Building Peace Through High Fives

Today’s blog is written by new International Fellow James Levine about what peacebuilding looks like at PPI-ME.

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James leading a fun defense warm up activity

One of the most appealing aspects about working for PeacePlayers is coaching for peace. Coming into the International Fellowship, I was excited to know that I not only would be coaching basketball, but that my actions would hopefully help to promote this ideal. Now that I’ve been with the Middle East team for a little over a week, I’m beginning to understand what it means to coach for peace and my thoughts on the concept are constantly developing.

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One of the participants preparing for a high five

Before arriving in Jerusalem, I thought of peace as an abstract, academic and idealistic idea. In political science literature, dimensions of peace are broken up into countless categories like peacebuilding, peacemaking, peace enforcement, mediation and reconciliation. Oftentimes it’s easy to feel removed from the concept of peace because we associate the idea with official pacts, truces and ceasefires negotiated during formal political processes by multi-lateral international institutions.

Since I’ve been here, I haven’t participated in any high-level political negotiations, but I have given out a lot of high fives. What I’m beginning to understand is that peacebuilding isn’t just limited to formal political activities, but it’s the way we think and the way we act on a day to day basis. To PeacePlayers, building peace is about investing in our youth, creating trusting relationships and demonstrating empathy and compassion.

Peacebuilding is all about boosting the confidence of our players, encouraging them to reach their potential, and showing them that we are here to support them along the way. Sometimes it is hard to measure how we are changing perceptions or developing future leaders, but at the most basic level, we provide a positive space for our participants to grow, and we let our players know that we care about them.img_4323

Although it’s easy to label the Middle East as “volatile” or in need of peace-related interventions, this type of peacebuilding isn’t limited to the Middle East. Rather, coaches across the globe are doing the same. If you are a coach who promotes the values of sport and invests your time in kids, then you are also a grassroots activist supporting peace in your own community.

So when the U.S. State Department calls asking me to facilitate peace talks in Colombia, Syria, or Ukraine, I’ll be ready. Until then, I’m happy working with PeacePlayers and giving out high fives on the basketball court.

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