Hope and Peace

Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Ingredients | 2 comments

I just started volunteering for a small Denver based nonprofit named Hope Connects International. Its mission is to effectively provide aid to local development initiatives in vulnerable areas to empower individuals, families, and communities affected by poverty, war, disease, and a lack of education. To fulfill this mission, its current project is rebuilding a school destroyed by conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). So, to familiarize myself with the situation in this country, I researched its ongoing conflict and found a survey conducted in 2007 by the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley, the Payson Center at Tulane University, and the International Center for Transitional Justice.

2,620 people in eastern DRC were surveyed to “assess exposure to violence among the population; understand the priorities and needs of Congolese civilians affected by the conflicts; and capture attitudes about peace, social reconstruction, and transitional justice mechanisms.” Their findings give us some perspective on the extreme situation in the DRC: 55% of respondents were interrogated or persecuted by armed groups, 53% were forced to work or were enslaved, 46% were beaten by armed groups and/or threatened with death, 34% had been abducted for at least a week, 23% had witnessed an act of sexual violence, and 16% reported having experienced sexual violence. This is in addition to acute poverty, the widespread, frequent recruitment of child soldiers, the displacement of 3-4 million children, and the looting and damaging of property. All of these atrocities occur and few perpetrators are ever prosecuted, leaving survivors without justice.

However, despite this reality, 90% of the people believe peace can be achieved in Congo.

The humanity behind these statistics reveals decades of fear. Fear of starvation, fear of abduction, fear of persecution. Many have been beaten and raped, had their children stolen, their families torn apart, their entire lives destroyed. Yet, almost all of them still believe peace is a possibility. In fact, they even believe it is a probable reality. This is the power of true hope.

This boundless hope touched me. I tried to imagine having the capacity to maintain such strong optimism despite witnessing a reality that works entirely against it. I’m not sure I could, but then again I’ve never really had to hope for peace, it has always just existed.

There is an intersection between hope and peace. They do not exist in parallel realities, because for peace to exist someone had to hope for it. Someone had to believe in it strongly enough to make it happen. For us, hope might seem insufficient. At its best, it is easily dismissed as just a feeling that doesn’t require any effort or lead to any tangible positive outcomes. At its worst, it is viewed as an excuse to remain idle. This is because we think about hope from our own frame of reference. We have all experienced devastation, we have all had the complexities of life interfere with our other plans. However, despite these challenging circumstances, most of us have only known a peaceful existence removed from the daily realities of ongoing violent conflict. We also have the ability to take action to build peace, consequently, our concept of hope is different from those who have nothing else left. For people who have suffered through decades of brutal war, peace is not conventional and taking action to build peace may not be a possibility. This is when hope becomes a peacebuilding action. This is when grasping to the belief in peace is so challenging, it takes as much, if not more, effort and strength than physical action.

90% of eastern Congolese people believe peace can be achieved in Congo. Do 90% of us have the same faith in peace? If we had just a small portion of the hope the people of the Congo seem to possess, we wouldn’t be so complacent about peace. We wouldn’t just assume its existence or disregard it as an unachievable, idealistic goal. We would hope for it and believe in it enough to take action, simply because we can.


  1. Great stuff Ali. It’s amazing how unaware of peace we are.

    • Thank you Mike! On some level it’s nice to be unaware of peace, but then we don’t remember we have to work for it.

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