“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
-Prayer of St. Francis of Asisi
I went to aGirlsConventHigh Schoolin the 1980’s. (that makes me about thirty now. No really!) There was much unrest in the country, and as it was a multi-racial school, we had girls with us that actually witnessed the unrest and had seen necklacings.
We prayed St. Francis’s prayer almost daily. For me, even as a twelve year old, it wasn’t just another Catholic Prayer we were reciting, I profoundly wanted to be a channel of peace, love, hope and light in this nation. By age fourteen I had determined that I would study law, and that that would be a platform for me to become an agent for change. I had quite a flare for public speaking and debating so I engaged in some childlike “activism” speaking against the evils of apartheid and bringing to the fore the works of struggle poets like Oswald Mtshali.
Os Hillman writes that deep in the heart of every human is the desire to make a difference. I profoundly feel that, and have done since childhood. The practice of law, per se, was not, as it turned out, to be the ideal platform for me to become the agent for change I so badly wanted to be. In ten years of practice as an attorney I gained some invaluable experience, both professionally and personally. I also went through four very traumatic painful years both professionally and personally, born out of painful personal circumstances that caused major depression and naturally impacted negatively on my whole life. Sadly for all concerned, mostly my baby daughter, I went through a bitter divorce. Os Hillman also writes that a personal crisis in our smaller stories often ignites the larger story that resides in each one of us. Often a personal crisis can lead to a larger story that pushes us into living for a cause greater than ourselves.
Having recovered to a large extent from the traumatic events of the past, and having remarried and having had a second child, a son, I thrust my energies into alternative dispute resolution. I had developed a passion for mediation and arbitration as a young 24 year old attorney when I joined the Christian Lawyers Association, so when I went through my divorce I was profoundly aware of the alternative to the harsh adversarial process I was being exposed to: mediation.
When traumatic life events serve to strengthen you, rather than overcome you, I believe you have a profound responsibility to serve out of that place of having been strengthened. And so, as someone who has been subjected to violence, even as one classed as “vulnerable” in society due to a walking disability, and having largely overcome the scars and having found strength and courage, I feel accountable to help raise the profile of the 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children.
Of course we should live out a daily commitment to this, but this is a period in which we can heighten the awareness. The theme for this year’s campaign is From Peace in the Home to peace in the world.
It is congruent with our broader ideal, that we help disputants resolve their conflicts positively, peacefully and collaboratively.
As you know, we are a for-profit Dispute Resolution Agency and we are committed to building solid entrepreneurial models in ADR that make sense for ADR practitioners. We have brilliant business minds on our board committed to building sustainable and profitable models in ADR.
We, however, also regard ourselves as activists in Alternative Dispute Resolution, committed to bringing to South African Society news of an alternative way, and in many cases a better way to resolve disputes. As many of you will know, I talk a lot about coming across people daily who are in profound pain. Whether it is a husband and wife going through a divorce, a bitter custody dispute, workplace conflict or business partners facing a severing of their relationship-there is profound pain involved. I have seen people suicidal in divorce, I have seen them suicidal in dismissal disputes and I have seen them suicidal in Boardroom conflict. Suicidal adiation is extreme, but it is safe to make a sweeping statement that the vast majority of disputants experience financial detriment, sleepless nights, health issues and a whole host of other negative consequences rippling outward.
I am not saying that Alternative Dispute Resolution processes are all rainbows and cotton-wool candy, but if you want to talk about accessibility, efficiency and economics, let’s talk. If you want to talk about a solution palatable to both sides, rather than a winner-takes-all solution (after he or she has spent a lot of time, money and very life resources on the win), then let’s talk. A peaceful, collaborative solution is far more likely to live in mediation than it does anywhere else, let’s talk.
Tomorrow I travel to Joburg (on the redeye flight *sad face*) as we have meetings with the Minister of Traditional Affairs as well as various unions. We are also in talks with other African States around a collaborative approach to raising the profile of ADR across the continent. I will have much to tell you on my return.
In the meantime, have the conversation with your workmates, your spouse, your kids, your business partners- From Peace in the Home, to Peace in the World. Let’s do it!
If you would like to engage with me please email me on email@example.com
For information on our dispute settlement services please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For information on our ADR training programs-via correspondence and via 5 day workshops, please email email@example.com
You can also chat to me on twitter @sheena_ostjon. Look forward to it!
Also have a look at our project on influence www.the-influence-project.com.
Until next time, peace!