Can Teaching Peace Reduce Violent Crime?

Apr 4, 2016 by

Other countries teach conflict resolution to at-risk youth as a way to break the cycle of violent retaliation. The idea is slowly catching on in America.

by J.B. Wogan –

Public policy students at Georgetown University have an idea for reducing violence in the nation’s capital: a peace cluster.

Based off an international anti-violence program conceived by a Colombian priest, the approach teaches conflict-resolution skills to young people. In other words, at-risk, troubled youth are given workshops on forgiveness and reconciliation. The goal is to break a cycle of violent retaliation and slowly create a culture of peace.

In early March, a team of graduate students from the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown won $5,000 to launch a D.C. version of the program in certain groups of neighborhoods or geographic “clusters.”

Addressing violent crime has become a more pressing issue in some large U.S. cities experiencing a recent uptick in homicides. In D.C., the number of homicides increased 54 percent from 2014 to 2015, reaching the highest level in seven years. The troubling trend has led the city to even consider paying people not to commit crimes.

Peace clusters are already operating in 15 countries, and U.S. versions are also in the planning stages in Boston and Chicago.

One of the Georgetown students, America Avalos, has firsthand experience with the model, having previously worked as a peace facilitator in Mexico. Avalos and the other four students on the team are all from Latin America and sought to find a policy idea that would improve the well-being of Latino residents in the district.

The model hasn’t undergone empirical evaluation. But in 2010, a psychologist from the University of Los Andes in Bogota conducted surveys before and after workshops that showed an improvement in participants’ interest in school activities and in making friends. In 2006, UNESCO, an agency of the United Nations, recognized the model for experimental methods in peace education.

Source: Can Teaching Peace Reduce Violent Crime?

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