My meditation lately has been the question, what does peace look like? What naturally comes to mind first are the clichés - the actual peace sign…the beautiful, restful image of nature that puts our mind at ease…or the more graphic symbols of street art.
But, what actually does it LOOK like? Often times it’s the lack of something that defines it. In many places around the world it becomes the absence of violence, hate speech, persecution and bigotry. When the void is created, peace can result.
I happened across a non-profit website this week based in Toronto, Canada, called The Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention. What sets this organization apart is that rather than reacting to genocide (clearly needed as well), their mission is to use technology and research to prevent it. Which, when you think about it, is so simple, but yet we as a global community have been trained to respond rather than predict.
They make several basic points which I believe make sense and are available through research: • When you identify potential situations where genocide becomes a likely outcome, and raise awareness about it through various media and methods, it can have the effect of making regimes think twice about engaging in such practices knowing the world is watching. Again, it’s a matter of raising the profile BEFORE it happens rather than after it’s started. Internal and foreign pressure can have a chance when the problem is identified early in the process. • If you can identify and counter websites that incite hatred you may have the opportunity to intervene through social media to hinder the escalation that radicalizes people against another group.
What’s also interesting about their approach is their use of technology in this genocide prevention initiative which involve: • Information Gathering – through social media like FB and Twitter, it’s become easier to monitor situations prior to calamity. Another information gathering technique is crowdsourcing through mobile phones which can map situations based on text messaging by average citizens. • Information Management, Visualization and Dissemination – where the data bases they are building will organize and analyze information which can be presented to the public, policymakers, and other orgs where it can help mobilize a response. • Prevention – where using mobile phones networks to document abuses and warn threatened communities, and employing GPS technology to guide targeted people to safe areas can save lives.
Sound idealistic? Perhaps. But there is nothing worse than standing by and watching helplessly as innocent people get slaughtered merely because they represent a tradition or religion which doesn’t happen to coincide with their neighbors. Absence of persecution? I believe that’s what peace looks like.