Strands of Peace - Juan Gutierrez
The Art of Remembering Peace in Evil Times or Situations
What are “Strands of Peace”?
“Strands of Peace” (SP) is the name that the Peace Strands Association (SPA) has given to actions, often small and almost imperceptible, but at times defiant or even heroic, taken in times stained with horror, terror, lethal violence or flagrant injustice. These are unselfish actions to help or save those who are threatened, abused or humiliated by being labelled as enemies or aliens, actions which disobey and fracture the rules and social norms of the own group, all while tugging at a human bond which is deeper than the need to be accepted or the fear to be punished by “your own”.
The most famous example of SP are those taken by Oskar Schindler, a Nazi who intervened, often selflessly, in order to save the lives of Jews employed in his factory during the Holocaust. This was acknowledged in 1993, but only after seven years of research, by the Commission for Designating the Righteous in the Yad Vashem Museum of Holocaust in Jerusalem.
These PS are tiny, but insightful, since an integral part of the huge web of links which humans establish and sustain to support and care for others and to receive the support and care of others. Everybody's life relies on this web. The PS are the threads which remain as life bridges when the tissue of links seems to be ripped by violence, and as such give testimony to what the peace experts -like Adam Curle, Johan Galtung or John Paul Lederach - call “positive peace” existing underneath the surface of violence in traumatic times and situations.
The PS do not speak in favour of one group or of its given antagonist, but of the human bond between them. Their inclusion in memory's fabric does not distract from the dynamics of violence, but adds to them a human dimension, which really took place in the focused past
Collective memories refer to traumatic times/situations, and are highly selective by focusing only on the loss, damage and suffering caused by people considered to be enemies and aliens. By stressing all of this, they exclude the Strands of Peace and thereby diminish the vast educational potential of memory once reduced to educate just for the sake of “never again.”
In order to educate for proactive coexistence in equity, strands of peace have to be grafted in the already built memories which exclude then.
The Project Strands of Peace and how to get involved
The Project Strands of Peace (SPP) entails the collection, verification, selection, editing, digital ordering and public presentation in a suitable, artistic format, of true stories where PS appear in violent contexts or situations. It pursues the aim to graft remembrances of PS in the collective memories related to those times and situations.
These stories may be collected in different settings - schools, associations, peace engaged institutions, neighbourhood groups, research teams- by way of different empathetic and critical interviews of people they have access to, like family members, neighbours, colleagues.
Stories with peace strands already collected by other instances and published may as well be included in the PSP.
The SPP has been initiated 2011 by a working team in Medialab-Prado (Madrid) concerned with memory as a common good, which last December transformed itself into the Strands of Peace Association (SPA), in order to become an independent actor for its international promotion. In order to promote this development, steps have been undertaken since November 2013 intended to create a network of interconnected, independent partners: the Peace Strands network.
For this the SPA :
has so far gathered a collection of over 500 credible stories with PS,
disposes of a periodically updated web page in Spanish with some English texts at www.hebrasdepaz.org,
is about to draft various guidelines for the implementation of the PSP by groups/entities which join the network,
has established a volunteer service offering online advise to new groups implementing the PSP,
has contacted a significant number of various European and Latin American groups which exist already and are willing to join the Peace Strands network.
Juan Gutierrez making a presentation in Wroclaw at the Kids' Guernica - Guernica Youth meeting 16th of May 2016