For 25 years, John Paul Lederach has traveled to areas of the world where conflict is a way of life – Northern Ireland, Nicaragua, Somalia, the Philippines and elsewhere – to provide conciliation training and direct mediation. He sees his work as a religious vocation that is both a learned skill and an art.
In his new book, “The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace,” Lederach, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, considers his own calling and the spirituality that moves ordinary people to reject violence and seek reconciliation. The moral imagination, he writes, is “the capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world, yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist.”
Published by Oxford University Press, the book is written for scholars and professionals engaged in conflict transformation, mediation, restorative justice, and peace building, as well as for anyone who seeks political reconciliation. Its guiding stories describe people Lederach encountered in the field, living amid overwhelming violence, who were true to themselves, but who also refused to fall prey to narrow “either/or” choices.
“They sustained an honest curiosity while constructively engaging their enemy, and against all odds, found ways to creatively interact with challenging, complex realities,” Lederach says.
Former President Carter, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, has high praise for the book, calling it “an eloquent and personal meditation on the challenge of peace building by one of the fields most insightful theorists and practitioners.”
Carter added: “Professor Lederach correctly observes that the years following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, represent a precious opportunity to address underlying cycles of violence and insecurity, locally and globally.”
A professor of international peace building in Notre Dames Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Lederach says the purpose of his new book is not to propose a grand new theory. Instead, he seeks to stay close to the “messiness” of real processes and change, and to recognize the serendipitous nature of the insights that emerge along the way.
A member of the Notre Dame faculty since 2000, Lederach is the author of “The Journey Toward Reconciliation” and “Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies.” He earned his doctorate from the University of Colorado.