An Interview with Louise Diamond, Ph.D.
By Lyda Whiting
Louise Diamond, Ph.D., has spent thirteen years working as a peace builder in areas of the world torn by war and violent conflict. She is the founder of The Peace Company, which offers products and training to help empower people to build a culture of peace. She received her doctorate in Peace Studies from the Union Institute in 1990. Her published works include “The Peace Book: 108 Simple Ways to Create a More Peaceful World” (Conari Press, 2001), and “The Courage for Peace: Daring to Create Harmony in Ourselves and the World” (Conari Press, 2000).
Louise Diamond’s joyful spirit and her hope for the future were obvious as she spoke. She demonstrates with her life that one person can make a difference.
Lyda: How did you start on your journey as a peace builder?
Louise: As a professional human relations consultant, I’d already been working with families, couples, and groups. In my late twenties I had breast cancer twice within one year, and I had a near- death experience in the second surgery. I wasn’t expected to live.
I had a great spiritual healing and journey. I realized that I was alive for a reason: I had a purpose, to work for peace. I realized that I was to take what I knew about healthy human systems from working with families and communities, and take it to places of war.
I had to prepare myself — I didn’t know anything about international affairs. I also had to educate myself to be in places of violence. I spent a year desensitizing myself to violence, moving myself from “oh no, it’s too awful, too horrible” to “okay” to being interested and fascinated with violence. When I got to the place where I could see inside myself the thrill of the kill, then I knew I could be in places of war. I knew I could have compassion for soldiers, killers, and torturers. I could see how someone could have been there. This allowed me to open my heart.
I got a Ph.D. in peace studies, got on a plane, and went to the Middle East.
The preparation has served me well. I’ve worked in many war zones in the world, refuge camps, places where I had to relate to everybody: current and former soldiers, concentration camp guards and inmates, victims of rape. I found children who had been conscripted as child soldiers. There is an amazing amount of suffering. To be present with an open heart is the only way I could be effective.
Lyda: You have worked in Bosnia, Cyprus, Israel, Palestine. How do you work to bring peace to these areas?
Louise: You can’t just sign a peace accord and then have democracy the next day. People let you know what they are ready to do and what they are not ready to do. You can be there for what they are ready for, and not push. People are pretty clear.
was in Bosnia right after the war. We would bring people from different ethnic groups together. This society was very separated. We would invite people to have conversations and do activities together. They participated at the level where they were comfortable.
There was one Muslim woman whose sons who had fought on that side. There was a Serb soldier —”ex-soldier” he kept saying. He became in her eyes the prototype Serb soldier — they were relating to each other as prototypes. At one point, this soldier did not participate; he sat quietly to one side. After the activity, he read a poem that he had just written in that moment, about how awful it was to be a soldier, how he was really a poet at heart, and how he hated the war. From that time, he and this woman became inseparable. Three months later, we brought the participants back together. They said, “I’ll never forgot seeing those two arm-in-arm. It was a symbol of our healing.”
What we as peace builders do is show up, witness their pain, provide a safe space and caring and the opportunity to be in dialog, to talk about what happened. This is not easy for the people who are victims; it isn’t that simple. But you can at least start down the path, one step at a time.
Lyda: These are dangerous places. Were you afraid?
Louise: Having had the near-death experience, I had the great opportunity to learn that there is nothing to fear. I’m not afraid of dying, which is a great advantage (laughs). I’ve been in situations that weren’t pleasant or comfortable, and you just have faith. That’s where the spiritual training comes in. You are able to go to your deepest place of inner peace, just go there, be there, move from there, trust what comes from there. It has sustained me, going to that place and radiating that joy.
Lyda: Why did you title your book, “The Courage for Peace”?
Louise: It is very easy to ascribe bravery to the battlefield and to ignore the incredible courage it takes to stand for peace. It takes great fortitude, great strength, and great courage, to stand for peace.
It is very tough to be with the enemy. You are eating with them, rooming with them. You are betraying your people. It is enormously courageous; these are the unsung heroes in our world. They are willing to change. Most Americans have no idea the kind of work that is going on, people coming together to do this healing work. Name any place in the world that is seeing conflict, and you will find these people. You will never know their names. Some of them are killed for their work.
Lyda: How did you get the idea to found The Peace Company?
Louise: It was clear to me after working so many years in the international arena that we were missing a lot of opportunities for peace by thinking peace building is happening “out there.” We are all in the business of peace; every one of us is a peace builder. We have choices throughout our day, whether we are going to work from a place of peace or a place where we are trying to get power, or not see the other as our self. Every moment we have a choice. When you hear an ethnic joke, in that moment you get to decide how to react, you decide “am I a peace builder or not?”
It became clear that my work was right here in the United States, to help create a culture of peace.
We now have a culture of violence. We glamorize violence. We think of violence as the natural human state, as just how we are. We deplore the excess of violence. But we don’t push ourselves to look at our basic assumptions. Our culture is based on an assumption of separateness instead of realizing that what happens to you affects me.
We learned how to change the culture with environmental movement. First, people were educated to realize “This is an important issue; it matters in my life.” Second, people were taught, “And I can do something about it.” Systems change incrementally, one by one by one, and then you reach a critical mass and it shifts. We can make the same shift with violence.
Lyda: The Peace Book: 108 Simple Ways to Make a More Peaceful World begins with very personal ways to create peace.
Louise: “The Peace Book” is something in people’s hands, saying, “This is what I can do.” We have sent 51,000 copies of the book out into the world, all by word of mouth; we have only just started advertising. People report how wonderful it feels to give the book, to give the gift of peace. Peace grows when you give it away.
The purpose of this book is to teach that peace matters, and that you can do something about it. You can do it right here, do it right now. See yourself as a peace builder, and claim, “I am of the tribe that works for peace.”
Lyda: The Peace Company is a for-profit company. Why is that?
Louise: I wanted to make it practical, to make it profitable, to make it real. Look at the economic structure of our society; it is heavily weighted toward the defense industry and violence. If we want to build a culture for peace, it has to be a viable part of the economy. We need to develop products for sustaining peace. Again, my model is the environmental movement. Now you can buy environment-friendly products and food everywhere; now there is a whole industry, but thirty years ago there was nothing.
For more information on the work of The Peace Company, and to order products, please visit www.thepeacecompany.com .
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