented itself on my smartphone. I had no idea that this specific visual would emerge. When at the park, I noticed only part of the scenery, and I did not have a full picture of what that image would be like until the photo was taken. 

In life, we meet people during certain moments, and we do not usually see the full image of them. Some may be going through challenging times and may also have complex layers to themselves. These interactions are only a snapshot of their life, and when we meet them, we are also looking at them through our own lenses. The picture that any individual can be is a process that develops overtime, and sometimes through our own lens, the individual is distorted based on our own internal schema. 

We cannot completely know what people are going through in their life. Peace education, particularly when learned from an early age, can help cultivate a deeper understanding of the self, which in turn, may foster resiliency, compassion, and understanding towards humanity. As a pracademic, this particular journey is a constant one of lifelong learning. 

When I was an undergraduate student, I believed that people who had PhDs were experts in their field. Though in the conflict resolution field, there is always something to learn, and many pathways to continue developing. 

As our world is becoming more technologically advanced, we should continue recognizing the emerging elements that can generate further conflicts. One of the more heightened concerns is the rise of online hate speech, particularly amplified by people with millions of followers, which has the capacity to quickly seep into the offline realm and impact people physically too.

Peace education is urgently needed throughout our world, because if everyone learns about nonviolent communication and how othering emerges, further conflicts could be prevented. These foundations should begin at an early age, specifically as youth are quickly becoming connected to the online world, and at times disconnected from their physical realities.

We have the capacity to change the picture we see in front of us, and the impacts that we make can create positive ripple effects. As peace education continues to develop, the importance of involving art in this field could potentially lead to further transformations. The more frameworks that we include and share, the more possibilities for individuals to continue developing may emerge. Art can provide a platform in reimagining peace, and further applications in technology can create numerous opportunities in forming new paradigm shifts for social change. 



Yehuda Silverman, PhD, is a peacebuilding pracademic (practitioner/academic) who specializes in conflict prevention, analysis, and transformation. He is currently an Instructor at Northwestern University’s Civic Education Project, a UNESCO MGIEP Master Trainer, a Facilitator at the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy through a dialogue program (Qisasna: Our Stories) between USA and Yemen students, and a Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge Coach for IREX. He also mentors emerging peacebuilders through Initiatives of Change and is a Faith For Our Planet Fellow at Duke University. His PhD is in Conflict Analysis and Resolution with a concentration in International Peace from Nova Southeastern University, and he is also a certified Facilitator in Intercultural Dialogue from the UN Habitat and Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation from the University of Rhode Island.