Learning From Iraq’s Peacemaking Journalists

As we mourn yesterday’s shooting at the Capital Gazette in Maryland, one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in US history, we want to share how some of their colleagues half a world away are using the power of media to build bridges between at-odds communities in a former war zone.

Because media is not just a powerful tool. It can be a powerful tool for peacemaking.

For better or for worse, media helps set the tone for what happens in a society. It signals what we can say and what we can’t. It can validate the words, experiences, perspectives of groups and people, or invalidate them completely.

That’s why The Iraqi Social Forum held a series of workshops to teach journalists how to report on minority issues in a way that fosters peace and social cohesion.

In these workshops, journalists learned how to use writing and reporting to dismantle stereotypes of religious and ethnic groups in Iraq. They heard from esteemed members of several different groups to get a more nuanced understanding of marginalized people and culture. Interfaith experts explained mechanisms that help bring people together despite religious differences.

Together, they cast a vision for Iraqi media that builds up their collective culture and creates unity while celebrating diversity.

The workshops were such a success that more are planned for across the country, with the goal of reaching at least 100 journalists this year.

This is peacemaking.

Because peacemaking doesn’t just happen in our personal lives or on an interpersonal level. It can also happen at work, on a mass scale, and in print.

Peacemaking isn’t just having coffee with someone we disagree with. It’s also going out of our way to learn and use language that shows we love the people we’re talking about.

Peacemaking isn’t just building relationships. It’s also learning enough about other cultures, subcultures, religions, and ethnic groups to be able to love the people within them the way they need and want to be loved.

Peacemaking isn’t just what we say. Sometimes it’s how we say something. And sometimes, it’s what we choose not to say.

Peacemaking is about contributing to the wholeness and well-being of all people… but especially those who are devalued by culture or society. And for that, there is no greater mechanism than media.

But let’s be clear: we’re not just talking about the mass or mainstream media. All of this also applies to social media. It applies to you and me and the words we send out into the world with our thumbs.

Are we using those words to make peace and create social cohesion? Are we listening and learning from the experiences and perspectives of those in the margins? Are we using language and telling stories that dismantle stereotypes and bring us closer together?

We have the power to do all of that because technology gave us the power of media in our pockets.

This week, do like these Iraqi journalists did. Take the time to harness the power of media for peace.

Peacemaker Fridays are published weekly to share stories of people unmaking violence around the world. Be inspired. Take Action.