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Facing Conflict Brings Peace of Mind, Body and Community

For thousands of years, indigenous peoples of North America created talking circles or healing circles as a traditional way to come together harmoniously for listening, teaching and learning, according to research in a study titled “Introducing Healing Circles and Talking Circles into Primary Care”, published in the Spring 2014 edition of The Permanente Journal.

Peaceful ways of being and living together were also important to William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, who was a member of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly referred to as Quakers. When his original Penn’s Woods charter with Native American tribes was written in what is now downtown Lancaster, it was, at the time, the only colonial charter which sought to include a peaceful cohabitation between Europeans and Native Americans, according to VisitHistoricLancaster.com. Local history provides a model for modern-day interactions, bringing to the forefront the idea that it is possible to experience peaceful co-existence and collaboration, even when conflict arises.

Conflict is not something to fear, but rather something to be looked upon as a potential opportunity for growth, suggests Daryl Snider, local peacemaker and musician, who holds a master’s degree in Conflict Transformation from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. “For many years I lived thinking that it was better to stay away from conflict, but what I found through my studies and experiences is that conflict is a symptom that something needs attention.”

Snider provides an interpretation of human interactions. “When it comes to injustice, human instinct is to change someone else because we feel they caused the problem. Anger arises and elevates stress levels, pulse, blood pressure, anxiety and feelings of fight or flight. However, if people in conflict recognize their own emotional pain, find a way to heal and work to move past pain by not allowing the past to negatively affect the present, change can occur within the self and spread throughout the community,” he explains. “Every conflict goes beyond ourselves. It is worth digging into because we can all grow if we do.”

“Handling conflicts in healthy ways can improve stress, anxiety and other health indicators,” notes Chris Fitz, Advoz executive director for community engagement. “Collaboration is key, whether two parties collaborate on their own or seek help through mediation. Conversational dialogue and arts-based dialogue approaches are paths that lead to mental and emotional wellness.”

Through methods of dialogue, Advoz, located in Lancaster, equips the community to constructively handle conflicts, violence and crime. Mediation and restorative practices enhance communication, accountability and mindfulness, and build stronger, safer communities. An advocate for restorative processes, Snider has served as a volunteer for the circle process. Within the circle process, the facilitator nurtures a safe enough space where each person can speak—and hear—what needs to be known. Peaceful resolution is promoted by empowering all parties in a conflict or crime, even offenders and victims, to mend broken relationships.

“Justice is the way to peace, but justice is like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. The challenge is to get to a place where both parties feel justice has been done. When perceptions are changed, so is reality, and that is the process of peace building,” Snider proposes.

To connect with Daryl Snider, visit DarylSnider.com and SopaSol.com.

To connect with Chris Fitz, visit Advoz.org.

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