Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
Launching angry birds by slingshot onto the ramshackle dwellings of green pigs was supposed to help us get all our frustrations out. But it seems one popular video-game app wasn’t enough.
In many ways, 2013 was a bitter, divisive year. Between Rob Ford, the Senate and other high-profile scandals, our political “leadership” attracted plenty of well-deserved public anger. Deadly conflicts continue to rage in Syria, Egypt, central Africa and elsewhere in our world, with little hope for resolution in 2014. In the United States, we saw mall fights over Black Friday specials, bike-versus-SUV road rage, and no fewer than 20 school shootings. Even Canada saw its share of road rage incidents, police shootings and brawls in international baseball and women’s hockey games.
Sadly, last year we also lost one of our world’s great unifiers, Nelson Mandela, whose messages of hope, forgiveness and reconciliation are credited with putting South Africa on a path from repressive apartheid to egalitarian democracy in relative peace. We Canadians also witnessed the fifth and sixth national events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools, a historic opportunity for each of us to contribute to a brighter future between aboriginal peoples and non-aboriginal Canadians.
We may not be able to make Stephen Harper like Thomas Mulcair, bring about lasting peace in the Middle East on our own, or single-handedly redress centuries of Canadian history, but in our everyday interactions, we can each bridge divisions and tensions in our own relationships and communities. And that’s a good place to start in 2014.
This week’s question: What can each of us do in our lives to shift from division and anger to co-operation and forgiveness?
Margaret Glavina, member of Project Peacemakers in Winnipeg
“Let’s follow Mr. Mandela’s example: practice humility and respect, and act for the well-being of others. Be willing to speak out against injustice and/or support those who do.”
Evan Hoffman, senior associate at the Canadian International Institute of Applied Negotiation
“Conflicts are inevitable. But, every conflict represents an opportunity for a positive, ‘win-win’ nonviolent solution to be reached. The first step is that we must recognize this opportunity and then choose to take that path. This applies to conflicts at the personal level and in the international realm.”
Leslie Greenberg, professor of psychology at York University in Toronto
“Compassion and the ability to see the other as a person just like oneself is crucial. For the offender, forgiveness is best promoted not by apology, but by expression of genuine shame. For the victim, it involves facing one’s own pain rather than blaming. It’s a process of two steps forward and one back that takes time and work from both sides.”
Don Lenihan, senior associate at the Public Policy Forum
“On a political level, we can encourage our leaders to demonstrate that politics is not always partisan and divisive. For example, each premier could identify one initiative of consequence and establish an all-party committee to resolve the issue. Allow it to present its findings to the legislature within one year, and I believe most if not all of these committees would conclude with a unanimous report.”