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Creating Peace Takes Passion and Empathy: British Leader Tony Blair

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been reflecting on his years in government and the key skills required to reduce conflict and make peace.
tony_blairThis is from an essay he wrote recently, published in The Guardian newspaper:

…The personal relationships that are built during the course of making peace matter enormously. Again this is obvious, but frequently missed. Part of the problem in these situations – which I witness continually in my work in the Middle East today – is that to bring people together you have to understand in a genuine sense why they feel as strongly as they do. This is not a matter of reason but of emotion.

In a conflict there is suffering of a nature and on a scale that we from the outside can scarcely appreciate, because it is not within our experience. Each side has a sense of pain and of cruel consequence from the other side’s actions. They need to know that those mediating get this feeling, not at a rational but at an empathetic level. In getting it, the mediator is then able to pass something of the pain of each side to the other. Especially where there has been violence over a prolonged period, and in conflict the violence often either falls or is even directed at the innocent, being able to articulate the sense of hurt and know that the other side has been forced at least to confront it, is a powerful way of opening up the dialogue that can lead to peace.