Promoting Peace Through Arts and Social Media

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Those are the famous words by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Creating art or poems is a way to reimagine the future, to build bridges and foster understanding, to develop empathy, to make friends, to express feelings, to build self-confidence, to learn how to be flexible and open-minded, to be exposed to different ideas and learn to listen to the views of others, to work collaboratively. These are all attributes that can help to promote peace.

We are all peace-makers. Communication for peace is all about our attitude. The worst barriers to peace can be words and the way we tell our stories, in a way that we do not understand each other. To communicate for peace, you need to keep your eyes, ears and heart open, monitor what is happening, expect the unexpected, travel to unusual places and speak to those who are most affected by the situation.

Communication has a vital role in building just and peaceful communities. Communication for peace creates chances for people to consider and value nonviolent responses to potential and actual conflict. Communication for peace works because it reveals backgrounds and contexts, listens to all sides, exposes hidden agendas and highlights peace initiatives, regardless of religion, sex and gender.

The access to electronic means of communication is almost the same all over the world, and plays an enormous role in developing world relationships in the future – for good and for worse.

The nature of the media is changing rapidly, arguably more rapidly than any other sector. Media is exploding and flourishing in some countries, and is in economic or political crisis in others, with changes happening often very rapidly; new technologies, and particularly mobile telephony, are rapidly transforming information and communication opportunities, including for the poorest with poorly understood consequences. This shifting landscape has implications for the role of media in conflict and conflict prevention.

Social media puts the audience as both content creators and consumers: “ordinary” people as opposed to professional journalists create user-generated “news.” In this way it can be emancipatory, giving voice to those who otherwise may not be heard, and thus has the potential to become a significant factor in conflict management.

But this open information landscape also opens the door to abusive, intolerant and often malicious discourse. According to media ethicist Aidan White: “Learning to live with free expression in the digital age requires a new movement to help people understand that free speech is not without some responsibility.”

Social networking sites are the platform where people across borders meet and discuss common themes, topics and ideas. People get a good chance to know each other’s perspective on the same theme. This communication and discussion help in building relationships. Mostly the young generation is more involved in social networking.

Media plays an important role in promoting peace. Print media, electronic media and web media giving wattage to that news which is helpful for promoting peace.

As a precious goal of humanity, peace has to be accomplished and sustained in all plausible ways. Technology and social networking can be used effectively, in promoting peace education across the globe, have meaningful communication, and fostering the universal values and behaviours in people on which a culture of peace and non-violence is predicted. You and I are able to make a difference in the world – locally and globally!

The introduction remarks presented at one panel at the historic WCC Sikh-Christian Dialogue in face of “growing need for lasting peace” (WCC press release 5 July 2019):

We are gathered in the main hall of the World Council of the Churches (WCC). If you look at the green tapestry on the side, it’s one way to express the mission of the WCC to work for unity, justice and peace. It’s a tapestry by the Swedish artist Einar Forseth. The text in the middle “They may all be one” is in Greek (John 17:12). The tapestry shows Christ in his glory, the Holy Spirit is represented as a dove and the grapevine refer to the Old Testament.

Jesus holds out his arms towards the different churches, traditions, histories and regions in the world. The tapestry is a gift from the Dillon family from the US as a special tribute to the work of the WCC and the love for the wife Anne Dillon.  You are able to see different churches on the tapestry and only one of them is the real one in which Anne and Clarence Dillon were married in Pennsylvania (USA).  A gift of love to the ecumenical movement of love.

Breath of God – or an Angel passing by - this is an installation by a Swiss artist Etienne Krähenbuhl. Imagine you are at the bottom of Lake Geneva looking up from the bottom of the ecumenical boat – for unity, justice and peace.

The oil lamp from India – a gift of the Lutheran World Federation member churches to the assembly in Hong Kong 1997. The cross on the top is the image of the lotus flower

Look around and see, discover and explore! Please, open your heart, your ears and your eyes – just your own imagination might be the barrier also for peace building. We are all on the same journey and part of the pilgrimage of justice and peace in Geneva, in New York, in Stockholm, in Jerusalem, in Bangkok, in Bogota, in Nairobi or elsewhere!

About the author :

Marianne Ejdersten was appointed as director for Communication at the World Council of Churches in November 2014. Coming from the Church of Sweden, Ejdersten holds more than twenty years of professional experience in the fields of communication, media, marketing, fundraising and management, both with the churches and international ecumenical organizations.

Ejdersten has authored a number of articles published in several church publications, including the International Review of Mission. She was co-author of The Churches and IT, a publication of the Church of Sweden and a special report titled Women and Internet.

Ejdersten and her team were honoured with the Grand Prix and Gold EPICA 2009 award for conducting the best integrated and interactive campaign "The Prayer" in Europe, as well as the Swedish Publishing Award for reporting in 2012, among other honours she has received for her work in the field of media.

Ejdersten has been the president of the Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SweFOR) and vice president for the European branch of the Word Association for Christian Communication.

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