Monday, May 3, 2010

The Triangle of Peacebuilding, by Lily Zakiyah Munir

Women, faith, and peace are crucial elements of a peacebuilding process. A woman with faith and peace is a powerful force in peacebuilding both at home and in public. A mother of a peaceful home radiates love and peace to her loved ones in the family. It goes along with an Arabic saying, “Family is the first school in one’s life.” A mother is the first teacher who will lay the foundation for her children’s future. The natural blood bond between a mother and a child is fundamental for this purpose.

However, this important role will not materialize if the mother is entangled in a violent situation in her family. Domestic violence has an unimaginable and multi-pronged impact on women. Dehumanized, helpless, deprived, worthless, inferior—these are some of the adjectives that can illustrate the feelings of a victim of domestic violence. It is no surprise, therefore, that peace has been declared as a prerequisite for women to achieve equality and development. This trilogy of equality, peace, and development was coined back in 1985 in Nairobi as a forward-looking strategy for the advancement of women. This momentum was preceded by the decade for women in 1975-1985. The spirit of equality, development, and peace was reinforced in Beijing in 1995, where 35,000 women from all over the world gathered and expressed their solidarity and mutual support for each other in a global sisterhood.

Now, how is faith related with women and peace? Faith is like a double-edged sword. It can be a source of inspiration for peace and peacebuilding. But it can also be hijacked to crush peace. Islam, for example, literally means “peace and submission.” The religion is laden with teachings on peace, tolerance, respect for diversity, freedom of religion, equality of all human beings, and more. But these teachings are not always manifested in the lives of the Muslims. Thus, there are people who claim to be Muslims but do not implement Islamic values and principles on peace.

The gap between Islamic teachings and their reality is also found in the area of women and gender. There are numerous verses in the Qur’an which are explicit about women’s equal status with men as well as women’s rights and their obligations in both public and private spheres. But these teachings that would serve to emancipate women do not seem to be internalized and absorbed in the minds of many Muslims. Their mindsets, often shaped by patriarchal cultures, are too resistant to discern new progressive ideas regarding women.

Women, constituting half of humankind, cannot be left neglected. We need to tap into their potential as valuable resources. Along with other advances, women have moved forward from passive recipients of peace to becoming active agents of peacebuilding. The important role of women in peace building is recognized globally as stated in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.

Women worldwide, stand up! Fight against oppression and injustices. With your active role, our dream for peace will come true…

Lily Zakiyah Munir is a noted Islamic scholar and activist in Indonesia as well as the founding member of SAVE Indonesia. In Indonesia, she is the director of the Center for Pesantren and Democracy Studies (CePDeS), an NGO which she co-founded in 2003. CePDeS envisions the birth of progressive Muslim leaders through democracy and human rights education in Muslim society. SAVE Indonesia, which has mobilized several hundred students against violence and terrorism to date, and maintains their network through monthly reunion meetings. Lily started the youth camps “because of deep concerns about the violence which has emerged using religious doctrines and dogmas mainly targeted at youth. We hope these camps will give birth to a new generation of Indonesian youth who will internalize the values of love, peace, and appreciation of diversity.” You can find more of Lily's work here. For more information about Women without Borders or SAVE, you can visit us on the web at, follow us on Twitter at, and join us on Facebook!

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